Ryan, welcome to Reprehensible Digest. Tell the audience a little about yourself – your background, where you're from, what you specialize in as an artist.
Thank you so much for asking me to be a part of this! I was raised in Maysville, KY, but we've lived in Louisville for the past seven years. I specialize in unique and colorful portraits and designs. I love adding super bright colors to nightmarish themes. My wife Bridget and I ran an animal rescue for several years and I would do pet portraits to help raise donations. I fell in love with painting animals in my style as well.
Are you currently working full-time as an artist or strictly freelance?
I am a full-time stay-at-home dad of two girls (9 and 11). Homeschooling takes up my daytime hours from the minute they wake up until bedtime. My nights are a switch between making art and driving for Lyft. The more art sells, the less I drive. The less art sells, the more I drive. The majority of my art pieces are original, but I do a lot of commissioned work as well, although I am being a lot more selective on what jobs I take these days.
At what age did you realize you loved drawing and painting? Was there anything in particular that triggered your passion?
I've always been drawn to art. I was a super shy kid, so it always helped me deal with anxiety and social situations. No matter how nervous I got, as long as I had a pencil and paper, it helped me through. Creating art was all I cared about until about the age of 19 to 23. I gave up on it and decided to go more for a party life. I met my wife 13 years ago, and she was the one who encouraged me to start painting again. Once I got started, it was like a bomb went off in my head. I haven't stopped since. I've been a focused non-stop art machine.
I noticed your tagline on LinkedIn says "I'm not like the others." Tell us why that is an accurate statement…
I took that statement from Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, ha-ha! Hunter has been a huge influence on me. I am an avid reader, although I don't read as much these days. I absorb audio books while I drive and paint. I think it's a perfect statement for me. I don't think like the others, I don't paint like the others, I don't act like the others.... there is power in true individuality.
What captured my eye was your colorful taste for horror and cinema. How did you evolve to paint such creatures and iconic horror themes?
The art of Basil Gogos made me want to be a painter. He painted so many beautiful and colorful monsters for Famous Monster magazine. He showed me that art didn't have to be boring, and that nightmares and horror could be brought out in bright colors.
Which horror, science fiction or action films rank highest for you and why?
Boris Karloff as Frankenstein is my top. The amount of emotion and pain the monster had in that film is heartbreaking. I am a sucker for all the classics though – you can't top the classics. Godzilla has always been high on my list as well. He's just so damn cool… and of course the underlying atomic warning. I am also a huge Tolkien fan, so The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies are just art on film to me. I can get so lost in those movies, they're so amazing.
Some critics look down upon artists who create monsters and goblins. What is it they don't understand and do you even bother to explain your love for this genre?
I've battled naysayers most of my life. My only thought on them is to not think about them. While they judge what they think is good or bad art, or what should or shouldn't be painted, I'll be over here making whatever I please and smiling the entire time.
Have you ever been doubted or marginalized as an artist based on subject matter?
I've definitely had many many doors slammed in my face – and laughed out of galleries... It totally has to do with my subject matter and the fact that I don't play the ass-kissing game. It's never slowed me down though. Tell me I can't do something and watch what happens!
I recently read one of your LinkedIn posts that a person suggested you "get a real job." How does that sort of malignant behavior affect you as a creative professional?
I'm a short guy – 5'5" – so I was picked on for the majority of my childhood. The only thing that really did was help me develop a thick skin. So many people say they don't care about the opinions of others, yet the majority of what they do is try to please others. I honestly don't care if you don't like me, my work, or my opinions. In fact, that type of negativity only fuels me to work harder.
As you were growing up, were your dreams of being an artist questioned or challenged by adults, or were they more supportive of your decision?
My parents were supportive of my art. They knew it was all I wanted to do, but still I would get the "So what are you going to do for a living" talks. I get it. It's only because they didn't realize that a living off of art would be possible. Over the years they've come around more and more and have been really supportive after seeing the amount of work I put into it and the positive results it's gained me.
Have you ever been involved in the comic book or tattoo industry as an artist? Do you create your own tattoos?
I loved comics; collected everything that had to do with Wolverine as I possibly could. I never tried to put a comic together simply because it's a monumentous task. It would have taken too much time away from other projects. I was a body piercer and tattoo shop manager for the better part of a decade. I've designed several tattoos, although I've vowed never to do it again. I suppose I respect tattooing too much to get into it. It's a craft that takes an insane amount of dedication and should never be taken lightly. Though the industry did open some doors for me and I've met some amazing people through it, I reached a point where it didn't bring me joy. It was a job and soon I began to resent it. So after nearly a decade, I walked away from it to focus on painting full time.
I notice you had a killer painting of punk icon Henry Rollins. What sort of music inspires your work, if any, and who are your top five musical acts?
Music is pure inspiration. My play list ranges from Neil Diamond to power metal. It really depends on my mood, but if I had to choose a Top Five:
1. Tom Waits
Name three artists – dead or alive – who have been a major influence for you. Explain what their work means to you on a creative and professional level.
1. Chet Zar has one of the greatest outlooks and dispositions of any artist I have seen. His art is next level badass, but he is one of the most humble and kind people ever. I love listening to his Dark Art Society podcast when I paint.
2. Ralph Steadman gave me a love for making a mess with inks. I love spilling paint and ink and just seeing what I can make of it. Gonzo art at it's finest.
3. Salvador Dali is the type of artist that I think every weird kid looks up to. He wasn't just a painter, he lived his art. Everything about him was art. I can look at his art for hours.
Beyond films and music, what books or inspirational material do you rely on when your creative spirits run dry?
I use meditation, not only to keep me somewhat sane, but as an inspirational tool. Inspiration is around us at all times, but only if we are in the right mindset to grab it. You have to kickstart it and be open to it. Stress is the number one blocker of creativity, so practices that relieve stress are a key to keep it flowing. They say if you can't meditate for 10 mins per day, meditate for an hour. H.P. Lovecraft audio books are always close at hand as well.
What are your long-term goals as an artist? Where do you see yourself in 10-15 years?
Surviving on art is not easy, especially when you don't cater to the bullshit blue-chip galleries that are nothing more than an easy way for the super wealthy to hide and move money. I think confidence sells more than talent, but ego can also kill that talent. It's a delicate balance of gratitude and dedication that can attract buyers to you. Every day I am in awe that this is what I do for a living. Every day is a new reason to be thankful. Art has a way of draining and replenishing the spiritual cup at the same time.
What would your dream opportunity be as a creative artist? More specific, is there a company or artistic playground you would love to be associated with?
For years I wanted to be a famous artist. I wanted my name and work to be known worldwide. Now my main goal and the greatest accomplishment is to inspire. I want to be someone else's reason for not giving up. That in itself is a true legacy.
Featured here are some of your top illustrations. Why are these specific images so special to you?
These are some of the newer works that I have finished. I've really tried to tie in all I've learned and experimented with over the years to create something insanely different and unique.
What is your thought process while creating such monstrous subject matter? Start to finish, how long does a random painting take to develop?
Some pieces I can finish in one night. Some pieces I'll work on for months or even years until I finally call it finished. I work every night and rarely take a day off from painting or creating something. The creative mood is always there, even if we don't feel it. You just need to get it started and it will flow.
What fascinates you as an artist? Do you have alternate interests such as sports, hunting, or fishing?
Art is my everything. My other passion would be my family. Just spending time with them, making art, hiking, they are my reason for it all.
Do you ever work when you're pissed off? If so, does this have an adverse effect on your subject matter?
That's the key. I am so rarely pissed off. You have to be able to control your emotions and where you allow your energy to go.
The art world is very competitive. As a freelance artist, what has proven to be the most effective method in promoting your services, i.e. social media, websites, conventions?
As far as promoting, I am always trying new things – apps, social media, venues... There really is no competition in art, especially when you think of the amount of potential buyers there are out there. A friend of mine once posted on Facebook the three main rules to becoming a successful artist:
1. Make as much art as possible.
2. Put it in front of as many eyes as possible.
3. Don't have a backup plan.
What are your fears as an artist? How do they bleed into your work psychologically?
You have to take the jump and give it your all. You can always fail at doing something you hate, so why not try something you love. Give your energy to that.
What are your top five monster characters all-time?
Frankenstein's monster, Wendigo, Nosferatu, Cthulhu… anything from the Lovecraft mythos… and the Wolfman would have to be my top five favorite monsters.
If you had to choose three horrible celebrities to feed to Cthulu, who would they be?
Only three? That's not even a snack to the great Old One!!!
What advice would you give to aspiring artists who lack confidence or simply have no creative compass?
Just make the art and put it out there. Be confident that you are unique. Be confident that you can make it so long as you are willing to put in the work. If you can adjust and adapt than you will be a success, but it's all in your hands. Where your focus goes, your energy flows. Control what you give your energy to. Surround yourself with people of the same mindset.
What are some other fascinating things about Ryan Case the audience might enjoy?
You might look at my photo and think I'm a pretty wild dude, but honestly, I am so boring compared to what you may think. I love my quiet family life, my two kids, three dogs, my beautiful and artistic wife. My goals have definitely changed from when I was younger.