By Andrew Wells
From his studio in Kirkland, Wash., Joe Ryan sculpts clay to be cast in bronze. His sculptures are inspired from the experiences and interests of a man who has taken safari in Africa, honed his golf game to a six handicap and piloted fishing boats in the Caribbean.
Formerly a banker and designer and developer of homes in Salem, Ore., and St. Thomas, Ryan today hones his perception into three dimensions.
Ryan calls his style “loose,” which he picked up while studying under world-famous sculptor Sandy Scott at the Scottsdale Art Institute.
“You learn that detail stops the mind from flowing over a piece,” said Ryan. “The more detail, the more your eye stops to look at the detail. I want people to be able to use their imagination.”
A trip to the savanna of Africa brought about, “Challenge,” a depiction of a bull elephant. With 3,000 pictures taken during the trip, Ryan would use the photos as a basis for several sculptures, such as “Samburu Pride,” a bust of a girl of the Mosai tribe.
“When I do a piece like ‘Challenge,’ it’s usually not from just one photograph,” said Ryan, “That might give me the initial idea, but then I have to get to the library and get as many photographs as I can.”
All of Ryan’s work is cast with the lost wax process at the Bronze Works, a fine arts foundry in Shelton. Before casting, the process of clay sculpting may take a month or more.
“The most difficult thing is to know when it’s finished… The problem is that a lot of times you get tired of working on a piece and you get close to a piece and you have to step back,” said Ryan.
Ryan was born in the Northwest and grew up hunting and fishing. Being outdoors and observing wildlife has always been a favorite activity. He has enjoyed fly-fishing in Colorado, salmon fishing in Alaska, elk and deer hunting in Oregon, bone-fishing while living in the Caribbean, safaris to Kenya to photograph large animals and on to Rwanda to observe the mountain gorillas.
The beginning of Ryan’s sculpting career began on the golf course. Designing and building homes in Salem was no longer viable in the late 1970s, so Ryan bought a one-way ticket to St. Thomas. Over the next few years, he obtained a captain’s license, using it to take out fishing charters as well as delivering sailboats. Later, he moved to Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Living on the Old Marsh golf course, he took on the links.
“I played a lot of golf. Greg Norman belonged to the golf course so I played along with him,” he said. While living between Vail, Colo., and Scottsdale Ariz., Ryan had an insight.
“By that time, I was a six handicap,” he said. “As a two handicap golfer in Florida, I wasn’t any happier than I was as a six. So I started taking a lot of art classes at the Scottsdale Art Institute.”
His course of the next five years is now cast in bronze eagles, golfers and other wildlife.
As a multi-engine and instrument rated pilot, Ryan also enjoys flying his V-35 S Bonanza out of Boeing Field throughout the West.
For more information, visit the website at www.jryanstudios.com, or call