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Gavin Ryan [illustrator]

For regular Woodfordian’s, you’d know the artwork, but not necessarily the creative behind it. Freelance creative and illustrator Gavin Ryan has worked with Woodford Folk Festival for many years. His incredible fantasy style illustration takes you to another world, very much like the festival itself.

Gavin’s grown up with creativity in the genes, his mum also an illustrator and artist, and his father a model maker and painter. His creative career has also been adventurous, allowing him to pursue projects for public art, environmental and scientific interpretive design, children’s books, motion graphics and digital video.

Just back from an artist in residency at this year’s Woodford, and helping his wife lead yoga workshops, Gavin’s heading back to his second home in Bali. What an inspiring artist’s life, sharing between Sydney and Bali while working on creative projects!

Gavin also regularly designs stamp sets for Australia Post and is currently working on a set for Christmas Island.

See larger images of his huge detailed works on his website and update via his Facebook page.

Tell me about your creative journey. Your passion for your craft and how you discovered or nurtured it.

Music, painting and sculpture were in my family background. My mother Daphne was an exceptional illustrator, artist and animator. My father Ted was a professional model maker and painter. My Uncle Dennis was an official war artist in WW2, maritime painter and sculptor—most of my family had some artistic creative side.

I started illustrating for an encyclopaedia while I was still in high school which led to a lot of marine wildlife art and illustration. As soon as I left school, I started illustrating for fishing publications and scientific journals and then Australia Post. And I’ve been doing the same sort of stuff ever since.

Woodford 2012 Poster

Woodford Folk Festival 2012 Poster – illustration detail.

In a few words, describe yourself…

I think, therefore I … Ummmm…

What are you spending your time on at the moment?

I am in Bali right now pursuing one of those ideas… shooting off on a completely different tangent to anything I have done before. Can’t say too much about it yet but, suffice to say, most of my previous personal vision has been a dark satirical statement about the more negative aspects of human nature. This new project will be the flip side of that.

Gavin Ryan Woodford 2009 Poster full and details

Woodford Folk Festival 2009 Poster – full poster (left) and illustration detail (right).

Do you have a ritual for getting into the creative mindset? Or a creative process?

The core of my art is driven by ideas I have at 3am when I’m half asleep. Dreaming up what I hope are elegant and abstract symbols and metaphors for ‘big picture’ issues in the world as we know it. Some nights the ideas come one after the other like a machine gun… any one of which I could devote a lifetime’s to pursuing… the trick is remembering any of them in the morning!

Yeah… Like I said, I use my insomnia creatively.

When I find my mind running all over the place in the wee small hours I have trained myself to centre, meditate and then let my imagination loose on whatever creative challenge I am trying to meet… whatever it may be.

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Gavin Ryan World-Down-Under-Stamp-Minisheet

Stamp illustrations for Australia Post.

What or who inspires you?

I am inspired by many things at different levels–technically there have been many artists and illustrators that I draw inspiration from. Lately I have been blown away by the technical skills and visions of some of the concept art people doing stuff for movies and video games. My latest Woodford poster may reflect a bit of this. I’m interested in getting that sort of dynamic and visual power into my art but having it say something meaningful, and hopefully profound, at the same time.

What are you most proud of?

I seriously don’t believe in pride… not for myself anyway. I aspire to being way too zen for all that ego-stuff!

But usually when I finish something like this last poster I do allow myself a little smug self-satisfaction for a while… until I start to see all the bits I wish I had done differently.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

…grow up?

Written by Jenica Smith


Passionate about storytelling, design and creativity, Jenica is a Brisbane-based digital designer and founder of Design Montage. Follow on twitter.


One Response to “Gavin Ryan [illustrator]”

  1. Casper

    Having attended Woodford for a number of year’s there was no question about who I was going to use when we needed an illustrator for a client job we were doing. What I love about Gavin Ryan’s illustration work is his sense of humour. Give him enough rope (a large format) and he’ll surprise and delight you with little additions that weren’t part of the brief but add a wonderful layer to the work.