Artist in Res­i­dence

The line be­tween func­tional and live­able is a fine one in artist Ryan Sook’s stu­dio.

ImagineFX - - Contents - Ryan has been draw­ing comics fea­tur­ing the likes of Bat­man, Buffy and Jonah Hex since 1997 and de­spite him­self, man­ages to still make a liv­ing at it. Look at some of his il­lus­tra­tion work at www.ryan­sook.com.

I’ve had four homes with five stu­dios over the past 20 years. And it’s worth men­tion­ing that in nearly all of those workspaces my ar­range­ment was es­tab­lished, reestab­lished and of­ten re-reestab­lished through­out my ten­ure in each one. Not un­like my process for mak­ing pic­tures in fact.

The space shown here is my favourite thus far! And I got it set­tled af­ter only one re­arrange­ment of things!

Find­ing a bal­ance be­tween func­tion­al­ity and com­fort is es­sen­tial in cre­at­ing a pro­duc­tive work environment. Spend­ing of­ten eight to 14 hours a day in the same space re­quires, for me, that it should be some­what pleas­ant to ex­ist in. But not too pleas­ant! Not too much com­fort! Lest I find my­self loung­ing. Ogling art books, read­ing Ross MacDon­ald nov­els, play­ing gui­tar, or watch­ing that movie for the fifth time (okay, 15th time) in­stead of draw­ing.

Then again, the stu­dio can’t be so ster­ile or in­dus­tri­ous that it be­comes a place I have no de­sire to be in. Oth­er­wise my draw­ing ta­ble, paint­ing sta­tion, rolling tool cad­dies, mon­i­tors and key­pads be­come lit­tle more than dis­grun­tled co­work­ers I’d like to avoid. My lovely wife and two lit­tle girls pro­vide suf­fi­cient rea­son to elude the stu­dio as it is. So I can’t al­low the space to be­come op­pres­sive.

Now, af­ter a cou­ple of decades, I’ve man­aged to work out the kinks and

strike that bal­ance of har­mo­nious ef­fi­ciency that makes my stu­dio an en­joy­able place to make pic­tures in. With four dis­tinct “sta­tions” in the space – draw­ing, dig­i­tal, paint­ing, and stor­age – I can quickly jump from an inked board or paint­ing to the scan­ner and Pho­to­shop with­out skip­ping a beat. All the while, en­joy­ing an au­dio­book or lis­ten­ing to that movie for the 15th time. Okay, 50th! I’m old. But good movies, like good comics, never be­come old.

My “Ryan’s Stu­dio Roost” hand-carved sign came from my dad. A great artisan, whose stu­dio I prom­ise would be far more in­ter­est­ing to see than mine! My great oak flat files, a gift from my wife, are a prized pos­ses­sion. How she man­aged to fit all four in my 91 Ford Ex­plorer is still a mys­te­ri­ous, if not a mirac­u­lous achieve­ment! My vin­tage 1960s Da­zor lamp hangs over my home-made paint­ing ta­ble. It cost a dol­lar at a rum­mage sale. For a buck, it’s one of the best in­vest­ments in the room! My as­sort­ment of real and sculpted bones, shells and horns are strewn about to re­mind me that the best de­signs are those found in na­ture. My draw­ing ta­ble. It’s the only piece of fur­ni­ture in the room that I’ve bought my­self. Makes me feel pro­fes­sional. I’m try­ing to live up to own­ing it! The win­dows here are one of my favourite fea­tures. The chang­ing light, the trees and the not-too dis­tant Cal­i­for­nian coast make the view too beau­ti­ful to close the blinds.

Orig­i­nal art by my daugh­ter Eden when she was one. At age four she paints bet­ter than I do!

Be­hind this un­used fire­place are my dusty books (I read a lot on­line now) and my col­lec­tion of comics, which hide be­hind bags, boxes and ship­ping sup­plies. The days of long boxes are gone. My tiny Ikea desk and draw­ers are bare-bones fur­ni­ture, for when I’m work­ing dig­i­tally. I like the small­est tablet and sim­plest tools in Pho­to­shop, with a scan­ner and printer within easy reach. More im­por­tantly, some cof­fee, wa­ter, an iPad for ref­er­ence and au­dio books are all to hand. Most of the fun in the room hap­pens at my paint­ing sta­tion. Fin­ished and un­fin­ished art gather with mul­ti­ple sketch­books and ev­ery pos­si­ble medium. This is the only time I’m cre­ative with­out re­straint. With­out per­sonal projects, work for hire be­comes stale! My huge draft­ing ta­ble is less for scale than for the num­ber of con­cur­rent projects. I need room for a sketch­book(s), iPad and com­pleted pages to re­fer to. Again, cof­fee is as close as any other es­sen­tial tool!

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