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An avid horror fan since childhood, 30-year-old,
Kentucky-born, self-taught artist Ryan Case is rapidly gaining recognition for
his paintings of the enduring icons of fright cinema. Drawing favorable
comparisons to the likes of Basil Gogos, his work—usually exhibiting an
experimental mixture of media including acrylic, watercolors and spray
paints—incorporates vivid colors, striking compositions and a punkish,
graffiti-like aesthetic. Fango recently caught up with Case to discuss the
up-and-coming artist’s work, the popping of his horror-convention cherry and
the abiding appeal of Universal’s classic monsters.
FANGORIA: When did you realize that you wanted to pursue
painting as a career?
RYAN CASE: I have always loved creating artwork, but I never
really took it very seriously. I wanted to go into special effects makeup in
high school, but never pursued it after that. I started painting during my down
time at work—I am a body-piercer and tattoo-shop manager at Doll Star Tattoo in
FANG: You’re obviously a fan of horror films; are there any
particular movies that have inspired you on a visual level?
CASE: The Karloff Frankenstein Monster is my favorite
subject to paint. I don’t know how many paintings I have done of him. And many
other paintings I have done have a Karloff underneath that I painted over
because I needed the canvas [laughs]! His face in that film is so awesome. The
expressions of such love and hate without the knowledge of what these emotions
are is priceless. The classic Universal monsters are my favorite, but I think I
get my love of colors from the Hammer horror-movie posters.
FANG: You have a very distinct style indeed—how has it
developed throughout your career?
CASE: I started out with just watercolors and spray paint.
My early paintings are very Banksy/Shepard Fairey-influenced, using mostly
hand-cut and -drawn stencils over backgrounds on canvas. Over time, I started
to add acrylics to the stencils and to build more layers. For many of my
paintings, I still start out with a stencil, and just build layer after layer
of colors with acrylics.
FANG: What’s integral to your work as an artist?
CASE: My wife is my muse. She is the one who has pushed me
to create further. When I feel like I’m finished with something, she urges me
to go further. My kids give me the energy to attack the canvas. They also give
some of the greatest and most honest feedback ever. Music is a big part too. I
cannot paint without music or audiobooks. That really puts me in the right
mindset. Tom Waits is one of my all-time favorite musicians, and I can paint to
him for hours.
FANG: What other artists inspire you and inform your work?
CASE: So many. I am a huge fan of Basil Gogos, Boris
Vallejo, Salvador Dali, the classic masters, and not just painters; Rick Baker
is a big influence on me as well. And the writings of H.P. Lovecraft—I love to
paint and listen to Lovecraft audiobooks.
FANG: What types of artwork do you most indentify with?
CASE: I love art that makes you think, but not just some
splatter on a wall. Anything can be called “art,” but it doesn’t mean I have to
like it. I love art that makes you ask questions and makes you want to know
more and see more—to be able to see what’s going on outside the realms of the
canvas. You know something is going on just around the corner, but you can’t
bend that far to see it.
FANG: You’ve been doing the festival/convention circuit
recently—how have people reacted to your work?
CASE: This past July was my first convention. It was the
Days of the Dead in Indianapolis, and it was amazing! We hardly made any money,
but to be able to meet the crowd and get such positive feedback from them was
so cool. Not to mention I got Bill Moseley to sign my Otis painting, and Ace
Frehley to sign my portrait of him. So cool. I am totally addicted to
conventions now. The crowd was awesome. Like I said, very positive reactions to
my work. I think I have a very distinct style that stands out a bit from the
norm, and that attracts people to my work. Even with the animal portraits, I
never would have thought that my style would go over well with clients. But it
has and it works well.
FANG: You are also involved in various animal-welfare
projects and paint pet portraits. Do you find it odd finding some sort of
balance or reconciliation between this type of work and your horror stuff?
CASE: My wife and I started an animal rescue a couple of
years ago, to help save the animals from the high-kill shelter in our county. I
love doing the portraits. The first one I attempted was for a friend of ours.
Her dog of many years had recently passed away, and I wanted to show her how
much she meant to us. After I posted photos of that, I had tons of requests for
more. Monsters are my favorite subject, but the animals have a life unto
themselves. It is a great honor to be able to create a work of art with your
own hands and being able to emotionally touch another person that you have no
connection to at all. It has also helped me give back to other animal rescues
that have helped us. I donate many free portraits for different fundraisers
around the country. It’s such an amazing feeling to help out those that are
FANG: From conception to completion, what is the painting
process for you? And what kind of media do you experiment with?
CASE: It varies with each painting. I have some I’ve been
working on for years that I don’t feel are finished, and others I can complete
start-to-finish in a few days. I have tried many media, but mostly I stick with
acrylic, watercolors and spray paints. For a few reasons, if done right, they
can blend easily, they dry quickly and if flame is added, it gives a texture
you can’t get from anything else. I encourage people to touch my paintings at
shows. I love texture, but unfortunately you can’t copy it in a print.
FANG: How long does it take you, from having the initial
idea, to complete one of your pieces? And how do you know when each one is
CASE: For a commissioned work, depending on size, from a
week to a couple of months. Some pieces I have been working on will never be
finished [laughs]. I’ll know when it’s done when I put my signature in the
bottom right corner.
FANG: Given the current economic climate, do you feel it is
more difficult for artists to make a living from their work?
CASE: If I could paint and only paint and support my family,
I would never work another job in my life. But as of right now, for me at
least, I don’t feel that is possible. The economy is in bad shape, but it’s not
broken yet. And the fanboy spirit is even harder to break. We are not called
“die-hards” for nothing.
You can see more of Case’s work by going to his official
website, and visit his Facebook page.
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