Wandering the Halls: Ryan Kirby, a hunting dude’s artist

We’re going beyond the halls with this NWTF employee and into the exhibit hall of the NWTF National Convention, where you’ll find Ryan Kirby this week, showcasing and selling his wildlife art.

Although I benefit from Ryan’s talent as a graphic artist for Turkey Country, so much of his creativity goes beyond designing magazine pages. He’s a multi-media phenom — from lifelike illustrations to cartoons, Web pages to paintings.

When I asked him what paint color he’d be, he answered burnt sienna. “It’s the most versatile color I use,” he said. Well said. He’s the NWTF’s burnt sienna too. We use (hopefully not abuse) his abilities to their fullest extent on a daily basis.

Ryan Kirby has donated artwork to the NWTF since he was 14, which was like three years ago. Just kidding. Ryan may be young, but he’s accomplished a lot in his 20s. The NWTF selected him as the 2010 Stamp Print Artist. You may have bid on his work at the NWTF National Convention or at Hunting Heritage Banquets in South Carolina or Illinois.

I, for one, feel exceptionally inadequate when I watch him work and see what he creates. But I don’t let it get me down. ‘Cause I know when the TV and magazine reporters come calling, I’ll be the first in line to talk about how I knew him before he became famous. Yes, folks, he’s THAT good.

Read more about him below, then stop by booth #349 in the exhibit hall and take your turn at feeling inadequate. It’s nothing a little retail therapy won’t cure. Ryan is giving back to the NWTF 10 percent of what he sells at the convention, so you’re helping yourself, Ryan and the NWTF’s mission with your purchase.

Not going to the NWTF National Convention? Then check out www.ryankirbyart.com. Helping two out of three ain’t bad.

OFFICIAL TITLE: graphic artist and illustrator

JOB DESCRIPTION:  I work within our team of designers to layout Turkey Country magazine and produce other materials for print and Web. I also create illustrations for a bunch of other projects throughout the year.

NWTF EMPLOYEE SINCE: I left for a brief time then came back, so almost six years over two separate stints. (Ah, the NWTF’s prodigal son…)

WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE YOU CAME TO WORK FOR THE NWTF? I was in college. This was my first full-time gig right out the chute.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF YOUR JOB? The people I work with are great. We’re pretty brutal messing with each other, and that’s fun. But if I had to pick an actual work assignment, it would be illustrating hunting scenarios for the magazine. That and illustrating Tom Kelly’s humor column at the back of Turkey Country. I like projects where I’ve got a lot of freedom to be as creative as I like.

WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE PART? Leaving a deer stand or the turkey woods to come to work on a weekday.

FINISH THIS SENTENCE: I USUALLY SPEND MY LUNCH BREAK…working. It’s lame I know, but most of the time I eat a sandwich at my desk, and I’ll work on putting together my next painting composition or something like that. If I really need a break, I’ll head behind the office to the archery range and sling some arrows at the 3-D bear target. I’ve put a hurting on him this year.

Ryan on his painting, Boys Night Out: “This was one of my favorite paintings, mainly because of the freedom I took in portraying the foliage. Most of the evening light is coming from behind the deer and lighting up the tree line in golden light, while their velvet racks are catching a lot of blue from the sky directly above them, highlighting their impressive headgear. These two late summer bucks are enjoying one of their last evenings together as buds. Soon this turf won’t be big enough for both of them, and they’ll go their separate ways in search of ladies. I’ve still got the original and, this year, made it my first edition of 100 signed and numbered prints.” You can win one of the prints by stopping by Ryan’s booth (#349) during the NWTF National Convention.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR ALTER-EGO, THE PAINTER: Well, because I’m working the NWTF full time, most of my painting is done at night and sometimes on a weekend. I typically start a painting session about 7 p.m. and paint until I’m mentally cashed out. I’ve found it’s not about the quantity of hours you log, but the quality of the time. I also try to use the time I’m hunting to gather new ideas for a painting. I’ve typically got a camera and sketchpad in my hunting pack. I also read a ton and study other artists for technique and inspiration.

HOW DO YOU GET IN “THE ZONE” TO PAINT? Going to the gym after work helps clear my head and put my workday behind me. I need a clear head to work. It’s intense creative work and takes a lot of mental clarity, so I do everything I can to stay healthy and happy to avoid burnout.

WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE ARTIST? Carl Rungius (1869-1959). He was a true outdoorsman and excellent artist. He’d take a sketchpad, easel, canvases, paint and hunting gear to the remote parts of Alberta and work while hunting. My favorite story of his career is from a moose hunt. He sat down to paint a remote landscape one fall while on a hunt. Rifle at his side, he would occasionally throw out a cow call. About halfway through his painting, he heard a bull answer, and as he got close, Rungius put down the brush and picked up his rifle. The moose kept coming, walking right into the scene Rungius had been painting, where he dropped the bull on the first shot. He showed me how to combine hunting and art into a single career — there’s no need for them to be separate.