|Battle of Evesham (c) Matthew Ryan Historical Illustrator|
I have a friend who lives in Nova Scotia, Canada named Pat, who like me is into all things medieval. Several weeks back he informed me he had a distant cousin living in the UK, who did historical drawing, paintings and illustrations for books. We have been friends for over four years now. I was a bit miffed, he was just now mentioning this to me. However I also believe things happen at their own time and pacing in our lives. So when something is supposed to happen it does. I asked him, who is your distant cousin? Matthew Ryan he replied.
Well I don't know about the majority of people out there, but I have known of Matthew's talents and his paintings about as long as I have my friend. Do you think he would be interested in doing an interview? I asked. "That could probably be arranged" was the reply I received. The conversation you will see below, is the result of an off hand remark, coinciding with being in the right place at the right time. Thank you Pat for your assistance.
Matthew Ryan, welcome to Modern Medievalist. With your indulgence, I am going to just jump right in and start asking questions.
Q: I recently read where you said it had taken you 35 years to get to this point in your career. Where were you 35 years ago?
A: Ah, that was a little tongue in cheek but also very true.... I am thirty five so meant that every time I complete a piece of work the it has took me my whole life to get to this "new" stage. Knowledge of the subject, ideas and technical development is all of course an ongoing thing and in my mind my best piece of work is always my next. I have always been interested in Art and have for a long time had a fascination and love of history especially medieval. I have only recently been working as an historical illustrator but am fortunate to have already had some very good clients and briefs.
A: Yes I did a degree in illustration.... must admit over here an illustration degree does not include what people would call technical formal training. I learnt much from the degree however but my work is I would say (if this does not sound to self congratulating) a combination of talent, practice and work. When I took my degree in Illustration it was not historical illustration that I was working on... a tutor at the time I remember was often saying "draw what you know and what you love" this at the age of about twenty went right over my head and I remember thinking I can draw whatever people want me to draw. However years later when I combined my two passions and painted historical themes my work went to a new place and the realization of what he said became very true. This is another reason why I only advertise as an historical illustrator now. Painting what your are interested in and love gives your work more sincerity and the passion you have for the subject can come through in the finished work.
|Matthew Ryan working on a composition.|
A: Reenactors are visually a key source for me, you can not beat seeing in real life the textures and combinations of how light plays on a surface, things such as steel - polished in the sun or rusted in the rain on a dull autumn morning all these things give the paintings depth and character. I am a big advocate of artists drawing from nature and the world around them. However in saying that that is only one aspect of sources for my work... landscape photography is an important element and something I also enjoy. Setting the soldier in his landscape is as much of an important thing for me as details such as kit and uniform etc. Another and possibly most important part of the process is direct contemporary sources and for the medieval period this mostly leaves us with tomb effigies, manuscript art and some of the later period paintings and written descriptive accounts. I find the access now available on-line with digitized manuscripts invaluable. All these things can be used and cross referenced to try and bring together what I hope is as accurate as I can be with a glimpse, or view to the past.
Q: What did you present for this year (publication and completed work) and what does 2014 hold in store?
A:Some of the work in the past twelve months have been.... Four paintings for the channel 4 series "Walking through History with Tony Robinson" about the 1719 Jacobite uprising. The battle of Bryn Glas for Medieval Warfare Magazine, A painting I made of the 1460 Battle of Northampton based on my friend and historian Mike Ingram's work. This was made to help draw awareness to the battle and help save the site from potential development work. The original I donated to the people of Northampton and it is currently on display at Northampton Museum alongside the recent facial reconstruction of Richard III. Also worked and working on editorial briefs for some Spanish military history Magazines, Desperta Ferro.
-Wow! You have really been busy-
I have been working on a large canvas of the battle of Bosworth, this is a self made brief and so it has had to be side lined for the moment, but I hope to have time to work on it again soon. My Bosworth piece has been in the planning for a couple of years, with the interest now in King Richard III I am sure it will be a popular image and something I hope to become iconic. I have many possible exciting projects for next year, some of which may be work for the Magna Carta 800 project that I would relish. Also in the cards (and due to my archery I must do this) is paintings to mark the 2015 anniversary of Agincourt!
Q: So you are an Archer then?
A: I am. I have been practicing archery since I was a child. My father had several flat bows, and I started from there. I also became a Fletcher, and have made my own arrows. My practical experience with Archery, Fletching led me to creating some of the illustrations for Mike Loades Osprey book on Archery, and they also used several photographs of arrows I had made. By the way, it was perhaps my love of shooting the English/Welsh Warbows that started me off drawing and painting things medieval.
|The Power of the English/Welsh Warbow.|
A: Any one can commission my work, however the magazines, book and TV shows are a great avenue to showcase my work. Also the publishing side of things allows me to have interesting and helpful communications with historians, editors etc within the profession and helps with my constant learning on the subjects. I try and stay fresh with input from reenactors. Without the input of people who have practical application of building a Bow or some other medieval object, then the art would become two dimensional and flat.
Q: What is the latest offering from Matthew Ryan Historical Illustrator?
A: Hopefully by the time this article is published I will have a website up and running, where my art can be viewed and limited edition prints of my work can be ordered.
-His website is up, and will be listed in the link section below.-
Thank you Matthew Ryan. It has been a pleasure speaking with you. Considering all of the irons you have in the fire, I truly appreciate the time you took away from your art to speak to me and my readers. All of my best, and I eagerly look forward to viewing your latest projects.
Here is Matthew Ryan's Website address:
Here is Matthew Ryan Historical Illustrator's page on Facebook: