In the Studio: Denis Ryan talks acrylic

Made by the RWS in partnership with Schmincke

We paid a visit to the studio of Royal Watercolour Society artist Denis Ryan along with our friends at Schmincke. The RWS Spring exhibition, In the Studio, looks at the artists' relationship with their work space and how it affects the pieces produced. Delve into Denis's studio below...




Did you study art? What was your art college experience like?

I studied Fine Art at Watford, Ravensbourne and Hornsey Colleges of Art and Design, a five year course in fine art including printmaking and photography. I then did a one year postgraduate course qualifying me to teach art.


I had some fantastic tutors: Mark Boyle, Peter Schmidt, Alan Green, Brian Fielding and David Spiller. I consider myself very lucky to have been able to go to art school in the late sixties and early seventies, a time when there was an explosion of creativity in all the arts: painting, photography, music, fashion, architecture and design. I was immediately introduced to Warhol, Rosenquist, Hendrix, Coltrane, Fellini, Goddard, Buckminster Fuller and Neil Armstrong still found time walk on the moon! It was a case of being in the right place at the right time - art school!


On leaving college I worked in commercial art - film animation, advertising and publishing, which also played a very valuable part of my art education. All of the established artists and designers I worked with in this field were very generous with their time and help.


Denis's illustration publishing work from the 1970s, acrylic.


What does your studio mean to you and how have your working environments changed through your career?

My studio is really important to me.  Once I’m in there I just sort of zone out, I like to listen to contemporary jazz and classical music when I’m working, it helps me concentrate.  I have had a studio built at the top of the garden which has everything I need, I love it.  The studio is two years old.  I had always rented studios in central London where I lived, from Lots Road Chelsea, Berwick Street Soho, The Barbican and most recently Borough Market, all exciting places to work but actually when you’re in your studio and close the door you could be anywhere.  At the moment my work means I’m in and out of town regularly so I get the best of both worlds.


Denis's former studio at Borough Market displaying a work in progress on the drawing board.


When did you get elected to the RWS and why did you decide to join?

I was elected in 2008.  I had just had a one-man show of watercolours in Mayfair and various people suggested I try to join the RWS.  I was lucky enough to be elected and it has been a great opportunity to meet and work with other artists.  Since I was elected I have been an active member of the hanging team and now as chief hanger I really enjoy working with the other team members hanging the society’s paintings.


RWS hanging team laying out the Contemporary Watercolour Competition in 2018.


Denis Ryan RWS, The King of Soho - Raymond's Revue Bar, acrylic


How has your painting style evolved over the years?

When working commercially I had to use most mediums: gouache, acrylic, inks and watercolour.  The medium was dictated by the film studio, agency or publishing company.  So you had to be versatile and prepared.  Gradually over the years I realised that I preferred to work in acrylic, it suited my style and technique.  Technique is something that you are perfecting all the time, with every new painting you try different things and just keep pushing and improving. I develop the painting with layer upon layer of washes, eventually finishing off with some more solid body colour to tighten up the image.  I’m hoping to achieve with the washes a depth of colour which help give me a painting full of visual excitement.  I always feel I could have done better so I look forward with some trepidation to the next painting!


Denis Ryan RWS, Riviera Cinema Charleston, South Carolina, acrylic



More like this on the Blog...

Read / Watch: Abstract Art: In the Studio with Lisa Traxler

Read / Watch: Linocut Printing: In the Studio with Anita Klein

Read / Watch: Relief Printing: In the Studio with Trevor Price

Watch: In the Studio with Bridget Moore.

Watch: In the Studio with James Faure Walker.

March 12, 2019