The Q&A: Ryan Bubnis

By Peggy Roalf   Monday January 15, 2018

Q: Originally from [where?] what are some of your favorite things about living and working in [your current locale]?

A: I’m originally from California but have been living in Portland, Oregon since 2000. I've always been a fan of Portland's DIY and entrepreneurial spirit. The city has always made me feel that if I worked hard enough I could make something happen. I like that it’s easy to get away and get out in nature. It’s a quick trip to find a swimming hole or a nice hike.

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between art you create on paper [or another analog medium] verses in the computer?

A: I keep multiple sketchbooks that are both small and large. They are filled with ideation and sketches for client projects as well as stream of consciousness doodle drawings and ideas for paintings. I recently got an IPad Pro and have been doing some digital drawing in Procreate as well.

Right now my practice is split pretty evenly between traditional/analog work and digital work for clients. It changes every day depending on what projects or exhibitions I’m working on. Some days might be all paint while other days can be a mix of traditional and digital.

Q: What is the most important item in your studio?

A: The most important items in my studio are probably my computers, scanner, and tablet. Even if I make something traditionally it ends up on the computer somehow

Q: How do you know when the art is finished?

A: It’s mostly intuition and a gut feeling. Sometimes I can go too far and ruin a piece. Especially with traditional paintings and drawings. I’ve always loved this quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and I often think about while making new work: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” A lot of my earlier work was very labor intensive in the execution and presentation. I like to think I’m better at editing and have learned to be more selective about what I include in an image.

Q: What was your favorite book as a child?

A: I was always a big fan of anything by Richard Scarry, Shel Silverstein, and Roald Dahl.

Q: What is the best book you’ve recently read?

A: Things Are What You Make Of Them: Life Advice For Creatives by Adam Kurtz. It’s honest, fun and a really quick read.

Q: If you had to choose one medium to work in for an entire year, eliminating all others, what medium would you choose?

A: I would love to take one year to focus solely on painting for exhibitions. It would also be a blast to travel the world to work on large murals. That being said, I would definitely miss the excitement and challenges of collaborating and working with clients. I’ve always liked the idea of a multidisciplinary practice.

Q: What elements of daily life exert the most influence on your work practice?

A: I’ve been teaching illustration for the past 8 years at The Pacific Northwest College of Art. That’s had a huge impact and influence on my work. Being an artist and educator is a commitment to a lifetime of learning. Often times I feel like a student myself. I’m constantly researching and looking for new ideas and content to share with my students and that has definitely informed my practice. They teach me things all the time. Other things that influence my work include family, nature, exercise, meditation, food, music and skateboarding.

Q: How did you find the knack of marketing your work and products? Did it come naturally, or did you find a way through observation/study?

A: It’s always changing and evolving. I wouldn’t say it came naturally. It has been a constant process of observation/study and trial and error. In some ways it feels that marketing your work has become easier and more difficult at the same time. Attention spans are shorter and it’s difficult to stand out in the crowd.

Q: What was the strangest/most interesting assignment you've taken that has an important impact on your practice, and what changed through the process?

A: This summer I tackled a large project for The Forest For The Trees Mural Festival. Painting at such a large-scale in a public space offered a new set of challenges. It’s a true collaboration with the neighborhood and they definitely have their opinions about what should be included or represented in the image. There was a lot of problem solving that went into the project. I had to figure out how to maneuver the lift, determine what paint/materials would work best on the wall, manage a crew, and I had to overcome some height issues. It was a really quick turnaround and I couldn’t have done it without the amazing help of my family, friends, and students.  I’m excited about working on more large-scale murals in future.

The strangest project I’ve ever done was being a “ghost painter” for a 1980’s celebrity. I can’t say who it was but it was definitely strange to create something and have someone else put their name on it.

Q: What would be your last supper?

A: It would depend on the season. I’d choose pizza or tacos in the summer and a piping hot bowl of Pho in the winter.

Ryan Bubnis is a multidisciplinary artist, illustrator, and educator based in Portland, Oregon. Bold, graphic and deceptively simple, Bubnis’ imagery lives in the space between the abstract and representational. Equally influenced by DIY culture, art history, illustration, and design, he explores themes of memory, nostalgia, good vibes, and the human condition.

Bubnis has collaborated with a number of commercial clients and agencies and his work has been exhibited across the U.S. and abroad. He is currently an Assistant Professor at The Pacific Northwest College of Art and is usually covered in cat hair.

Selected Client List: Adobe, Buy Olympia, Coca-Cola, Cartoon Network, Dreamville Records, Guster, Imperial Motion, Interscope Records, I.W. Harper, Kidrobot, LRG, Lululemon, Nike, Portland Trailblazers, Scout Books, Singha, Starbucks, Teva, Warby Parker.
Mural project:
Upcoming gallery show:
(Solo Exhibition at Stephanie Chefas Projects. Portland, Oregon. April 2018)