10 Questions: Ryan O’Rourke

What do you do and where do you do it?
I do freelance illustration for a vast array of editorial, book, institutional, and advertising clients. I also teach design and illustration at The Hartford Art School and The New Hampshire Institute of Art. I work out of a studio in my condo in East Windsor.

What inspired you to choose this profession, and what makes you stay in it?
I decided I wanted to be an illustrator my junior year in college. I had a couple of professors in the profession that were a huge influence on me. They introduced me to a number of artists that shared a common thread with the style I was developing. To this day, the initial artists they showed me are still some of my biggest influences. They made me excited to get into the field.

I’ve stayed in illustration because I love it and I think its something that I’m good at. Ever since I started working as a professional, quitting has never been an option. I decided I was going to find some way to make it work. Also, being 5’11, a career in the NBA was a longshot.

What is your single favorite portfolio piece?
I’ve been really proud of the work that I’ve done over the past 2-3 years. I’ve learned a ton about digital techniques and printmaking techniques. One of the pieces that was a big jumping off point was the first poster I did for Antiques Roadshow. It started me on a new process of working that I’ve been using ever since. Working on it was a total headache but the learning experience was invaluable.

What/Where do you want to be in 10 years?
I want to have a full-time position teaching illustration at a college in the Northeast, I want to be illustrating 2-3 books per year while also doing a good amount of editorial, institutional, and advertising jobs.

Who/What are your biggest influences?
I’m influenced by tons of illustrators and fine artists. My biggest influences in no particular order are Lane Smith, Mary Blair, Jim Flora, Chris Buzelli, Ben Shahn, Mark Ulriksen, and Gary Kelley. I’m always on the lookout for new sources of inspiration.

What do you wish you did better?
Where do I start? I wish I was a better painter, I wish I could draw better, I wish I was more handy, I wish I was better with type, I wish I could hit a golf ball straight… Too many things to mention.

Why Connecticut?
My wife and I are both very close with our families. Most of our family members are in Connecticut so it’s been hard to leave. Regardless, I’ve always loved Connecticut. The close proximity to New York and Boston is nice and I’ve made a lot of great friends here.

Who are the best creatives you’ve worked with?
I’ve worked with some great art directors that I’ve developed lasting relationships with, including Merideth Harte at Sterling Publishing and Diane Earley at Charlesbridge Publishing.

At the Hartford Art School, Mark Snyder has been one of my biggest supporters. Mark’s a fantastic designer and terrific teacher. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Mark on a few projects. He has an incredible eye for good design. I’m continually amazed by Mark’s generosity with his students and friends.

I’ve met some amazing artists through my MFA in illustration program at the Hartford Art School. Program Chair Murray Tinkelman has introduced me to a ton of new influences. Another important connection I’ve made is Illustrator and NHIA Chair of Illustration Jim Burke. Jim’s an amazing artist and has been a huge supporter for me as an educator and an illustrator. His friendship and professional guidance has been invaluable.

What are your loves/passions outside of this field?
I love movies, music, and sports. I love basketball, I play 3 to 4 times a week, it definitely helps me keep my sanity. I’m also obsessed with Boston sports teams. Part of my daily routine is to check out Boston.com to see whats going on with the the Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots, and Bruins. Hopefully by the time this comes out the Patriots will have just won another Super Bowl.

What do you know now that you didn’t know then?
I guess I didn’t know how much of my life would be devoted to being an artist and educator. It’s definitely not a 9-5 job, it’s something that I’m always thinking about and working on. It kind of makes it hard to have a lot of hobbies but its definitely all worth it.

One Comment

Gainde 8.5.12

These are brilliant, and so seibsnle.I always treat backgrounds as secondary, and have been aware of this, and so have been trying to consider them a bit more. But this is an interesting approach that sort of makes it not a chore.Top stuff

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