Senior Thesis Spotlight | Ryan James

H/E: Where are you from? 
Ryan James: Atlanta, Georgia, home of CNN, Waffle House, and Outkast.
H/E: How long have you been making art/when did you discover your process? 
Ryan James: I think most people grow up drawing, but I guess I never really lost interest in it.  I was super into comics and thought those artists must have the coolest lives ever, so a lot of my childhood was spent making little side plots (exact copies) of Spiderman stories.
H/E: What is the focus of your thesis? 
Well, I started out with the preface of hating how drawings were typically viewed as something preliminary in the art historian lens. Looking at drawings as the framework for a bigger and better idea never made sense to me, because I almost always think studies are more interesting to look at than the final painting/print/sculpture/etc.  I’ve always loved comics as I said before, but wasn’t always crazy about the sort of goofy rhetoric they adopted.  Of course there are exceptions, but in a lot of cases I think the words don’t really do the story or the artwork justice.  My thesis is a series of sequential drawings in the style of a comic, free of text.
H/E: Why did you decide to apply for senior thesis? 
Ryan James: I really like the idea of spending a year on one thing.  I’ve never really seen what a year looks like on paper, so that was a big sell for me. 
H/E: Who/what are your influences? 
Ryan James: Honestly, the biggest influence for this project came from the last twenty minutes of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.  The whole film is incredible for a million different reasons, but this scene is unique in that it is so defined by its lack of dialogue.  Keir Dullea’s character arrives in this uncanny bedroom scene beyond Jupiter and proceeds to watch himself age and wither away.  Once the scene concludes I was left with all of these thoughts regarding man
and his place in something so infinite, and what was so profound was that the message was not fed to me through dialogue.  I had to work for it instead.  After I saw this I realized that the most ideal outcome for me would be to have my work force someone into that “oh shit, I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but something cool is definitely happening” moment, which a lot of times gets bogged down by dialogue.
H/E: What are some of the difficult aspects to your process? 
Ryan James: Getting attached to an idea to the point of not allowing myself to mess up has been the biggest struggle for me.  Ideas can’t work themselves out internally.  They have to fail on paper a couple of times in order to get them right.  A lot of times an idea will get stuck in my head for so long that it becomes too precious to act upon. In reality, I’m 22 years old.  No idea I come up with has the back up experience or wisdom to be considered profound, so I might as well try everything and see what works.  So far, that’s been the hardest realization to accept and work with.
H/E: What are your plans after graduation? 
Ryan James: Look out parent’s basement, here I come!!! No, not really. Although drawing/printmaking and I love one another very much, we’re going to take a little break.  For about a year I’ve been on the road every other weekend or so to play shows with three guys I’ve known forever, who are far more talented than myself.  Ideally, I want to do the whole leap of faith into that world and hopefully land with only a couple of bruises.

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