Artist Interview: Ryan Ward

After growing up in the culture, colour and wildlife-rich country of South Africa, Ryan Ward’s family migrated back to North Devon, UK, where his family originated. From there, Ryan quickly dug in as an artist. While attending college to receive his degree in illustration, Ryan’s fascination with surfing grew and after graduating, he headed out to surf and experience the world. Upon returning, Ryan honed his graphic design skills and now has a career combining the two things he loves most, art and surfing. Check out Ryan’s work as he continues to be inspired by emotions and the ocean.

How would you describe your art? What mediums do you work in?

I would say my art is about emotions, the ocean and life in general. I am very passionate about graphic art / illustration and photography… and of course surfing! The ideas behind my art are put together very rapidly in my mind, most of my art is produced with a bold drive to what ever I hear, see and feel at the time – I have to put these emotions down on paper or what ever platform they transpire onto!

I feel very fortunate to have this ability to express myself in this way – however the work is seen or taken, does and doesn’t affect what I produce! at the end of the day – I just love doing it!

The mediums i work in usually are computer generated images, with some hand created effects, i also produce hand drawn images that are then scanned into the computer and enhanced. I like to mess around with typography and combine it with images in a sort of mix media style of graphic art.

Explain your process.

I’m not sure I really have a clear process, I’m constantly trying to improve ‘my style’ of artwork and produce ever evolving pictures. I suppose my process would be that some idea pops into my head through hearing or seeing something, and I get a creative impulse to produce a response to this inspiration in the form of an image, t-shirt print or posters.

How did you get your artist chops? Formal education? Or just trial and error? Is that your main job?

I have been into art and drawing since I was a nipper, at school and college I never knew what I really wanted to do so I guess I just followed the art path due to the fact I enjoy it and that was the most interesting subject I found at school. I carried on to study a degree in general illustration at Swansea (Wales) All the time I was doing my degree I just enjoyed producing work not really thinking how I would make something of myself in the ‘real world’.

I came out of university with a good degree and after studying I decided to go back home and work hard, and save up to head off surfing round the world again. On returning from a 6 month trip I realized I did not have any computer programming skills, just art based skills, so was not sure how I was going to get into what I wanted to do! I plugged on and taught myself the bare essentials of the computer art packages I needed. I then managed to get various bits of work in the surfing industry.

And I now work in my free time on my own project for a label I’m starting called JUNCART. For my full time work I work for a surf company in Devon called Alder Sportswear.

What is the story behind the border you use on your art? Is there a meaning behind it or just something you like to add?

The border around the art incorporates the JUNCART logo as I wanted this in every poster, and it is a way for me to keep my series (the poster art path) looking uniform. I don’t plan to use the border through out all my artwork it is just this series of poster art.

How do you choose what image to work with next?

I usually choose the image that helps portray the feeling i want to get across in my posters. I feel the images and posters have a very retro feel with hopefully a modern twist

You recently designed some boards. How long have you been working on surfboards? And what are you recent designs? How do they ride!?

Yeah I have a slight fetish for surfboards 🙂 i have only just got the opportunity to design three personal JUNCART surfboards:

The Imposter – is a 6’3″ wider performance thruster shortboard
The Sea Sprout – Is a 6’1″ quad fish
The Sea Plough – Is a 5’8″ twinny (simmons inspired board)

I have not been able to get my hands on the boards yet – but I’m buzzing to ride them!

How has surfing influenced you art?

Growing up in the 80’s in South Africa i was very influenced by 80’s skate boarding to start with and all the brands that were around at that time! My interest in skate boarding soon turned into an obsession with surfing and the art that goes along with it. I feel being a surfer and artist you can’t help but to be influenced by the masses of advertising and artwork out there, and i want to put my experience and love for the ocean down on paper now.

Describe the surf scene in your area of North Devon, England.

The surf scene in North Devon is definitely buzzing now, there are a lot of guys pushing the boundaries of competitive surfing, as well as that there are some excellent local heroes! Westward Ho!, the beach i live on, doesn’t have too much of a surf shop style scene, which is kind of why i like the place. There are some excellent waves around, and i feel very fortunate to have a good crew of mates, I am part of Westward surf club which is probably one of the oldest surf clubs in England and for me that’s where our scene is generated from not the shops.

For more on Ryan’s work check out: or his blog

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