Goodnight Raleigh - a look at the art, architecture, history, and people of the city at night

Local Artist Spotlight: Ryan Cummings

The next time you’re in the Cameron Village area, swing by The Flying Biscuit for both the eclectic dinner menu (and all day breakfast!) as well as to view the beautiful mural work created by local artist Ryan Cummings.

A graduate of the NCSU College of Design, Ryan paints with a broad stroke–working in areas such as trompe l’oeil, venetian plaster, gold leaf finish, as well as decorative painting and murals.

His most recent work at the Flying Biscuit (above) includes not only a decorative mural, but also has elements of trompe l’oeil (using realistic imagery to give the illusion of a 3D object) in the form of butterflies that appear to be fluttering outside of the painting. By utilizing shadows and object placement, he gives a landscape the impression of being deeper and more lifelike than it really is.

Another one of Ryan’s areas of focus that is especially unique is the incorporation of photography with a painted landscape. Rather than painting over a photograph or utilizing a projector, he uses uses several black and white photos (many of which he took while learning photography at the College of Design) as reference points within a larger image, such as the Raleigh Cityscape seen above. The addition of several smaller iconic images placed within a pattern creates a very rich and layered illustration of the city, the likes of which I’m hard pressed to find an equivalent of in terms of depth and story.

Ryan cites Joseph Turner as his greatest influence and inspiration as an artist. This in particular struck a chord with me. Although I wasn’t familiar with Turner’s work prior, I have since learned that he has been ascribed to as not only laying the foundation for impressionism, but also for being known as “the painter of light”.

It’s easy to see similarities between Joseph and Ryan’s works. Both paint dreamy, illustrative pictures of not just natural landscapes, but of the urban one as well. They walk a line between the exact and the imagined, the likes of which are infrequently seen in today’s society of digital and cellphone cameras.

He started off on his professional career in ’97, but felt somewhat limited in his career growth in this area. After visiting a local friend who relocated to the West Palm Beach area, he decided to pack up all of his worldly posessions in the back of a pickup truck and move to South Florida. After finding employment with a seasoned husband and wife team of some 20 years, he stayed in that area for about 6 years. Around ’06, he decided to come back to Raleigh and use what he learned in his own practice. His work not only includes restaurant and other retail decoration and murals, but that in the residential space as well.

One of his recent works (above) involved taking original photography of the landscape around the clients’ home and combining it with a venetian plaster base and family portrait photography to create a collage of both the people and landscape that create a home.

All of Ryan’s works are created using green media. This means that all paints are based on pine resin and beeswax that contain no VOCs, as opposed to petroleum-based paints. He likened the smell to that of orange juice, which isn’t just beneficial to the environment at large, but also at the smaller level — to those in close proximity that are enjoying the art up close.

He’s been kept busy with a few commercial projects as well as work for non-profits. His next upcoming project is for a church in Wendell that is adding venetian plaster to give the interior depth, as well as adding detail and decorative painting to the alter.

His future plans include not only creating commercial, residential, and non-profit projects, but that of teaching as well. Ryan is eager to share the knowledge he has gained over the past decade or so with up and coming artists, especially in the field of gold leaf as a medium and venetian plaster. He views this sharing of knowledge as benefiting the community at large by bringing these art forms to more of the general public.

If you’re interested in having Ryan decorate your home or retail establishment, you can contact him via his web site or through phone/email listed below:

Ryan Cummings

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