Well, I have to admit I don’t really paint my paintings; a Magic Monkey does. He comes to my studio late at night, when it’s very quiet. Mysterious things happen late at night when most people are asleep. I help the magic monkey, but he does most of the work. My big job is to get him to show up. I’ve been learning just what that takes. He is very particular. The right frame of mind is important; I have to switch my brain from linear, logical thinking to creative, free feeling. If I start to think too much, then it’s time for a nap or perhaps build a fort out of blankets with my son. Things have to flow from a place that is more subconscious and uninhibited. When you believe and have faith things will flow. You can really feel it. It’s like magic. The Monkey comes tapping at the door, we get the paint and brushes out of the treasure chest and we have a great time making art.
When I was a child in school my teachers would wonder why my drawings of dogs would have their intestines showing or why my self portraits had a third eye. They disapproved, but I got a lot of support from my family and I learned to really enjoy confusing my teachers and even scaring them. Children have no inhibitions when making their art. I’ve never seen my 4 year old son have a creative block; and his art is much more interesting than most adult’s art. Children are miraculous.
I believe to get ideas you have to nourish the spirit. I stuff myself full of the things I like: pictures of bugs, paintings by Bouguereau and David, books about Pheneous T. Barnum, films by Ray Harryhausen, old photographs of strange people, children’s books about space and science, medical illustrations, music by Frank Sinatra and Debussy, magazines, T.V., Jung and Freud, Ren and Stimpy, Joseph Campbell and Nostradamus, Ken and Barbie, Alchemy, Freemasonary, Buddhism. At night my head is so full of ideas I can’t sleep. I mix it all together and create my own doctrine of life and the universe. To me, certain things seem to fit together. There are certain parallels and clues all over the place. There may be a little part of Alice in Wonderland that fits in. Charles Darwin, and Colonel Sanders provide pieces. To me the world is full of awe and wonder. This is what I put in my paintings.
It seems to me that everything I am going to paint I have already painted. Something will “click” and an entire image will flash in my head. I then just have to remember what all the specific details of the image are supposed to be. I will often get stuck on a minor detail like the pattern on a curtain or the species of a background animal. It is very clear when I have the correct answer and resolve all the pieces of a work successfully. I just come as close as possible to what is supposed to be there.
I believe if you follow your heart and do what you love, success will follow. If you enchant yourself, others will be too.
-Mark Ryden - October, 1998