An Artist's Life


He's a talented artist, obsessed with wildlife, mad about fast cars and can even rattle off the odd Bette Davis quote. North Yorkshire-based Ryan Chadwick tells Q&C about his love of drawing all creatures great and small, and how his passion for art helps settle his mind.

Ryan at home

Ryan at home

The introduction on Yorkshire-based artist Ryan Chadwick's website sums up perfectly the breadth and astounding detail of his artworks as well as his incredible talent: "The striking artistic representations of the Earth’s largest mammals and its tiniest insects reflect Ryan’s desire to focus, almost fanatically, on the beauty and power of the creatures themselves; an approach that has its roots in the naturalist movement and zoology."

We here at Q&C love his work, and so we spoke to Ryan, 28, at his Yorkshire home to find out more about his passion for all creatures great and small.

Q&C: Tell us a little about your background and how you came to draw?

I was born in Hull and my family moved to Scarborough around 1991, and I grew up in a small village called Seamer in North Yorkshire. I have always drawn from around four-years-old, usually I would draw trees, which then moved onto drawing machines mainly, usually ships, planes and cars, as I had a growing interest in anything transport-related.

My art didn't really pick up pace until I was around 21. I started my degree in Fine Art at the University of Hull, where in my second year I felt something click and I discovered a fascination of the Universe. I then invested a lot of my energy into creating miniature planets and moons, and trick photography, where I would play on the mundane vs the extraordinary, for example, images of Moons being 'constructed' almost as though they had been built and abandoned.

It wasn't until around the age of 26 that I realized my true passions in creation lay with drawing insects and animals in an anatomical style.

Q&C: Is your art your only line of work?

Yes it is. Since January 2017 I have been a full-time artist, after five years of working in the supported-living care sector.

Q&C: What are the integral qualities to approaching your art work?

White card, clean working environment, coffee and music are the first necessities I need in order to produce a piece of work.

Working on pure colour backgrounds (mainly white) are very important to me. I prefer a clean, almost pure and clinical visual, to allow the drawing to gain full focus of the viewers eye. I find adding background pieces and scenery distracts my own eye and my fleeting concentration.

Ryan's birds.

Ryan's birds.

Q&C: What motivates you and your interest in art?

My main motivation is I have a strong urge to constantly draw. I often find myself away from my studio and I'll have a flash of an animal in my mind whereby the urge to draw starts to kick in. I'm even known to leave social situations to go home and draw.

Q&C: How has your practice changed over time?

I used to always draw in black and white with ink-pen and pencils up until a friend of mine encouraged me to try a touch of colour in my work, which I'm glad I did as I wouldnt be self-employed if I hadn't. Before this I used to create 'constructs' of drawings which were fine line pen drawings of mechanical animals made from metal. Then it merged to a hybrid of mechanical and anatomical style drawings. Then from 2016 I moved completely to realism as I found this much more satisfying.

Q&C: Your art seems to focus primarily on certain types of animal and insects. How do you choose and why?

I mainly draw animals and insects simply because they fascinate me, I find that researching and then drawing them gives them life to me, and make people more aware of some of the more unfamiliar creatures, their intrinsic purpose and of course how beauty can often be found in what some may feel are 'ugly' species.


Q&C: The incredible detail in your drawings put me in mind of the illustrations and photos of certain creatures in science and biology books. Is that deliberate or is detail more important above all else?

That is deliberate. I have always looked at children's books of animals with the simple white background and the animal. I find it focuses the eye on the animal and allows a moment for you to learn, like a child's perception. I'm often looking through my niece's animal books with her and we are both so captivated by the images. I hope that's what people might experience when they see my work.

Allowing the animal to take center view is paramount for me as it allows the colours and its shape, size and presence to come to life, almost as though the image is real.

Q&C: Is there anywhere at the moment where we can see your work?

I have just finished a four-week exhibition at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, but I do have six pieces on display at Furnish & Fettle interior design showroom in Harrogate, Yorkshire.

Q&C: Who is your greatest art inspiration and why?

There would have to be a few. My main inspirations are H.R. Giger, Salvador Dali, John Stezacker, Damien Hirst.

Giger and Dali have been the main influences. I adore the freedom they seem to have in their work, Dali's masterful painting skills and his wit, and Giger's pure but terrifying creations always strike awe in me and have nurtured my interest in space and science fiction.


Q&C: What memorable responses have you had to your work?

There are two that have stuck with me. One being a photo of someone opening a present of a red cardinal bird I had been commissioned to draw, and the receiver of the bird was crying with joy at the piece. I learnt I am doing some good somewhere which is a positive affirmation of my time and work.

The other I found to be a back-handed compliment, when one person described my work as 'beautifully lonely' and that my work reflected 'sorrow'. I still don't know how to interpret this but I guess you create in response to what one feels.

Q&C: Queen and Country magazine recently launched its Men in the Wild campaign which aims to continue the conversation about mental health, and find solutions to improve it. Some say the artistic life is a lonely one, while others extol the therapeutic benefits of creating art. What do you do to ensure you maintain good mental health?            

For me I create because I feel it settles my mind, as it often races. Drawing tends to make me stop and focus. If I can't draw I become a bit ratty. But I do have days where I find myself forcing it, which is no good as you become a danger to your own work, and I am known to destroy works as a result.

Q&C: What do you dislike about the art world?

I dislike the expectation that you can easily draw people's pets. It's the one assumption that gets to me. I find it stifles me and there is no room for any artistic license. Of course the 'artists are mad' tag is frustrating, but over time I've found it to be a compliment now as it makes me feel a bit more unique.

Q&C: Other than your art, what do you do for fun?

I love driving and cars, history, and am obsessed with wildlife and anything mechanical. I still have a childish enthusiasm for these things and tend to store a lot of useless information or else feel the need to tell people various facts and stories.

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Q&C: Who has been your most memorable client and why?

That would be a client in Boston who has the 'Bee Wall'. He owns 35 pieces of my work and is a good friend. I visited the bee wall in October last year and it was surreal seeing all these pieces of art I assumed I'd never see again. It struck a chord with me, as when I sell a piece, I kind of have a seperation from it once It's left me.

Q&C: What’s your dream project?

That would be having to create a piece of work for Sir David Attenborough or the Natural History Museum. That would be the ultimate 'pat on the back'.

Q&C:  What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been give?

That would have to be a quote from Bette Davis which she told to Parkinson in the 70s. She said, ''the one thing that stands by a human being, is their work in the long run over all the years. One may have great disappointments in all sorts of areas, even in your work. But if you still have a work that you love, that is a wonderful, wonderful thing.''

Visit Ryan's website at:

Follow him on instagram at: ryanchadwickart