Stars n Stripes (Ryan J Stephens - Supplied)
Stars n Stripes (Ryan J Stephens - Supplied)
3 min read

This week I got to sit down and speak with the incredibly talented Ryan J. Stephens, a 26-year-old artist living in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

So Ryan, when did you first get into illustration?

As a child, I was always drawing. When I was forced outside, I didn’t want to ride a bike or play games, I wanted chalk so I could draw random doodles on the ground.

As a teenager, I read books and tutorials about how to draw, and when I was 17 I was hired as a caricature artist at a local theme park next to my hometown in Kansas City, Missouri.


I think this is when I really thought that I could actually do something with my art.

What would you say is your style?

I couldn’t really define it one way or another.

I feel like a lot of artists focus on what their art style is supposed to be, and here I am jumping from male erotica to cartoon fan art and then randomly to realistic portraiture.

I feel like if you put yourself into one box, then it becomes boring and uninspired.

Plus, practicing so many different styles of illustration helps me to be a more versatile artist. Lately, though, I’ve been getting inspiration from vintage children’s book illustrations and the older style of Disney animation. Lots of hatching and warm faded colouring.

I guess I’m kind of an old soul.

Gay Pride 2016 (Ryan J Stephens - Supplied)
Gay Pride 2016 (Ryan J Stephens – Supplied)

Where do you want to be in five years and what do you want to be doing creatively in five years?

I would like to be able to make a living with my artwork.

I know the status quo would say it’s near impossible, but it is.

There are modern artists I aspire to become, like Lois Van Baarle and Kim Jung Gi, that are masters at what they do and took their artwork and created a brand with it.

I am still in the process of figuring out how my artwork can fit in this world and in five years I would love to feel like I have created something people like and are interested in.

Do you have any defining career goals?

Plenty! I want to collect a group of my art sketches and publish and art book.

I would love to illustrate a graphic novel. I want to actually have an art gallery showing (which I’ve never had), and I want to create collections of artwork that not only inspire other artists but give people an escape from reality, even if only for a moment.

What makes you so keen on drawing the male form?

This is going to sound strange, but for the longest time, I drew nothing but females.

I always identified with the way women express themselves because I have always seemed to act on more of the feminine side.

But, it became a comfort zone, as if to say, women are beautiful, so I draw women.

It wasn’t until last year when I realized that I was not only afraid of drawing the male figure, but I was afraid of the taboo it is for a male to find another male attractive.

Yeah, everyone knows I’m gay, but it’s always felt easier to kind of compartmentalize my sexuality to make others feel more at ease around me.

I’ve never been one to share. If I find another guy attractive, I usually keep it to myself, even to those who are supportive of who I am.

But I digress. My artwork became a way for me to kind of release my sexuality and my thoughts on attractiveness when it comes to male anatomy and masculinity.

Because I am not what people consider masculine, I explore what it feels like to look at masculinity on the outside looking in, and in that, I’m kind of discovering why I’m so attracted to it.

Where can our readers see more and buy?

Well, for now, I use Instagram @ryantheart to showcase not only my work but the behind the scenes process on what I’m working on.

I’m always open to personal commissions and the best way to contact me is via direct messaging on my Instagram page or my email: [email protected]

– As you can see Ryan graciously illustrated me! –

Rik Barnett (Ryan J Stephens - Supplied)
Rik Barnett (Ryan J Stephens – Supplied)

As for purchasing current illustrations, I have several available for prints, apparel, and merchandise on Redbubble:

Ryan’s talent is abundant and it is an honour to have been drawn by him. He is also an incredibly warm, charming and engaging young man.
@ryantheart (Instagram)

Last Updated on Aug 3, 2016

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