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Earning a Nth F.A.

Article Published: May. 2, 2013 | Modified: May. 4, 2013
Earning a Nth F.A.

Jonathan Ryan stands before his body of work. The paintings are called, from left, ‘Alexander,’ ‘Hope,’ ‘Melvin,’ ‘Lloyd’ and ‘Harold.’

Photo by Kate Smith

Jonathan Ryan creates his paintings out of “compulsion” and with “whole body drawing,” an approach that shows in his work’s flowing kinetic energy.

Ryan’s “handbook” of “techniques” includes linear perspective, chiaroscuro and steady precision. The resulting style within all of his work – six-foot, graffiti-like paintings, surreal image paintings and Kandinsky-styled stream-of-consciousness sketches – aspires to provoke a “conversation” with the viewer, he said.

On Friday, May 3, Ryan’s final Boone show will be held at the Nth° Gallery and Studios at 683 W. King St. in downtown Boone.

The “Nth F.A Studio Degree Gallery Show” runs from 7 p.m. until late, and the following morning, Ryan will drive to his new home in Columbus, Ohio.

The Nth exhibit will feature up to 40 works, varying from name-your-price to $600. Several smaller hand-pulled prints will also be available for purchase.

The son of U.S. Navy parents, Ryan was born in Hicksville, N.Y., and lived throughout the East, before he chose to study at Appalachian State University in 2003.

As a child, Ryan “traced pictures out of magazines with tracing paper” and learned precepts of shading and perspective from his grandmother, Judy Williams. His high school art teacher, Cheryl Yeatts, invented new art classes for him to take after he enrolled in each one offered.

But when Ryan began his studies at ASU, he tried out radio broadcasting and philosophy before settling on painting as a major.

After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 2008, Ryan worked tens of local jobs, from fixing the university’s printers to serving at Black Cat Burrito. He rented a studio in the Nth° Gallery, and in the midst of some 50-hour work weeks, created a body of art that has been featured in, at least, six solo shows, innumerable group shows, an alumni show at ASU’s Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, a show at the town of Boone’s Jones House Community Center and several local businesses. He calls the Nth his “graduate school,” where he has, as the title of this final exhibit suggests, obtained his “Nth F.A.” degree.

A striking part of his “Nth F.A” “capstone project” is a series of six four-foot painted skulls that line a whole gallery wall like a row of the jury or “counselors.”

“Image-makers all throughout history have made images of the skull to represent poison, fertility, death, life, and you’ve got the Mexican Day of the Dead,” Ryan said. “But I think a great many Americans are scared to death of that, and that’s why people jump to ‘Oh, it’s dark.’ But you’ve got a skull in your head right now, and it’s full of life. It’s the basic structure of us and our soul, or whatever it is in there.”

Within each piece, psychedelic colors create sinuous shapes that build into the form of a solid skull. Each painting juxtaposes the colors’ illusion of movement with the stale subject of death. The skulls initiate a “conversation” between the living viewer and a vibrant, but dead, artifact. It is for this “conversation” that Ryan shares his art.

Ryan’s 10 years in Boone helped him “master the skill” of painting. In Columbus, he plans to learn from and contribute to the new environment’s “creative energy,” he said. After the move, he will accept one of a few restaurant job offers, set up his in-home studio and is “looking at getting every (art) offer I can,” he said.

For more information or to view more of his art, visit or

Additional Images

Jonathan Ryan stands before his body of work. The paintings are called, from left, ‘Alexander,’ ‘Hope,’ ‘Melvin,’ ‘Lloyd’ and ‘Harold.’
Photo by Kate Smith

‘Mary’ by Jonathan Ryan

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