Michael Ryan

Michael Ryan

Cedar Rapids, IA


 Michael S. Ryan is a native of Iowa and has been a painter all his life.  Trained as an abstract artist in the New York School tradition while at the University of Iowa, Ryan turned to representational painting in the early 1980’s after his exposure to the Bay Area painters of California, and painters like Wolf Kahn.  Their successful fusion of high key color, representational imagery, and abstract forms became the inspiration for Ryan’s work.  The style Ryan uses is a combination of all those elements coupled with very expressive brushwork and complex design.

Before receiving his BFA and MA in painting from the University of Iowa, Ryan also studied at Drake University and the Old Dominion University.  Michael Tyzack, Byron Burford, Joseph Patrick, and Howard Rogovin are among his mentors, along with a cadre of contemporary artists.

Ryan teaches and mentors privately in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City areas and participates in exhibitions on a regular basis.  His work has been collected by a large number of private and corporate clients. His paintings are also in public collections including the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art’s permanent collection; and at the University of Iowa, Kirkwood College, Simpson College, Drexel University, Healing Arts Collection in Philadelphia, Lowe Art Center, Mercy Hospital (IC), Mercy Hospital (CR), St Luke’s Hospital (CR), PCI Associates (CR), and Cardiologists PC (CR).


Artist Statement

The great painter and teacher, Fairfield Porter, once said that it is less important what style of art an artist produces, but rather the quality of the work is paramount. I agree. To that end, I have tried over the course of my career to always produce the highest quality of work within the style I have adopted.

In that style the “hand of the artist” is always present. When viewers see one of my paintings they see interesting colors, expressive thick brushwork, and a stripped down set of images that are woven upon the canvas.

I think it is important to demonstrate the actual making of a painting. The landscape elements in my paintings have been stylized and the compositions are formed by stacking one plane on another, often featuring strong vertical elements played against strong horizontal elements.  Color is also a primary interest as it sets the emotion and the mood of the work.  Combinations of color and form are the hallmarks of my work.  Think of it as a jazz composition.  The subject of the painting is the melody while the color, composition, and expressive brushwork is the intuitive variations on the theme.   This creates a harmonic visual narrative which is pleasing to the eye and mind.

My subjects of choice are often large format landscapes, interiors, and figures. I seek to present the essence of these things arranged in a harmonious and poetic manner.

Michael Ryan, Spring Rain, 2023, Oil on canvas, 32" x 42" x 1"