One-on-One with Ryan James

Boneshaker Press is proud to present Ryan James of Port of Spain, Trinidad! You can reach him here or find his portfolio here.

What’s your background?

Well I’ve been taking art seriously since Form 3 (Grade 8). I was the top of my art class in high school, and I have a bachelors degree in Illustration from SCAD. I wasn’t initially planning to go to SCAD when I got in. My parents and I were thinking a business degree might be better first. Ironically, I didnt get accepted into the business program at UWI (University of the West Indies), so we were like, ok, art is where they want you, so art is where you will go. I feel like its this general idea that’s kept me on this path. The sense of “where I belong.”   



What got you interested in the arts to begin with?

I got interested in it in primary school. I used to watch a lot of Nickelodeon growing up, and I would draw from looking at the TV while the episodes aired. I’d draw the Rugrats, Rocko, Aaahh Real Monsters. I guess I was doing “cinema studies” before I knew it was a thing haha. But like most of us, I would imagine, when friends and teachers in school saw my drawings they were floored, and at such a young age that validation can be really addictive. I think we hold on to that, and to some degree still crave it.

When did you decide to dedicate yourself to art?

I think when I was in SCAD, (and I mean when i was literally already THERE), thats when I realised that this was gonna be my life. I initially thought the only thing I can do as an artist is: Fine Art, Graphic Design, and Photography. When I got there and met other artists and saw what they were doing, I realised how much bigger the world is and all the things I could do. Its the same feeling a mutant would have upon first seeing the X-Mansion and the X-Men. “You mean I could learn all this kinda stuff too!?”

Do you remember your first piece of art you were really proud of? The one that made you say yes I am an artist!

Yikes, not really. I’m one of my harshest critics, on a bad day (this is decidedly a good day). I could answer this question like, “I don’t think I’ve actually made that piece yet.”

I love my work, but I’m always self-conscious about it. I’m sure this is a damaging idea but I feel like a piece is “good” if its gets validation from someone who knows their stuff. That having been said, one of my favourite pieces was a big super smash bros pic I did with the characters my friends and I play as. I’m a huge nerd I know…

Salty Diorama B_W


Do you collect anything?

Souls of Fallen competitors. I collect shot glasses. I have to get one from every country/state I go to.  Its not a collection per-say I guess but its something I do that helps me remember where I’ve been and encourages me to keep travelling.

Do you enjoy collaboration work? What qualities do you look for in collaborators?

I enjoy collaborations though at times I do wonder if I’m difficult to work with. I enjoy collaborations where I’m working with a writer, or someone not directly involved with the actual art. I have done some stuff with other artists where I have colored other people’s line work, and for the most part its really fun; but I’ve realised the final result comes together better if the artist has a similar sort of style or aesthetic to mine.

What is your dream project? If there were no time/money restrictions what would you create?

I would love to work on an animated feature film or a big video game. I’d love to work on the characters, environments, and assets. I would like to do more visual story telling. I find that the most entertaining aspect of films and would love to be able to make an audience feel that feeling–that feeling that I get when I can piece together a good story.


What advice would you have given yourself ten years ago?

Well, I’d be afraid of the butterfly effect, so I wouldnt say anything…. Ok ok, I’d say: stop comparing yourself to your peers, and stop comparing yourself to artists drawing longer than you’ve been alive. At the same time, don’t be lazy, and draw. Come up with projects, attempt them, try, fail, and learn what you need to do to make a project like that work. We only notice our weak areas when we are actually in a project and we have a moment in it where we are like “Holy crap, I don’t know how to do this.” So yeah, I think jumping into trying projects early is helpful. I’d also say to focus on anatomy and life drawing.

How do you keep your creative spark? What keeps you motivated?

My creative spark doesn’t always make a fire, sometimes its pretty weak. But I’ve noticed looking at other peoples’ art or creations (in a healthy way, not in comparison) helps, just as music helps rein me in and calm me down, so I can actually focus and make something. Taking a moment and playing a game also helps, as they can also be inspiring creations.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Forget style and focus on the fundamentals.

Professionally, what’s your goal?

I would have liked to have made/worked on a well-received comic, film, or game.

How do you know when you have achieved success?

Success for me is balance. A happy and balanced life, and making enough money with my art to support the comfortable standard of living I’ve grown up with.  

What is the most vital/indispensable tool in your studio?

I’d say right now my tablet and my Photoshop, which means my collection of brushes and presets etc. I always have a snobby cringe moment when I think about working on an impersonal copy of Photoshop without my brushes and stuff.

What are you working on right now? (Other than this project) What are you currently obsessed with?

I’m working on a comic with another artist. I’m also always doing freelance work. I just finished a storyboarding commission for an ad agency. I’ve also just started doing an art challenge which should keep me pre-occupied in my down time for a while.

Would you eat the moon if it were made of spare ribs?

Thats a simple question. Yes, I would. Heck I’d go back for seconds. I’d even polish it off with a nice cool Budweiser. Would you? Its a simple question really…

RED Character intro Final



One thought on “One-on-One with Ryan James

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.