Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Robot Needs Love, Too: An Interview w/ Ronan Lynam

Turning video games into art is a time honored tradition dating back to the days of console controlled pong games. Turning video games into fine art...well, that is a different matter all together. And, no one does this better than artist/illustrator Ronan Lynam. His recent collection of Super Mario World inspired digital paintings is turning more than a few heads. From re-imagining Bowser's Flying Ship in a business suit to a stunningly beautiful portrait of the Twin Bridges, Lynam's art brings a fresh and original perspective to the genre.

In a recent article in The Escapist, Lynam explains his inspiration for a Super Mario World collection:
I had always been a fan of gaming, and video games are often a source of inspiration for new work. I like to draw a lot of things from popular games that don't really get a lot of whole lot of attention, like giving more life to minor characters, items and locations that aren't often the subject of fan art. Classic games likeSuper Mario World are awesome, so I chose that since I always loved the charming world and atmosphere the game created. Although, I'm not really sure what inspired Bowser's Flying Ship to have a body wearing a suit. That's a mystery even to me!
But, it doesn't stop there. Before I approached the twenty-three year old University of Michigan grad about an interview, I did some digging around the internet and wound up in a world of murderous Teletubbies, award winning t-shirt designs, and animated gifs of adorable panda bears commandeering a tank. I had to know more.

Despite being busy working on a new series of pop culture digital paintings, Ronan was able to take some time to sit down for an interview.

Q: I think we are all more than a little blown away by your digital brush stroke technique. Can you explain how something like this is even possible?
Ronan: Thanks so much! The whole technique I use basically came to both in part through frustration and inspiration. I was frustrated by the way a lot of ‘digital painting’ is made by creating an image that looks very plastic and “perfect”. There’s a lot of flashy digital effects and over rendering, and that type of work just isn’t for me. After doing a little oil painting in college, I learned a lot about the principles of physical painting like under paintings and strokes, and I saw no reason why they couldn’t be translated into my digital work. I started looking at more and more digital illustrators who go for a more raw, tactile approach in their drawings and I became really inspired by the way they were making their marks.

In terms of how it works, there’s a lot of digital brushes out there that emulate the look and feel of traditional mark making. The most important thing I look for in a good painterly brush is that it maintains a sense of stroke. In other words, you can see the direction I was making the brush stroke, like from left to right. Doing this combined with some textures and you’ll have something that looks very stroke-y!

Q: You won the Threadless/MTV Awkward design challenge in 2013 by depicting a shark with headgear. Were you channeling your own teenage years by chance?
Ronan: Totally. I’d post some pictures, but the last time I shared photos from that time they were at the top of searches for my name. So when you searched ‘Ronan Lynam’, the first things you saw were some butt ugly, super stupid pictures of me when I was younger.

Q: A lot of your art depicts your love for classic video games. What gaming systems/games are your favorites?
Ronan: I’ve always been a big Nintendo fan and I love most of their franchises. Their classic games were definitely a staple in my childhood, since my household definitely took the SNES -> N64 -> GC route. Those systems and their most popular games were definitely among my favorites.

For the past 4~5 years, I really missed out on a lot of the newer games especially while I was at college. However I recently picked up a PS3 and have been trying to catch up on some of last generations titles that I never got to experience. I don’t think I’ll be buying a next-gen console though. It’s becoming more and more obvious that building your own PC is the way to go. I’ve never built one, and it seems to be a bit more money upfront but I’ve read you can get a really good PC that outperforms the next gen consoles for under a $1000 easy!

Q: You are fairly open about your former World of Warcraft addiction. Do you still ever log in just to see what is going on with the expansions?
Ronan: Naw - not so much. I played WoW I was a kid. I was in 8th grade when it first came out, and I was totally hooked. I really played it nonstop for about 9 months before I snapped out of it. After that though, I never really looked back.

Q: One of your paintings scares the living shit out of me - Ducksworth Loves Duckface. I love it and am terrified of it at the same time. Was Ducksworth meant to be nightmare fuel?
Ronan: Ducksworth! I’m glad you liked it. The whole series was actually my senior thesis project at the University of Michigan’s School of A&D. After months of struggling to come up with a good, clever, sophisticated idea for an artistically tasteful series of work, I threw it all out the window in favor of drawing pictures of funky looking animal portraits.

In terms of Ducksworth being nightmare fuel - some people have mentioned that he looks like he has been hitting’ the pipe or something. I don’t know anything about that. I think he’s kinda cute.

Q: The gifs you make of some of your illustrations are hilarious. What was the eureka moment that inspired you to start turning illustrations into gifs?
Ronan: Thanks! I started making simple, 3 frame animation loops of some of my illustrations back in May. I made them because I thought they were both really fun to do and because I realized that they would be popular on GIF heavy sites such as Tumblr. A lot of times on Tumblr, you only have a split second to catch someone’s attention and I found simple, looping GIFS are a great way to catch that!

Q: On your Tumblr, you say you are going to start making a series of cuddly animals driving war machines. Is this true? Please say yes.
Ronan: I think so. They’re really a blast to make, and they’ve been pretty popular. It’s nice to know that people like them so much!

Q: What artists/illustrators are you currently following?
Ronan: Oh man. At any one time, I’ll be in love with a new illustrator. However, there are a few artists whose influence continues to stick with me. Sam Spratt’s digital painting work has always entranced me. His awesome portraits are so professionally made and the digital painting technique is very much influenced by real painting practices, and it really shows.

Illustrator/designers Aled Lewis and Glenn Jones - both fellow Threadless alumni - both continue to make amazing things. Combined with their illustrations, their unparalleled wittiness and cleverness is something that continues to inspire me to let a lot of my illustrations be guided by humor.

Q: Your Ralphie in the pink bunny suit holding the Red Ryder BB gun is epic. How many times have you watched A Christmas story?
Ronan: Honestly, I don’t think anyone knows how many times they’ve seen A Christmas Story.

Q: Mario…or Link? Who would win in a fight?
Ronan: I thought long and hard about this. It’s a tough fight, but I think Link would come out on top. I’m not picking favorites here either. I think they both can bring the pain and pack a lot of punch, but Link has more defenses, while Mario has virtually none. Link can simply take more of a beating while also dishing out lots damage.

Be sure to visit Ronan Lynam's Website, Facebook, Tumblr, T-Shirt Site, and Society 6 Shop!
Click any pic to enlarge!

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