Out of the blue I got a note about Ryan and Audrey Durney’s “Birds of Lore” Kickstarter project. I was impressed enough by this couple’s fantasy illustration project to become a low-level backer. I emailed them a few questions and asked to share some of their art here.
Q. Other than Leo and Diane Dillon I can’t think of many husband/wife illustration teams. What are the rewards of this creative partnership?
Ryan: My favorite thing about it, is that we speak the same language, even if we don’t always agree on things about the field. And, we sit right beside each other, sipping coffee and sketching and riffing off of each other’s direction and discovered influences. Sometimes, critiques get precarious-they can be given too early, or too late! But, it’s really rewarding to be in the same boat. …we’ve rarely ever gotten to work on a complete idea together, which is one reason for the Kickstarter.
Q: Where did you two meet, the Kickstarter video says art school, but what art school?
Ryan: We met and fell in love at Columbus College of Art & Design. Back then CCAD was like “military art school” they purposely overloaded you-so I don’t know how we even had time to date!? CCAD did a lot to prepare me for a career as an illustrator. However, at the time about half of the staff was anti-digital art, and I have a lot of bitter memories of instructors knocking my grade down just because I did assignments on the computer-meanwhile, I had been up all night at KINKOS trying to get one stupid final to print correctly!
Q: Can you tell me something about the CCAD illustration program, maybe a favorite prof, or most important class?
Ryan: Mr. Stewart McKissick was probably the most influential instructor for me. He really cared about preparing us for the real world, and he even forged a class where we competed against each other for real, paying assignments. I remember winning 2 of the 3. That was the kind of confidence boost I sorely needed so near to graduation. Audrey’s favorite was Ms. Tam Peterson for her energy and enthusiasm.
Q. Have you had some success freelancing illustration?
Ryan: Both Audry and I have won some awards and earned some respectable commissions. I make a modest living, with some good years -feast and famine, I suppose, but I’ve been happy doing it for over a decade. It’s really true that you just keep getting better and evolving. Audrey has taken a more stable road, working as a technical illustrator by day and freelancing via an agency at night, -tough but way more practical. My one complaint about making a living this way is the level at which freelancers are taxed. Also, illustration agents take the highest % of any creative endeavor, including music, acting, etc. at 25%, and art is one of the lowest in compensation.
Q. Why Kickstarter vs. traditional publishing?
We can keep and manage the rights to our own work, and we get to finish a creative endeavor without corporate edits. I believe this brings the book much closer to an actual work of art. It’s being written and illustrated by unfettered artists, from start to finish. This is what the storytellers of olde did.
Q. Who drew the Harpy (top image) and the Wila?
Ryan: I did both the “Captive Harpy” and the “Wila.” I’m pleased with both. The Harpy is the more popular of those two (based on viewer feedback.) With the Wila, I tried to integrate pen-and-ink within the 3D. Sometimes that meant actually sculpting “ink-like” lines into the mesh, and sometimes that meant adding ink touches. That’s why you can see me using pens in the video. I’m 3D, but definitely experimental. I love mixing hand and digital media. The other thing about the Wila is that I was completely taken by an old etching. The Wila is homage to a very old engraving by Anton Eisenhoit (see below). Before anyone thinks it, yes-I agree that his original is better!
Q. Who did the little yellow bird blowing the horn, the Hercina?
Ryan: Audrey did the “Hercinia” bird, which is equally enjoyed by all. She is a master of vector work and using Painter with vectors. Audrey and I are tilting our illustration styles in a few different directions, depending on what there is to say about each bird. The Hercinia is a direct homage to medieval bestiary art.
Note: As always: all art © the original artists. See a more Birds of Lore on the Kickstarter site. I have a hunch this project will fly.