November 14, 2016

Becoming a Working Artist: Ryan Duggan at 56th monthly CreativeMornings in Chicago

At the 56th monthly CreativeMornings gathering in Chicago last August, artist and printer Ryan Duggan started his talk with the inspiration that led him to his life’s work. Not a surprise that the roots of what he does for a living are traced back to home, especially his father:
“Art was always a pretty big thing in our family. My dad always drew. It was something that both my sister and I took to early on. We really liked drawing.”
Identifying the source of one’s lifelong passions is the gift of reverie. It provides the fundamental baseline driving one’s desire, and ultimately one’s purpose. In Duggan’ case, he committed himself to take advantage of some of the world’s best natural resources: ink, color, shapes, alphabets and words. Turning them into posters for bands and skateboards, even making a series of prints starring shitting dogs amidst postcard scenes.

That Duggan’s prolific body of work reflected his interests was apparent. His keenness on screen-printing and the enduring form factor of posters reminded me of a past CreativeMornings speaker, Jay Ryan, who spoke at the fifth monthly gathering of the Chicago chapter back in 2011. They’re artistic brothers from different mothers—sharing advocacy of rock bands, storytelling and typography. All made tactile through the shared technique of printmaking, involving drawing, stencils and rubylith.

Like his contemporaries, Duggan keeps fulfilling his purpose—in remaining an artist.

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Stemming from Duggan’s sharing of childhood experiences that ultimately cemented his life’s direction, I have a fetish for discovering creative people, who recall definitively the start of their creative leanings. The following are a few examples where family happened to play a significant role, whether they knew or not, in instigating their children’s future:
“Both my parents are artists—my mum is a painter, my dad an illustrator. My grandparents were artists and illustrators too—I’m the third generation. So drawing and art was always a huge part of my life. I drew from the moment I could hold a pencil and made little clay sculptures and paper dollhouses and all sorts of things. I think I was always quite serious about it. When I was a bit older, five or six, I began making tiny illustrated books—most of them are on the topic of cats, girls and death. So I guess my kind of illustration was always on the cards.”
—Kaye Blegvad, Designer, Illustrator 
“I grew up watching my father do various little woodworking projects and I always wanted to design something for him to build. I grew up eating at a pine dining table he built in high school, it was in my grandparents’ house for a long time, then my parents’, and now we have it in ours.”
—Katie Thompson, Woodworker 
“I used to spend a lot of time in my father’s studio. It was a magical place. It was on the top floor of our house and it was a great place to lie down on the floor with a big sheet of tracing paper, some pencils or magic markers, and draw away. And he would draw his books, and I would draw cars and airplanes and soldiers or whatever else a little boy likes to draw.”
—Richard Scarry, Jr., Artist, Illustrator
For more actual stories by people discovering their labor of love, check out my book “Become: On the Origin of Passion.”

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Big thanks: to BraintreeGreen Sheep WaterLyftTEKsystems (Host), for being Partners of Chicago CreativeMornings #56; to organizers Kim Knoll and Kyle Eertmoed who both spoke at Chicago CreativeMornings #7; to the team of volunteers for greatly helping to have CreativeMornings happen monthly in Chicago.

Especially big thanks: to Tina Roth Eisenberg—Swissmiss—for inventing CreativeMornings in 2008. The fifth chapter was launched in Chicago, June 2011—my write-ups and photos.

Read more about the people who make the Chicago chapter of CreativeMornings possible.

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My coverage: read more write-ups about CreativeMornings; view photos of CreativeMornings/Chicago gatherings.

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2011 was Chicago CreativeMornings’ debut year. Download the entire collection of selected insights.

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