Artist Paul Ryan has blindly followed his career as it has taken him on a series of twists and turn. “But it’s what I love and probably the only thing I could sustain for a life time,” he says. He has worked persistently over the years, exhibiting almost every year since graduating with a Bachelor of Creative Arts from the University of Wollongong in 1990. Paul has also been an art prize award winner and a finalist multiple times in various prizes, including The Archibald (10 times), The Sulman Prize (six times) and The Mosman Prize (six times). His most recent exhibition - Birds of Wollongong - was at the Olsen Irwin Gallery in Sydney. “It is a continuation of my love of the Illawarra coast,” he says. “I have occasionally added birds. This is the first time I have based a whole show on them.”  

Which five words best describe you? Lucky, loving, family, foolish, inquisitive. 

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? It is complicated. There is no defined path. It twists and turns at will and I blindly follow. 

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Learn from your mistakes. Don’t listen to anyone’s opinion. Be resilient. Be critical of everything you do. Make as many friends as you can. Work even when you don’t feel like it. Enjoy your successes when they come.

What’s your proudest career achievement? This year at the Vivid festival - Bill Callahan projected images of my paintings behind the band in the Opera House. I have painted three album covers for Bill and this event was the first time we met. The whole experience was very special for me.

What’s been your best decision? Having a family.

Who inspires you? The natural world is not just inspiring but essential to my daily existence. All of my artist friends who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of art. It is a very difficult path.

What are you passionate about? I am passionate about making meaningful human connections.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Antony Hegarty.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? The dream is to be able to continue this life and be able to support my children as long as they need me.

What are you reading? As I lay Dying - William Faulkner.

images courtesy of paul ryan and olsen irwin gallery