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about nocturnearts

By Michael J Ryan

Why the name?

In 2011,  I named my studio NOCTURNEARTS, and began using that name for all of my online accounts.  My reasons for this are pretty simple.  The name 'Michael John Ryan' is not all.  If you google my name, you will find a plethora of well known men that share my name...In order to stand out, I had to come up with something.  The name stems from my love of the nocturnes of JMW Turner and the etchings of Rembrandt and Whistler.  Creating artwork at night has always been a theme in my life as well... I tend to like the quiet times.  There is more room to think when the rest of the world shuts off.

Why the landscape?

I grew up in a very artistic household.  My family has a long tradition of artists and other creative types.  My father, Michael S. Ryan, is a landscape painter in Eastern Iowa, and my mother a writer and political organizer.  I grew up with a deep appreciation for art as a lifestyle and the abnormalities that come with it.  My parents always encouraged me and embraced my peculiarities, up to and including, when I decided to follow art as a passion and hopefully a career.  I have experimented through the years with different styles and subject matter...but, like my father, the landscape drew me in.  When I was 19 or 20, I began to draw the landscape, then paint it.  Over the years, I have found the landscape to be the ideal vehicle for me to explore my voice.  Nature has been an unparalleled source of inspiration through the ages.  I am proud to carry on that tradition if I can.  

My artist statement:


I consider myself an artist of the expressionist tradition.  I intend to communicate an emotional response to the power and beauty of the natural world.  There are moments in everyone’s life where they experience the permanent imprint of a place in time.  We don’t have adequate language for these moments: The first time your eyes witness the intense vastness of the ocean…the majesty of snowy peaks jutting above you like bedrock titans…the way it feels, shrouded in fog at dawn in a dewy Midwestern landscape.  These are things that don’t escape the memory.


I was raised in Eastern Iowa, near the Mississippi River Valley, where time moves according to the rhythms of the landscape.  The economy is driven by people who go home with dirt on their hands and the artwork of the region reflects that sentiment.  Grant Wood, of American Gothic fame, worked most of his life in my hometown, and there is a strong regional identity of contemporary landscape that exists to this day in Eastern Iowa.   There exists a rooted appreciation for the bounty of open fields, and a profound emotional investment in the blackness of dirt. 


While growing into myself in Iowa, I became increasingly interested in the movements of the land around me.  There were visual pathways everywhere.  If you go on a drive through healthy cornfields you will notice a patchwork.  A beautiful interplay between man and nature…a harmony you feel in cycles.  It was natural for me to be drawn to those shapes, colors and textures.  It was a part of growing up that burned itself in my brain…I can still shut my eyes and smell it.


When I moved out west (Colorado), these intense interests followed me and I began refining my painting style to match my surroundings.  I began experimenting with the shapes around me; reworking and rearranging the elements of the front range to match my developing philosophies.  The movements in the land along the eastern edge of the Rockies became my vehicle for expression.  The mountains and the foothills surrounding them are the definition of awesome.  Remnants of violent shattered Earth.  Land displaced and rearranged.  A war waged with time and pressure.  This place feels time differently.


I no longer wanted to paint the relationship between man and nature.  I now wanted to paint the relationship between emotion and nature.  I wanted to paint time and air.


As my artistic tastes matured, my interests peaked when studying elements of the American abstract expressionists’ movement, and the artists that have been claimed by it.  I found that Rothko moved me in unpredictably powerful ways.  His works, though seemingly simplistic, resonate with me so deeply that it makes me profoundly uncomfortable.  His colors tap into an underlying current in my mind; they make my brainwaves buzz and sing.  I think that this is the Everest of achievement in the arts.  I dedicated my life to that.  I want to achieve a similar communication with people.


Michael J Ryan


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