In living color

Ryan Ostler

Ryan Ostler paints in colors so bright, he has to wear shades.

Ryan Ostler paints in colors so bright, he has to wear shades.

Photo By Nick Higman

Ten-year-painting veteran Ryan Ostler is a nice guy who seems too normal to be an artist … at first.

An hour-long interview at his home in Southwest Reno starts out as a conversation about painting and sculpture and then focuses on everything from spirituality to Communism.

“The thing about artists—culturally, they’re always the ones that are on the forefront of change and progress,” says the 34-year-old sculptor-turned-painter. “The ones that are trying to express life.

“You look at the societies that suppress their artists, like the Soviet Union, and they fucking nosedive. If Reno expects to take itself to the next level … [it] very much [needs] to continue to support local artists.”

Ostler’s artwork goes on display June 13 at Red Rock bar and will be up for about a month. Red Rock bar, with its dim lighting, red walls and earth-colored bar top, is a good place for Ostler’s colorful paintings.

“I love color, I love color,” Ostler says. “Sometimes people dumb their paintings down, in terms of color. But I like to get every color I can and set them off against each other. I’m a pretty colorful person. It probably reflects my personality in a lot of ways.”

The paintings, which are scattered around his bedroom during the interview, are abstract.

“One of the things people like about my paintings: It’s tough to look at one of my paintings, look away from it, and remember exactly what it looks like,” Ostler says. “Rather like a child would look at clouds and decide what shapes are in it. … The more you look at my pieces, the more you will find that there is structure.”

He turns the conversation toward religion.

“You’ll find that there’s a lot of shapes that would represent Ganesha and Shiva.”

There are also hidden representations of trees.

“Unless you knew that there was a tree there, you probably wouldn’t see it,” Ostler says, pointing at one painting as an example. “I don’t want to sound crazy, but I do see spirits in trees … and I try to see them in my paintings. It’s very, sort of, spiritual themed. And nature is definitely a part of that.”

Ostler’s paintings, whirlwinds of shape and color, are pleasant to look at. The work would be appropriate in a gallery setting, but will surely be enjoyed as much, if not more, in Red Rock, a watering hole popular among local artists.

For Ostler, it’s more about the journey than the destination.

“With ceramics, you need to follow a certain process to get a certain result,” says the formally trained ceramicist. “With painting, I was able to let that process go. And that’s really reflected in my paintings.

“I’ll just very randomly put colors on a board or canvas … through the process of looking at it over a period of time, I will see things in it that I want to flush out.” He points at an unfinished painting he started four years ago and plans to have on display at Red Rock.

“I’ll put a price on something, of what I think it might be worth, but my prices are always negotiable,” he says. “If somebody likes one of my paintings but doesn’t have enough, I’ll ask them ‘Hey, how much do you have?’ Generally, that’ll be enough for me.”