We had the good fortune of connecting with Ryan O’Brien and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ryan, how did you come up with the idea for your business?
Drawing has always been a part of my life, and was honestly one of the most frustrating trials of my young adulthood. I struggled deeply with focus and self-discipline. Through a few lucky hires, I started earning money drawing and, with support from my parents, enrolled in formal art training right after high school. Entering the art school environment was eye-opening, and it was the first time drawing landed with me as a form of meditation. It was an anchor for my attention.
The benefits I gained from drawing were sorely needed in every aspect of my life, and I lucked into them through vocational art training. Starting our school around the principle that everyone can experience these same benefits of drawing, whether they aspire to be practicing artists or not, is something I found unique. As we age we get sorted into occupational categories, but we all likely had a period of pure freedom in childhood drawing. Making a space for public drawing practice and sharing the neurobiological benefits of drawing has been really enjoyable.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Working in creative industries has risks and rewards, and I have deeply enjoyed seeing so many sides. I have had wonderful phases of trial and error. Early on, I had outstanding support and representation through Cultureclash, a since-retired-but-legendary gallery in Salida, Colorado. I have freelanced in both illustration and graphic design. I have been an art director, product designer, storyboard artist, an advertising, copy, and technical writer, and a sculptor (both digitally and traditionally).
This has all happened pretty quickly, and sometimes layered on top of one another. The thru-line that has shown itself to be true time after time has been creative work, at its best, is a really joyful result. Instead of monetizing results of individual creative work, I’ve pivoted to sharing the benefits to the self that creative work can offer. Instead of strictly training people for a career in professional art, opening those benefits to anyone curious and willing has led to some really good times.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We’d hit waterfalls that are secreted away in a lot of our mountain foothills, and enjoy the conversation along the way. Bringing visitors to surreal landscapes really opens them up. Likely do some home-cooking from the garden and local food producers, and some board games (there are some really engaging games that draw people out in surprising ways). Depending on the season, some uphill, inbounds, and sidecountry skiing near Monarch Mountain. We have some wonderful craft food & beverage to share, so we’d get some Soulcraft beer, a Sweetie’s Sandwich and baked good, and a big slab of Biker and the Baker charcurterie. Branching out, soaking at Joyful Journey hot springs down in the San Luis Valley, and gator wrestling classes at the Colorado Gators. Then, backyard firepit for some recap chatter.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’ve had tremendous fortune in my life. The support that my family offered for me to pursue art was eagerly offered, but a hard-won sacrifice. We all worked and have only recently retired the student debt. Even more than the financial support, my parents were absolutely willing to endorse my pursuit of a creative career, accepting the risks and ambiguity of what that would mean.
Mentorship has been elusive in my life, and one of my most enjoyable aspects of our business is the sanctuary we provide for young people. Having a place of choice to release our thinking and wander towards better questions has already shown to have tremendous value to some of our beginner students.