Straight to the ART

Illustrator Brian Ritsons’ portfolio includes activity books for children

Brian Ritson is a local independent artist and instructor at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). He works in the museums classrooms teaching students about art, concepts, and creativity. A single father, Brian balances work, his art, and parenting on a daily basis. Brian has also created book covers and advertisements and has his own coloring book, At Calendar’s End.

Little Wayne Mag: What kind of instruction do you do at the DIA?

Brian Ritson: We have drawing sessions, drop in workshops, and we want the families to interact and we’re there to just kind of facilitate. There’s also the DIA Away, where we do workshops out in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb County to let people know that the DIA is still here and that it is free for anyone living in those counties.

LWM: How would you describe your drawing style?

BR: Mainly cartoonish, comic booky. I can do realism, but it wasn’t as fun for me anymore so I’ve strayed away.

LWM: Do you have any projects you’ve been working on recently?

BR: I have a coloring book out and have been working on a children’s book. It’s just finding the time to sit down and get some work done is difficult. But I’m almost done with a book cover as well.

LWM: Who are your inspirations?

BR: My favorite artist is Alphonse Mucha, who was the king of the art nouveau movement. He did a lot of illustrations and advertisements.

LWM: When did you realize you wanted to become an artist?

BR: When I was five. I have always been creative. My Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Miller, would rave about my art. She set me on my path. She told me I was going to be an artist. I have never forgotten that moment.

LWM: What is your process for making art?

BR: My process typically is creating thumbnail ideas. Small thought bubbles on paper if you will. Rough sketches that eventually turn into detailed drawings. Then I typically ink a copy of the drawing. Then I scan it into the computer, then color or paint it in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator.

LWM: How do you balance being a single parent and an artist?

BR: It can be very tough. I do not have any family nearby for support. I do my art when time allows. I would love to be able to have the time to work everyday. But my son comes first, if he has a need I have to sacrifice my art time to assist him in his endeavors. If I am feeling depressed or tired, I just have to work through it. Get the job done and move on to the next assignment. Life just happens and I just flow with it.

LWM: What do you enjoy most about working with kids?

BR: I just like the way they see things. They’re so creative. They don’t have any filters and just go with it and you see it and just think “Wow, I wish I could think that freely again.”

LWM: Do you have any advice for kids who might want to be an artist?

BR: Art is a skill you develop so don’t get discouraged. You just have to keep building on it every day.

LWM: As an artist and a parent, what is your advice for parents who see their kids starting to get into art?

BR: Inspire them. Sign them up for classes, get them tutors, bring them to the DIA. There’s so much you can do. Encourage them in perusing it; they’ll love it or fall out of it, but you need to let them explore it.

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