Ryan McCormick on Painting in Vivid Color


If you’ve ever read the handmade signs or seen the murals spanning the coolers at Pittsburgh’s Trader Joe’s, you’ve seen some of Ryan McCormick’s artwork. He works full-time at the store crafting fonts and signs. Beyond those Hawaiian-shirt-filled aisles, he also creates his own paintings that have been displayed in galleries, coffee shops, and cafes around Pittsburgh, and he’s painted live at Art All Night.

One thing that Ryan is quick to describe about himself as an artist: he’s colorblind. He can’t differentiate between certain color variations, so he tends to paint with complementary colors where the difference is more defined.

“At first I felt vulnerable if the colors weren’t right,” Ryan says of his colorblindness, but he started to receive positive responses about the surprising ways his vivid colors differ from reality–for example, using purple in place of black. “It was my style coming through,” he says.

Originally from Michigan, Ryan moved to Pittsburgh several years ago, and it was the first time he met people who were making a living by doing art. Now he’s doing it himself.


Ryan paints a lot. When he doesn’t have a particular image in mind, he tends to create abstract pieces. “I’m always able to keep moving with art,” he explains.

Vivid colors and curious juxtapositions. Those are some of the defining characteristics of Ryan’s paintings as he has progressed through concepts and techniques that include stenciled animals smoking cigarettes, ballerinas with bird heads, water drips over thickly painted scenes, and–most recently–abstract colors mimicking wood grain.

Ryan says his use of color seems to encourage people who try painting for the first time: “I think it helps people when I’m upfront about being colorblind and still an artist,” he says. “I don’t have a strong grasp of colors, and I make it work.”

Ryan teaches regular art classes at Assemble with the message that there are no mistakes in art. He uses a lesson from Picasso: draw a perfect circle, then find the points where the circle isn’t perfect. The imperfections are your style.

His next class, called Complimenting Pittsburgh, takes place on April 11, 2015, and you can find more information about his classes here.



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