Art of Drive: An Interview With Designer And Illustrator Ryan Quickfall

Interview: Geoff Baldwin

The artwork of UK based illustrator Ryan Quickfall summons up nostalgic memories of my childhood when comic books were printed using only four colours and motorcycle racing was celebrated as a sport of legends. His work echoes the visual style of retro comics and vintage bill posters and mimics the print production techniques from that same era. Bold, brilliant colours, emotive typography and implied movement create striking visual pieces and best of all, they often feature my favourite two wheeled form of transport. In this issue of Tank Moto I caught up with Ryan to discuss his awesome work and his love of motorcycles.

How did your career as an artist begin?

My art as a full time career started late 2013 really. I had worked part time freelancing prior to that, and been a designer in-house elsewhere, but full time freelance started then. I’ve been looking to get myself into this position for years, but I really put it down to a meeting with Gary Inman from Sideburn magazine. He and Ben from Sideburn have been really very supportive of my work from day one, as they are with all of their illustrators. They aim to raise the profiles of the artists they work with, and I can say for sure that it works! Then the hard work starts. It’s been a long road to start having a career putting pen to paper, and nothing is ever certain. But it keeps you motivated to make contacts, make new work, improve your work and keep going. I can’t think of many jobs I’d change it for.

If you were to describe your style to someone what would you say?

I’m really not sure on this one. I’m not going to say I don’t label myself though. I’ve certainly taken an influence from old comics and the four colour print process. A lot of halftones and hand inked illustration. But I guess my work is diversifying now, I’m dipping my toe into new techniques. I’d say it’s bold, comic-influenced illustration. I really like the imperfections of old print techniques. The misregistration of colours and offset, it’s all really appealing to me, and something I consciously build into some of my work. It adds character. I would also say that while illustrations form the bread and butter of my income, I am actively trying to broaden myself as an artist. Producing more hand painted artwork with a look to doing a show at some point in the near future.

What would you say your biggest influences are when it comes to creating your artwork?

I’m really influenced by motorcycles obviously. Old posters, commando comics, Ed Roth, Ornamental Conifer, Morning Breath inc, I love Dust, Dface and all the creative people I know. That’s probably only about 1% of the full list. My latest works and the stuff I’ve done for Sideburn demonstrate the biggest nod to old comics. The blasts, flashes, smoke and speed. I’ve recently started painting more, and I think the colours are certainly influenced by the vibrancy of some street artists and graffiti artists working right now. I really like Dface’s bold lines, bright colours and great content. I think looking at his work made me realise that I could probably make my illustrations translate into painted artworks using the right media. I really love large scale illustrations and wall murals too. The application of something that size is a world away from an A4/A3 illustration. It’s something I’d love to do at some point, so I’d say they are certainly influencing the potential direction of my work in the future. 

Much of your artwork involves motorcycle themes and imagery. Was it a personal choice to head down that path with your work?

I love motorcycles. I love drawing, painting, illustrating. It was a natural progression to mix the two, but I certainly didn’t think I would pretty much make a career from it. Easily 80% of my work is in the motorcycle industry, which is incredible really. It all spawned from Gary Inman asking me to put work into a book he was compiling about motorcycle art. So I didn’t consciously aim for that market, it just found me really and took off from there. I’ve met the best people around motorcycles, so I’m never going to complain about mixing the two passions that’s for sure. I think that the community is so well connected and willing to help people out that my work has spread via word of mouth. Do the best work you can, make the next job better than the previous and stay humble, do that and I think you can make a living at anything!

I have to ask, do you ride?

Yes, just not as we speak! I have ridden motorcycles for years and had a licence for heading on ten years now I guess. I’ve had my spills and some brilliant times. However I’ve not had a bike for the last couple of years, mainly due to the lifestyle change needed to establish this career. But I’ve recently been having a blast with the guys at survivor customs racing during their dirt track practice days. I’m hooked, so I’m looking for a bike to ride in the DTRA series here in the UK. It’s a really accessible sport, with the nicest bunch of folk I’ve met! So I will be a rider again soon hopefully. 

I’m always intrigued to learn about an artist’s process when creating a piece. Can you share yours with our readers?

So basically I start out by sketching normally, then I generally ink out my artwork. I tend to keep away from vector artwork these days, but sometimes it’s handy to create lettering in Illustrator. I use a semi-transparent layout paper to amend sketches and adjust and build up my illustration on paper. I think one of the keys to my work is using a brush and ink or a brush pen to ink out the line work. I don’t use a standard marker pen as much as I use brush and ink. Then when I’m happy I digitally colour and texture if necessary. I use a Wacom tablet to colour, it gives me loads of feel to what I’m doing and I don’t think I could go back to a mouse now. There’s a huge abundance of great textures floating around online, they often just bring an illustration to life if they are used properly. It’s very easy to go overboard on textures and overlays, less is certainly more here. Because I colour digitally, I’m really keen to produce my line work by hand. I think if you don’t keep drawing, you can lose technique faster than you think.

Lastly, how can people get their hands on some of your killer artwork?

Well you can buy Sideburn magazine and Fast Bike Germany, which often feature my work. I also have prints available through my webstore and the Sideburn magazine site. 96 editions have some limited artwork by me. There are designs I have put together for El Solitario, Dudes Factory Berlin, Hunt and Co (Australia) and Roland Sands Design currently too. I am keen to push more of my artwork over the next few months also, so keep your eyes peeled for that. I am updating my webstore every month.

This article first appeared in Tank Moto issue 06.

Follow Ryan: @ryanroadkill.