The Paint Does All the Hard Work, and the Paper Gets All the Credit – Artist Insights from Ryan Kohler

When artist Ryan Kohler says, “The paint does all the hard work, and the paper gets all the credit.” He is not kidding. Watch the video below to see how a painting is born in Ryan Koher’s studio. Then compare it to the final product after the papers have been added.


“It should be noted that painting is still very much the root of what I do. I’m still in love with painting, and I’ve learned all my best works begin with the strongest paintings,” says Kohler. “No amount of paper is going to save a poorly done painting. I know this because I’ve tried.”

It’s easy to say “good enough” when he is in the painting phase, but he always regrets it when it comes to the secondary collage. “When I have a solid painting done, it forces me to add paper more thoughtfully and slowly, careful not to add an incorrect piece that will shatter the illusion.”

Each component added is like a revelation, revealing something that wasn’t as defined as before—the hull of a boat, a bird’s wing, the shadow’s edge. Sometimes it is necessary to walk back and forth from the easel after each piece, carefully observing how the painting changes from a distance.

“There are times I go unconscious and add a hundred pieces before I realize what I’ve done. But, no matter how I apply it, the paper is usually the brightest, most prominent, and most exciting part you see,” explains Kohler. “It is the top surface of the artwork, but the paint below is the foundation that props the whole thing up.”

There are a few reasons for using all these old paraphernalia.

“First, I don’t have the heart to throw it away. Who wouldn’t love to recycle in such an incredible way? It’s also nostalgic and a way to feel a personal connection. It’s my stuff, youth, influences, and personal past. Finally, it’s a way to subtly insert me as I create images I want to see,” shares Kohler. “It’s also a way to enrich the viewer’s experience. It invites them to take a closer look at my surfaces and notice little patterns, words, or textures. I want to keep the viewer looking longer.”

Oddly each piece rarely comes out as cool as he sees them in his head, but he is always learning to create better and, as time goes on, learning to create more and more like himself.


To see all available work from Ryan Kohler, click the link below.

Ryan Kohler –  ARTIST PAGE

To read more insights from Ryan Kohler, click the link below.


Ryan also has a collection of videos, including Secretly.

Ryan Kohler –  VIDEOS