Ryan Kirby Art

The November Cover of Outdoor Life

Hunting, Original Oil Paintings, Wildlife Art PrintsRyan Kirby1 Comment

It started as a sketch on an airplane.

I'm not really one for conversation in the awkward, tight quarters of an airplane. It's weird trying to share elbow space as well as conversation. Equally unattractive is the idea of staring blankly at the seat back in front of me or posting wing-tip cloud pictures on Instagram. I could…I should…be doing something productive. To combat this, I carry two things aboard: a book and a sketch pad. On this flight, I chose to engross myself in the latter. 

I was flying to Vegas for SHOT Show, the annual dog and pony show where every brand in the outdoor industry comes fully loaded with their best new products and pitches. It's miles of red trade show carpet, weaving a grid of guns, ammo and gear. It's awesome. I'm fortunate enough to work with some of the best brands and publications in the industry, so in my four years of self-employment, I've yet to miss one. It's a great chance to learn our industry and connect with friends and clients. 

One such man is Andrew McKean, Editor in Chief of Outdoor Life. I worked with him on last year's October cover and have come to like and respect him tremendously. We had run into each other two weeks earlier at the ATA show and made plans to meet up again at SHOT to talk about a possible 2015 cover. In those two weeks, I'd obsessed over the idea. 

I'm a pretty intense dude when it comes to creative ideas and work. And when I get an idea in my head, I've got to bring it to fruition. So here I sat, mid-air between the Bible Belt and Sin City, sketching rough compositions of whitetails and working out a composition for a magazine cover. I sketched this testosterone-filled buck chasing a doe headlong towards the viewer, almost jumping off the page, and I knew we were onto something. Two days later, McKean and I met for coffee, and after swapping recent hunting stories (his much cooler than mine), I shared some sketches with him. We both agreed this could make a strong cover, ironed out some plans for the project, and in July we reconnected, this time with the talented creative team at Outdoor Life. 

Working with the OL creative team of photography directors and designers always demands that contributors like myself bring our A game. They're good. Really good. They know what make a good magazine, and my job is to deliver an image that not only works well with their type and color scheme, but also makes a great painting in general. It's a give and take process, and after several rounds of photoshop mockups and swapping reference photos, we finally settled on a composition and I put brush to canvas. 

After long days in the studio, long nights studying reference material, and much more obsessing, the finished product now graces the November cover of Outdoor Life. It's an honor and privilege to be a part of such a project, and as we make plans for next year's cover, I can't wait to see what this hunting season brings. I know I'll find myself sitting 20 feet up a tree in November, bow in hand, waiting and watching to be inspired for next year's piece of art.

When you open your mailbox and see the November issue, I hope the cover brings the same excitement, adrenaline and anticipation to your soul that it did to those of us who created it. Because that's why we do this special project - it's for you, the readers of Outdoor Life, and the torch bearers of The Wild Life.

#LongLIveTheWildLife

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