Ryan Kirby Art

Original Oil Paintings

My 2017 Southeastern Wildlife Expo Painting Lineup

Original Oil Paintings, Inside Ryan's StudioRyan KirbyComment

If you follow my work long enough, it's inevitable that you'll see mentions of the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (or SEWE for guys like me that don't like to type or say long, fancy words). 

This is my fourth year attending SEWE, and each year gets better. I enjoy seeing so many passionate wildlife enthusiasts under the same roof and hearing their stories from the field. Kim and I have developed several friendships with artists and their spouses and we love reconnecting with them and seeing their new work. In addition, SEWE does an incredible job of hosting and entertaining such a large number of people, and Charleston provides the perfect setting for an event of this caliber. We sell pretty well, too. 

Below is the lineup of original oil paintings I'll be bringing this year. If you're at the show, stop by and see them in person (and take one home with you if you really like it). In addition, I'll be speaking at the Citadel about art, hunting and wildlife on Wednesday, February 15th from 6:45-8:00 pm in the Bond Hall Auditorium. (Click here for more info) It's free and open to the public. This year promises to be another great SEWE, and we're looking forward to seeing you there.

"Crossing Guard" 

30"x24" Oil on Canvas  |  $5,800

My newest piece, this bull elk is one of my best yet. The bugling bull always gets the attention in photos and paintings, and I've done my fair share of them for sure. But to me, this pose is the one that captures the anticipation and excitement of the rut. Head low, antlers kicked back, nose in the air and on the move. Whether he's after a cow or stepping forward to face a challenger, you know something exciting is about to go down.

"First Light Flight" Triptych

Three 12"x18" Oil Panels  |  $5,200

Dove season is a holiday in the south, and nothing makes a great southern hunting scene like a group of fast flying, dipping and diving mourning doves. I wanted to set this piece up differently than a standard horizontal canvas, so I painted the scene across three panels to create a triptych. I imagined this piece as hanging in an entryway or foyer with a table underneath, making the perfect, unique statement in a southern sporting home.


36"x24" Oil on Canvas  |  $6,500

I love turkey hunting in the North Carolina mountains. Few things are as challenging and rewarding as hunting Easterns in steep terrain and unpredictable climate. One morning, as I neared the crest of a hardwood covered ridge, I saw this cluster of moss-covered rocks (minus the turkeys) and was inspired to paint it (plus the turkeys). I imagined a dominant longbeard running these ridgetops and ruling the roost, "Chief" over his territory. Look closely and you'll also see some Native American art on the center foreground rocks, a nod to the generations that have chased wild turkeys in the Appalachian mountains for centuries.

Click here to watch this piece in progress.

"Mr. Photogenic", the 2016 September Cover of Outdoor Life

18"x24" Oil on Board  |  $4,600

Two years ago, I brought the first OL Cover down to SEWE and it sold on the first day (Read the full story here). Last year's cover painting sold before the show, and now this year I'm bringing it back. "Mr. Photogenic" is the third of such covers, and the loosely painted surroundings and regal pose make this one truly unique.

"The Calm After the Storm"

30"x24" Oil on Board  |  $5,200

I don't often try to tell a full story in a painting, rather capture a fleeting moment in time. But this piece is different. A snowstorm has just rolled through and the first rays of light illuminates this coyote's face. In addition, another storm took place - one of life and death. He's exploded through the snow to catch a rooster pheasant in mid flight, about to enjoy his dinner in the calm after the storm.

"The Beat of His Own Drum"

18"x24" Oil on Board  |  $4,500

Grouse are a new challenge for me. Since moving to the Appalachian Mountains, I've been scared to death as the underbrush explodes with the flush of a holding grouse while I'm turkey hunting. I've also listened to their low, steady drumming from a ridge top or logging road and been unable to find the source. It's not often you get to witness grouse doing their thing, so I wanted to paint this scene and give the viewer the opportunity to enjoy a grouse trying to drum up a mate, showing his stuff and marching to the beat of his own drum. 

"Grandfather Gobbler"

36"x24" Oil on Canvas  |  $6,000

One morning my buddy Shae and I were hunting north of Boone, NC in a mountaintop pasture with a view of Grandfather Mountain in the distance. We chased a longbeard all morning, while he simply chased his hens. So I snapped a few reference pics of the scenery and upon returning to my studio, I decided to paint that longbeard and his hens marching right into our laps with the profile of Grandfather Mountain in the distance.

A Good Name

The Wild Life, Inside Ryan's Studio, Original Oil Paintings, Wildlife Art Prints, HuntingRyan Kirby1 Comment

There's nothing that I could add here that this video doesn't already say.

But I'll try.

The outdoors has taught me a lot about life. If you read my blog posts, you'll see hunting and wilderness themes intertwined throughout like a vine up a hickory tree. Self employment has also taught me a tremendous amount about life, risk and reward, sowing and reaping, and the value of time and talent. But nothing teaches a man more about life than fatherhood. Nothing changes a man's heart and priorities like walking into a room and seeing his child's eyes light up. Nothing makes a man want to be a better man than realizing that his wife and children are watching his every move.

When I look at Rhett, I realize that what I make of myself will, in part, determine his direction in life. Far better than silver or gold, a good name is a better gift than anything we could buy on Amazon or lug out of the mall. He's changed our lives forever, and he deserves the best that money can't buy.

This Christmas, remember that the true gifts, the gifts we can't live without, the gifts that keep on giving, the gifts that we'll never forget, have names.

Merry Christmas.  

This video came together through the hard work and talent of Boonetown and Paul Sherar Photography. They're the best at what they do. Check 'em out, and hire them.

The September Cover of Outdoor Life Magazine

Inside Ryan's Studio, Hunting, Original Oil Paintings, The Wild Life, Wildlife Art PrintsRyan KirbyComment
Progress on the September 2016  Outdoor Life  cover

Progress on the September 2016 Outdoor Life cover

May 2016 seems like a decade ago.

In reality, it's only three months. But I've been a brand new father for two and half of those months, and anyone with kids remembers the early days. They're a blur. Like watching a NASCAR race from turn 2 at Talladega, they're loud, fast and they pass you in an instant. 

So it was a surprise to me when a follower hit me up on Facebook with a compliment about the September cover of Outdoor Life magazine. My immediate reaction was "Huh? What day is it? I thought that thing was supposed to come out in.....oh crap, it's August already. My bow's not sighted in. Kentucky's bow season opens in how many days? Did anybody feed the dog today?"

You see, magazines work months in advance of the issue's drop date. The whitetail tips and tactics you love to read in November are planned during the velvet-covered, soybean days of summer. That's why I had spent the latter half of May working up sketches of OL's Deer of the Year and collaborating with their creative team on a look and feel for the September cover.

Once we had approval on the concept, I began painting in mid-May. I was racing the clock in more ways than one. Not only was their production deadline looming, but Kim's belly was maxed out with our first child, a son named Rhett, who was due the first week of June. It was an exciting, adrenaline filled time for sure.

This year's painting was our third fine art cover in as many years. And like any talented, forward-thinking team, the OL crew wanted this year's painting to stand apart from previous painted covers. So we went with a more loose, artistic style on a white background. Rather than a large painting with a full, completed background, this one stayed clean and simple, with just enough habitat to keep the buck from floating off the page. A white background allows the cover lines and masthead to pop from the newsstand.

It was a blast to paint. The more mature I get as an artist, the more I like to keep brushwork loose and composition simple. I also like to work quickly and have a little fun. Never at the expense of accuracy, but always in pursuit of a higher form of creativity. Too much detail and you lose the essence of the animal. The famous martial artist Bruce Lee said "It is not daily increase, but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential. Simplicity is the key to brilliance." I've taken that insight to heart in my work and life.

So, here we are, now in late August. The September issue of Outdoor Life just hit newsstands and mailboxes nationwide and Rhett Daniel Kirby is all smiles. Both of these unknowns back in May are a reality today. As I sit and hold them both, I can't help but think of the incredible memories afield that Rhett and I are going to share chasing bucks like the OL Deer of the Year. I hope one day he kills a buck this big, and that he'll come to me to paint it for him, just like the crew at Outdoor Life.

Thank you, Outdoor Life, for the opportunity to make history and inspire your readers through art. I hope all of you readers out there enjoy the September issue inside and out, and appreciate the time and talent that we put forth to bring it to you.

Wildlife Artist Ryan Kirby paints the Outdoor Life "Deer of the Year" for the Magazine's September Cover

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.


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Cecil the Hunter Original Oil Painting

Original Oil Paintings, Inside Ryan's Studio, HuntingRyan Kirby1 Comment

This is your chance to change the world.

For as long as man has walked the earth, artists like myself have been drawing from our wild adventures afield. Through our gift, we convey the raw spirit of nature, immortalize the thrill of the hunt, and reveal the circle of life. And while the tools of the modern artist are much different than that of our cave dwelling predecessors, the inspiration that we draw from has always been the same.

Like most of America, I've followed the story of Cecil the Lion and have my own thoughts on the matter. Amid the death threats, finger pointing and social media rants, I've been moved to make a difference. And so I did what I always do when I'm inspired - I painted.  

I decided to immortalize Cecil in an original work of art. But the warm, fuzzy, lethargic image of Cecil didn't appeal to me. You know the image I'm talking about - the indifferent cat, basking underneath a lone shade tree on the African savanna, staring back at the camera lens of a tourist as they're carted through on a jeep safari. A glorified zoo animal.

But that's not the way I see Cecil, and I don't believe any lion would want to be remembered that way. Cecil was wild. Cecil was a beast. Cecil was a hunter. He pursued kudu and gazelle — animals much more fleet of feet than himself. He tasted blood. He killed for food, for territory, and for conquest. And so I chose to paint him this way - the way God created him to be. As Africa's greatest hunter. 

But the story doesn't end there. You see, as hunters engage in this debate, we're quick to spout off how much hunting does for the African economy and it's people. And it does tremendous good. But rather than simply talk and type about it, I want us to put our money where our mouth is. I want to give back to the land that gave us Cecil; to the land that continues to give us so much more with it's wilderness, it's wildlife, and it's people.

Right now, this painting is available for purchase. And I'm donating the proceeds of the winning bid to Wine To Water, a non-profit organization that’s dedicated to bringing clean drinking water to remote areas of the world and whose founder, Doc Hendley, was featured as a CNN hero in 2009. The proceeds from the auction of “Cecil The Hunter” will be used by Wine To Water to directly benefit the people of rural Africa. 

Your purchase not only brings an iconic, original work of art into your home, but can literally save lives in Africa. Together, we can change the world.



Hunting, Original Oil Paintings, The Wild LifeRyan KirbyComment

Five years ago, I was caribou hunting in Alaska with my buddy, Ed, his dad and friend Tom. Our trip had taken us up the Dalton Highway (some people know it as the “haul road” from Ice Road Truckers) near Prudhoe Bay. Just getting there was an adventure, hauling a trailer with bowhunting and camping gear over 400 miles through some of the biggest and baddest terrain in “The Last Frontier.” We crossed the powerful Yukon River, stopped for chili in Coldfoot and then spent the first night sleeping on a gravel bar underneath the brilliant northern lights. The next morning we crossed the Brooks Range and descended from the mountains down into the vast, rolling tundra, which at that time of year is the color of burnt sienna and cadmium orange. Everywhere I looked I saw a scene worthy of painting.

But one experience stuck out to me in particular. On the third day of the hunt, Ed and I had managed to stalk up on a group of three decent bulls bedded on a slight rise in the tundra near a river. Ed and I split up halfway through our stalk - I’d gone low and come up from below them. Ed had stayed on their level, up on the plateau. We both managed to get within 70 yards of the bedded bulls without them knowing either of us were there. But I’d run out of cover, so I decided to wait them out to see if one would stand up and possibly move in my direction. 

I settled in and let my heart rate and breath return to normal. And that’s when I heard it….the sound of silence. Literally, the sound of pure silence. There was no wind. Nothing was moving. And we were miles from any form of civilization. My ears were actually ringing from it…the sound of pure, untouched wilderness. 

I’d never heard silence before. Even out in the “country” you’d hear a tractor, a dryer running in a distant grain bin, a plane high overhead. It was then that I realized that these days, we rarely encounter complete wilderness. Wild places. Wild things. But when we do, it changes us forever. 

I meet lots of fellow hunters at trade shows and art exhibits across the country. Soon we begin swapping stories and sharing experiences from the field. And without exception, the good stories, the ones that are forever burned into our memory, never happen in the suburbs. Or in the office. Or on the golf course. The good ones always happen in the wild. 

I feel today it’s especially important for us to have and to share these experiences. As an artist, I have the opportunity to immortalize them on canvas, bringing the Wild Life into homes, man caves, and offices everywhere. And so do you. By using the hashtag #LongLiveTheWildLife on Instagram and Facebook we can share in the moments afield that change us forever. So go after that bugling bull. Set out to hike the summit. Go around the next bend in the river and top the next ridge, just to see what’s over there. And when you find out, share it with us online. Because the wild moments in life are the ones you’ll never forget.