Freshly Inked Interview with Ryan Monahan

Photo credit: Grant Lechner @dr.grant
Instagram @what_thehell
So, my first question here is when and where was the first time you saw a miniature creation?

Oh, alright! I guess I should prep this by saying I'm not really as big a fan of miniatures as everyone thinks I am. I just work in miniature because I have to build it inside a house, so it's gotta be small. I mean if I was working in Hollywood, I would try to make, ya know, a really alley-way; like a full size as appose to a miniature. Before that, I never really had a big cast of miniatures. Ya know, I didn't grow up with any connection to miniatures (outside of action figures.) That's probably the closest I had to miniatures when I was young. 
So, that being said the earliest memory I have of miniatures is probably being at the museums and seeing the miniature displays of old buildings and in Chicago, they have the thorn rooms; like old Victorian dollhouse looking stuff. 
And I have a vague memory of a family friend who had a small model of their home. I remember being really little and looking at it thinking that's pretty cool. 

How did this take off professionally, was it a gift for someone or a favor you were asked to do?

Yeah, actually kind of both. The first one I made was probably three years ago. I was working full time as a graphic designer and I would just get so bored at work, I would come home and have all this creative juice built up and I would start making little models and dioramas in my home office. (For fun) I didn't make it with the intentions of being like, "Hey this is what my life is going to revolve around in three years," The real first one I made, that wasn't for me, was a wedding gift for a friend of mine. It was a little camping scene, nothing like what I do now. That was my first piece I created with a purpose.
That kind of led to people being like, oh I want one, where can I buy it?

What was the very first thing you made for fun?

There was this little robot statue I made. I had these two little like almost a box that you'd put a piece of jewelry in, like that kind of cardboard box. I had two stacked on top of each other. Every time I looked up at it I saw a little robot. So I turned it into a little robot. I glued it together, added little pieces. That was the first little sculpture item I made. That led me to make a base for it to stand on, which was the first piece of scenery I made. After that was the wedding gift I made. 

And what's been one of the most challenging creations so far?

The tiniest and most challenging would have to be a New York City News Stand. Within the newsstand there was a little fridge, a Snapple fridge that had water bottles and what not. It was the same scale, everything I do is pretty much all within a scale of itself. So it wasn't extra small per-say, it was just a lot of detail. 

Are you completely self-taught or with your background in graphic design did you transfer that knowledge over to this?

Exactly! Exactly, it's funny because I think this is the most successful I've ever been with being an artist my whole life. I've been hustling art since junior high. I would trade art for tracker keepers or homework assignments. I've been trying to live off of art since I could. And this art has been a culmination of everything I've learned, from building stuff handling carpentry with my Dad, wood shop, to printing methods and how to get a really good picture printed at a small resolution, from all my knowledge working in design, and a mixture of everything. (painting, working with my hands, computer stuff) 
What's some of the recent tattoos you've gotten?

I got two little ones. I got a, almost a 
1940's Jetson looking space boy in a UFO for my son, Lincoln. And right around the same time I got a creature from the black lagoon. I'm a big monsters fan so I have a lot of monster tattoos.
Will we be seeing some monster miniatures from you in the future?

Ya know what, you probably will! That's something I'm trying to work on. I've been doing the urban city stuff for a while now and I'm not really burnt out on it, but I kind of want to steer the ship in a new direction. And I like fantasy stuff, I like SYFY, so I want to start incorporating that into my work. 
And the cityscapes that you've done, are they places you've visited? How do you decide what cities to do?

No, really outside of a few like for example the New York City New Stand. Outside of a piece like that everything else is fictional. It's places I make up, completely fake places. It's almost like if a painter were to sit down in a canvass or a cartoonist wanted to design a little city. 
It's all part of the narrative I build. I'd have to say 90 percent of my artwork is all fiction based. So, if you see a market and it's called Cole's Meat Market that is a place I completely made up, it doesn't exist anywhere outside of my art piece.

Have you named anything after a friend or family member?

Oh yeah, there's all sorts of little inscriptions in my artwork. For example, that piece I was just referring to. Cole's meat market is named Cole's because when I was making it my brother-in-law, Mike Cole, was in town and he was helping me build a work table. That was the first piece I completed on that workbench. So I thought it would be a cool honor to name it after him. There's another piece called Lincoln hall, it's a shitty looking bathroom and I named it Lincoln hall because when I was working on that piece my wife went into labor with our son, Lincoln. So I had to pause that piece for a few weeks and I decided I name it Lincoln in honor of my son.

Are there any hidden messages in your work?

In the most literal sense, there's a lot of hidden messages. I do that. I literally write messages on pieces of paper and tape or glue them under a floorboard or inside the toilet, like Ryan was here or something like that. I also write a little person encryption on the back of each piece, so I make a piece of art, frame it and mount it and before I do that I write almost like a journal entry on the back of each piece. I've done that since day one. 

What's your next big project or idea?

It's funny because that's just it. Up until now- from the get-go, I wasn't emotionally attached to things being miniature. In fact, once I kind of got noted for making miniature artwork I almost fell into a tight cast that I didn't really want to be in necessarily. I wanted to make sure my artwork was sculpture and more than a dollhouse type of thing. My big mission now is doing larger things. I'm doing a lot with matchbooks. I'm making a series of large matchbooks with different artwork on them. Different scenarios. So now instead of taking big things and making them small, I'm taking small things that have character and making them big.

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