Today’s Feature, April 9-10, 2007: Tyler Ramsey

January 18, 2008 at 5:49 pm (Today's Feature)

Tyler RamseyWhen came across Tyler Ramsey, there was an instant connection. Ramsey embodies everything positive about abstract art. He is passionate, imaginative, dedicated, could care less about “fitting in”, deeply spiritual and most importantly…original. He paints with his hands (who needs brushes anyway?). When I say he paints with his hands, I mean he doesn’t even touch a brush. His finger tips dot intricate points, and sharp lines, while his hands and arms shove the bold colors furiously across the canvas. His paint can be so thick and textured his oil works can take a year to dry. Life for Tyler Ramsey hasn’t been easy but he has overcome many odds to claim his place among the elite abstract artists in today’s art world. You can see his work in galleries and in fashion. His story is compelling and his work is mind-boggling. Read below, he explains it best.

XXQs: Tyler Ramsey (PEV): How/when did you first get involved in art?

Tyler Ramsey (TR): My father and uncles were all very creative. My Uncle Bart was great at telling stories. Great imaginations. He always made everything up on the spot. He would let my brothers and I choose the characters we wanted. I generally chose a variety of dragons. Anyway, my father would do something similar but with drawings. He could draw anything we wanted…a dog, no, a dog with wings, no, a dog with wings made of fire and laser eyes… My dad would draw characters as we told a story together. My dad gave me an appreciation for art at an early age by showing me how to create a world from your imagination. Over the years, my imagination has been a great friend; it’s a great place to disappear and hide from the world. My grandparents live in the coolest suburb in America called Winnetka, IL. My grandfather’s name is Leonidas Ramsey, but we call him Buck. He’s a painter. The family money came from some odd business, like glass display cases, but paintings were everywhere at his house. He had a studio and everything. One time he broke down this wild abstract piece of his for me and explained why it was a painting of his experience in the Navy during WWII. I loved it. I thought he was crazy for a minute and then everything revealed itself. It felt like magic. That day, I loved art for the first time.

PEV: A lot of artists have the “aha!” moment, where they know this is for them. What was yours?

TR: I had an “aha!” moment some time just before 2000. I call it, “The day on the roof.” I think we all know people who continually say they are going to do something and don’t ever follow through. I had an epiphany shortly after moving to Los Angeles; I decided I wanted to be a painter. Well, I found myself doing a lot more talking than painting. I certainly felt like the greatest painter of my generation except for the fact that I didn’t really paint anything. For some reason, I found myself exposed to a series of artists in situations ranging from Hollywood pool parties to shady lofts in San Francisco. I was driving around Los Angeles in my beat up T-Bird, and I decided to just go for it. I drove directly to the nearest art store and bought several canvases–the largest was about 4ftX4ft. Always Go Big! That was the largest size I could fit in my car; I’ve since bought a Dodge Truck. I started to get bummed out thinking about brushes and cleaning them. So, I thought, “Screw brushes”. They’re messy and make me feel cluttered. No brushes. I decided to simply use my hands. I was developing a painting technique that was unique to me. I also bought several containers of paint, but I made a mistake and purchased acrylic paint meant for ceramics. Well, I didn’t know the difference back then and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. I grabbed the canvas and the paint and carried them to the roof of my apartment building. I had my girlfriend’s dog too. I was giving myself one chance to create something that felt right. One chance only. I began applying the paint with my hands. I loved it. The world disappeared. I used the bottled paint containers and sprayed them on the canvas. I threw paint. I smeared it. I created something I still love today. Best of all, I felt I had taken a giant step forward.

PEV: Explain your creation process. Do you sketch things our first? Go right to the canvas?

TR: I generally carry ideas around in my head all the time for paintings. I will never have enough time to get to it all. Sketching is great, and I find myself sketching images throughout the day and sometimes those images become paintings, but I try not to rely on sketches or photos when I paint. I would rather waste gallons of paint and money on a painting than spend my time fussing with pencils. I make plenty of mistakes as I paint but I always paint over them, and I’m not afraid to waste gallons of paint to get my vision right. I accomplish what I want on the canvas. Sketching is great and important but I prefer to work through my ideas with handfuls of paint. I appreciate great volumes of texture, and I love looking at my work to see the process underneath; the texture becomes a journal of the piece.

PEV: What is the art scene like in LA?

TR: I have no concept of the art scene in Los Angeles. I have only been to a handful of art shows and know very few artists. Some of my biggest supporters are leaders within the art community, and I realize I need the support from those who champion the arts, but I still try to keep a distance from the art scene. My work is unique and I am guarded against allowing myself to be influenced by the commerce or trends of the industry. I am extremely competitive and want to keep my competitive nature from influencing my work as long as possible. For me, painting is about expressing the battle within myself and using that to make an impact in the world. I want to keep it from becoming my battle against the world.

PEV: Which city, outside of the US, has the best environment for artists?

TR: Rio is my favorite city in the world. I cannot imagine a more inspiring spot on Earth. I met an artist there and his girlfriend was smoking hot. That’s probably a good sign.

PEV: What is your preferred medium to work with?

TR: Right now, I love Golden Liquid Acrylics. Son of a Bitch, that stuff is fun.

PEV: What do you say to the people that don’t “get” abstract art?

TR: I tell people who do not get abstract art to enjoy photography. In all seriousness, I respect anyone who values form and technique. If that means they do not appreciate what I do, then I have no problem with their opinion. I’m not about to take a bunch of lip from some jerk, but I welcome anyone with passion to challenge anything they want. I could care less about Faberge’ eggs but I think it kicks Ass if some expert is doing his damndest to show the world how great they are.

PEV: You hear all the time that public schools are cutting funding for art classes. How does that make you feel?

TR: I don’t pretend to understand public school budgets. I know one thing, they are usually too small. Reading and writing are pretty damn important, and I sure as hell wouldn’t throw math out the door. Kids need those skills to survive. I am determined to make an impact in the world by getting people excited about painting. I feel it is an artist’s responsibility to get other excited about their craft. There are so many art forms, and I feel an artist becomes truly successful when they “recruit” young creative minds to get involved in their specific passion. Right now, the incentive is vague for what it means to become a great painter. Everyone knows what it means to succeed as a musician. They don’t need to teach rap classes in school, because the kids who care will teach themselves. Right now, a kid doesn’t really have an incentive to become a painter. I want to change that.

PEV: What is your advice for kids who want to get involved in art?

TR: I would tell kids who want to get involved in art to begin expressing themselves any way they can. It’s pretty simple really; figure out what you like and learn how to do it. You will need an imagination, but if you enjoy doing it, you’ll probably become good one day. Fortunately in the United States, knowledge is available to everyone and most anything can be learned. Artists love to talk about their work and probably have driven everyone around them crazy by doing so. We love new audiences. Kids shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a mentor.

PEV: If you could sit down for dinner with one artist, alive or deceased, who would it be? Why?

TR: I have been trying to meet with an artist I respect named Trek Thunder Kelly. He’s killer. We have extremely different styles, but I love that he lives big. He spent a year wearing nothing but blue once and another year wearing tuxedos 100% of the time. He ran for Governor of California. More than anything, I love that he is bringing attention to art. I would also love to sit down with Andy Warhol, but I’m not sure I would want to spend the entire dinner with him; he seems a bit creepy. The dude was a genius and I love everything he did for art. My goal is to build my own version of the Silver Factory and create an atmosphere where I can bring friends over to enjoy themselves while I am working.

PEV: What is one thing people would be surprised to hear about Tyler Ramsey?

TR: I once turned myself into the cops once in Santa Barbara? I backed down from fighting Sid Siler in high school? I go to Bible Study each week? I beat the foreign exchange genius in my College Business Statistics class on the final exam and all the other kids? I am related to Alexander Hamilton, Ulysses S. Grant, and my cousin is a Count in Italy and England? I am a member of the Mayflower Club? I don’t know what would surprise people. I like to think I have created a pattern of surprising behavior.

PEV: What do you do when you hit that “brick wall” and feel like a painting isn’t working right?

TR: I rarely hit a wall and do not relate to “Artist Block.” I have more ideas and plans than time in this world. I do find myself looking at old paintings and suddenly hating them. I’ll try to fix them, but I have found that I can’t force them. When I get frustrated, I bully things. I find myself using sick amounts of paint and treating the old canvas like a dead body that needs to be buried beneath worlds of paint.

PEV: How did feel the first time you walked into a gallery and saw your paintings displayed?

TR: The first time I saw my stuff in a gallery, which was actually a coffee shop, I thought “Victory.” I love the smell of Coffee in the morning.

PEV: What was it like when you realized that you can make a living off doing what you love?

TR: The first time I sold a painting I wanted to cry. I sold 3 painting to a family I love recently, and that was the most rewarding day of my career as an artist. I think of my paintings as puppies and I will be damned if I let them go to a bad home. Some of my favorite pieces are surrounded by Picassos and Cézannes. Getting money for my work is exciting but I enjoy making a connection with people much more than that.

PEV: What is a normal day like for Tyler Ramsey?

TR: I generally go crazy several times a day and go to sleep exhausted. I also seem to lose my credit card, wallet, and keys a lot. That keeps me busy.

PEV: A lot of artists listen to music when they work. Do you?

TR: I love music. Sometimes I make the mistake of listening to music channels on cable. I have had an ongoing problem with this; my cable switches to a default channel after a few hours. I generally paint late at night and somehow wind up listening to infomercials. It takes a while before I realize I’m under attack by juice wizards, acne ads, and money schemes. My New Years resolution was to keep this from happening. So far so good. Right now, I enjoy listening to Badly Drawn Boy and have always loved Pete Yorn’s first album.

PEV: If I just walked off the street and into your studio, what would I see?

TR: You would see paint everywhere, from floor to ceiling…everywhere. Even my refrigerator is filled with paint and art books. No food. My studio is my home. I bought a condo with a perfect outdoor space for painting…greatest decision I ever made. I typically have at least 2 paintings drying outside at all times. I also design a line of shoes for a company called Toms Shoes ( Hand painted shoes litter my place and make it difficult to walk around.

PEV: What do you do when you are not working?

TR: I’m a member of a gun club somewhere off the 170. I love shooting shotguns. I travel a ton. I have would have filled up my passport several times by now but I lose them often. India is insane; Tijuana is more insane. My family is developing property in Nicaragua; I hope to spend more time there.

PEV: Is there one theme or aspect behind your work you find yourself always looking to?

TR: My work expresses pain and love. I think of this as an ongoing battle. Each painting is a map of the battles I choose to paint. My biggest motivation is my father, Tyler Capen Ramsey. I am a Jr. He shot himself in the head when I was a kid and lived through the experience; obviously, with physical repercussions. He was and is the most amazing guy around, but I always feel as if I have big things to accomplish for both of us. His brother shot himself a few years later. The pattern scares me, but it also fuels my work.

PEV: So, what is next for Tyler Ramsey?

TR: Tyler Ramsey just returned from Fiji, after living there for 2 months. Killer trip…inspiring. The trip will influence everything he works on from this time forward. Tyler Ramsey is planning his next show, ideally opening sometime in late May. He enjoys speaking about himself in the third person and looks forward to presenting his new collection, called, “Timebomb.” The Timebomb series is a map of what I call, “My Battle.” I also am working on a line of clothes. For more information on Tyler Ramsey, check out:, and


1 Comment

  1. createmo said,

    Thank you for your site 😉
    I made with photoshop backgrounds for youtube, myspace and more
    my backgrounds:
    Hope you had a good day and thank you again!

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