Known for his comic-book style, heavy black line work, and love of vintage motorcycles, Illustrator Ryan Quickfall talks art, London wall space, and moving from two wheels to four.
Hailing from Newcastle, Ryan Quickfall (yes, that is his real name) lives in Gateshead and works in the city, sharing a studio with two other artists and his rescued Jug (that’s a Jack Russell and Pug cross) Maggie. Despite interest worldwide (his celebrity fans include Guy Martin and Kenny Roberts) he’s very much under the radar in The Toon. “It’s a little bit of an odd one – I don’t really have that much of a following here. Most of my work that I sell either goes down to London or over to America.”
We can attest that London loves him, and arguably his biggest – quite literally – piece of work to date (aside from this Amarok Dark Label illustration, of course) is his 20ft mural on Sclater Street.
“That’s been massive in raising my profile in London. So many people pass that wall.”
Regardless of his continuing and growing success, Ryan is extremely grounded and doesn’t see himself as a particularly big player in the illustrative world. Or at least, that isn’t what his focus is. “I think the more you rely on your – and I don’t want to say ‘success’ – creativity for your income, then that’s when you start questioning yourself. And at the end of the day, you’re just… drawing pictures."
“That’s all my job is,” he laughs. “I’m just drawing pictures. I’m not saving lives.”
We take this opportunity to ask him what he thinks he’d be doing if he couldn’t illustrate for a living. He thinks for a while and then laughs, explaining that he’d tried to think on this before our interview. “I have no idea. I really can’t do anything else as well as I can illustrate.”
Looking at Ryan’s stunning portfolio, it’s hard not to believe him. He really does illustrate very, very well. You’d also be forgiven for looking at his eclectic cartoon, skull and motorcycle illustrations and thinking that a collaboration between him and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles would feel worlds apart, but with the new Amarok Dark Label it’s been a match made in motor-heaven.
Ryan’s distinctive black line work also reflects the Dark Label’s, well, dark aesthetic. “At the basis of all of my illustrations, it always starts with just a black brush and ink illustration. It’s the essence of all of my work, so it was really nice to work with a special edition black vehicle.”
Following from this we ask him which feature of the Amarok was his favourite to draw, and he responds without a second thought: “Probably the wheels. They were the centre-focus of the illustration.
“It wasn’t the easiest bit to do,” he continues, “in fact it was the hardest, but I really like how it’s all focused around that wheel.”
The end result is striking: the Amarok Dark Label in black and white B-movie style illustration, tearing through the woods, headlights beaming, wheels spinning. It’s fierce, bold.
“It’s pretty brave of them [Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles] to let me execute my style on the project. It’s a bold style of illustration, and I think it’s more a statement if you do it this way.”
We agree – his style slightly out of our usual comfort zone – but, like Ryan, we’re extremely happy with the end result. As we prepare to round up our call, we ask him what his hopes are for the year ahead. He thinks long and hard, the motorcycles in his mind revving. “I’d like to do more jobs based around four wheels – without sounding disrespectful to my motorcycle clients that I’ve already got! – and I’d love love love to do another wall piece somewhere, though that’ll probably be up here rather than in London.”
Ah, yes, breaking Newcastle!
“Maybe. Maybe it’ll happen,” he laughs.
We’re sure it will.