PHOTO: Fred Lopez
Jeffrey Ryerson came to the expressive art he does now by way of biomedical illustration, which was his major at the University of Tennessee, the school of abstract expressionism and the premier school for theory.
“My specialty was pseudostratified epithelial squamoses and viruses, a magnification of 600 times the actual size,” Ryerson says. “I studied all that and also did drawings of cadavers, and I illustrated human anatomy.”
However, as a professor saw the talented student working every day, he told Ryerson, “You’re going to get a twitch looking at a microscope. Go get your master’s degree and paint.” So that’s what he did.
The postgraduate degree led Ryerson into teaching at the University of South Florida and Hillsborough Community College and doing art therapy for the state., which was both rewarding and challenging.
“Mostly I dealt with people who were paraplegic and painted with a brush in their mouths,” Ryerson says. “These people taught me what life was really about through their misfortunes and afflictions. That led me to God.”
Ryerson’s own art became popular and appeared in galleries around the world. Although he truly felt teaching was a noble profession, he was unable to get tenure so he left it behind and began opening galleries. “I’ve had some pretty cool places. One of them was in downtown Tampa where we had Monday morning Christian men’s meetings, and at night, we’d play music.”
An accomplished musician, Ryerson plays the guitar and piano, often composing original music. After he became a Christian, he found many ways to express his faith with music and art. Eventually he and his wife, Kimmie, moved to Denver and joined a vibrant congregation. After a particularly moving Good Friday service, Ryerson talked with his wife about Mary and what the followers of Jesus felt on that miserable, dark day.
“I went to the studio and the first thing I did was called ‘Singing with the Volcano Choir’ because I’d had 30 people standing next to me singing during that service, and I was out of body,” Ryerson says. “I was high as a kite and drunk on the Holy Spirit. The second thing I did was called, ‘Silenced on Friday,’ and the third piece I did is called ‘Twins at the Gate.’”
These pieces are among the artist’s favorites. He often donates art to raise money for church mission projects.
“God has given me a gift, and I should be giving to others.”
Some of the money went to a small village in Uganda, where young girls walked four miles to and from a mosquito- and disease-infested river to get water for their families. “By putting two wells in, we made a difference,” Ryerson says. “You should have seen the faces of those children. We had given them life. You gotta pay it forward.”
Ryerson says ideas for his art usually come to him while he sits at night playing the guitar or piano. “They usually start broad, and I start arranging and then I work down to detail. There’s probably more time spent just staring at [the canvas] trying to figure out what I’m going to do than the actual implementation.”
The Ryersons have only recently come to Lake County, and they’ve already found a church home here and are enjoy fellowship with new believers and friends.
“I’ve always thought I was contemporary. I’ve been told by publishers and interior designers that I’m a transitionalist, which I think means I’m somewhat representational, even suggestive,” Ryerson says. “Some pieces I’m needing you to believe it’s a landscape or seascape.”