Bryan Fyffe was born and raised in Fairborn, Ohio in the shadow of Wright Patterson Air Force Base. The base was purported to contain UFO technology and the remnants of the Roswell, New Mexico spaceship crash. It’s almost as if he was born into the sci-fi world which he is now well regarded in. Fyffe is famous for his “digital collage” work which is a combination of traditional ink drawings, texture photography and digital software. He is inspired by Halloween, old ghost stories, the natural world, science, and decrepit buildings, and his son’s 3rd grade ocean project.
Fyffe always wanted to be an artist. He remembers making Godzilla comic books with crayon and Manila paper in first grade. In high school, he got a job selling parking passes for live events at the local arena. He was able to see some pretty cool acts after the ticketing task was over, ranging from bears juggling with their feet at The Moscow Circus to crooner Frank Sinatra’s last tour. After high school, he studied illustration in Columbus, Ohio at Columbus College Of Art And Design. One of his most memorable jobs as an adult was a paid internship at a textbook development company where he was assigned the strange task of censoring (aka Photoshopping) the nipples off of all the shirtless, male warrior illustrations to make the content “safe” for the 4th grade children who would read these history books. After that gig ended, he spent the rest of his in-house art career split between the Mayo Clinic as their art director and Hallmark Greeting Cards, which is what brought him to Kansas City in 2006.
He moved to KC with his family to work for Hallmark as an illustrator. After six years, he decided it was time to venture out on his own. He left his position there in 2012 and began creating his own work, striving to build his own imprint. One of the first pieces he created (and one of the first to sell) is called The Leviathan (pictured above). It was inspired by his son’s 3rd grade class project on cephalopods. He decided to do his own take on the giant sea monster, creating an image with lush, turquoise water texturized by photos he took of galvanized steel and rust on a shed. A brown squid with a luminous, yellow eye swims beneath the water and a pale, full moon is casting just the right shadows on a mythical ship sailing atop the waves. He created more pieces after The Leviathan. While working in his basement studio, he looked around and saw some old frames with no glass or backing. “How can I take these old things I find all over and turn them into something interesting and new that people would like to put in their home?” he thought. One of the most unique aspects to Fyffe’s work (outside of the fantastic design) is how he frames them. He scours thrift stores for old frames and then revitalizes them into something new. No framed piece is alike; each is unique, literally one-of-a-kind.
Since he had grown up with comic books and loved the scene, he choose to take a chance and applied at Planet Comicon, one of the largest comic book and pop culture conventions in The Midwest, and was accepted. He brought his son and a friend with him, dressing his son up as Gonk Droid from Star Wars, using two rubbermaid containers and insulation for legs. “I was so excited to take my kid around, looking at all the others dressed up in cosplay, I hardly sat at my booth! When I got back from wandering around, my friend told me I had basically sold out of the art I brought. I had to go home and create more prints and bring them back the next day.” He realized then it was possible to have a career doing something he enjoyed and which people responded to very positively.
Fyffe has showcased at hundreds of shows like Comicon, Oddities & Curiosities, The Strawberry Swing, and sold tens of thousands of prints and framed works. His creations are in homes in the US, Japan, and Australia, to name a few. He has had customers ranging as young as 6 (kids spending their own allowance money to buy a print for their bedroom), to Hollywood actors who are collectors of his work. “I probably spend 12-16 weekends in other states attending shows where I’m selling my work. I attended shows in 26 states last year, and my work is carried all over the US in boutiques and galleries, from New Orleans to New York,” Fyffe says.
His love for Halloween, American Folk Art, and old buildings gave birth to his Haunted House series aptly named: The Haunt (Series 1-3). His Victorian, Mad Science, and Vampire-themed illustrations use photos of: bathroom tiles in the roof structures, potato roots in the trees and shrubs, and the pine grain on one of his skateboard decks for the houses’ wood grain. The Haunt caught the attention of a company that has roots in Kansas City: Disney. They contacted Fyffe, saying they liked the style of his Haunt series and asked if he would be interested in creating work for them. He made Haunted Mansion, his version of Disneyland’s dark ride attraction, soon thereafter. He is a contract artist, creating images for Disney’s galleries and merchandise groups. One perk to this work is that they send him to both Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Parks for guest appearances and signings, so he’s kind of a big deal.
When asked what he loves most about the maker movement here in Kansas City, he says, “As much as I travel, I find that KC is unique in its collaborative culture. I feel that the creative community is very giving of their knowledge to other artists/crafters/makers.” His advice for up-and-coming makers is to follow your own voice in the work that you create. If you do that, your audience will see the honesty, passion, and energy that goes into your efforts. Find your voice in the work that you do and the rest will follow.
You can find Bryan online HERE and on Instagram HERE, where you can see all of his new work, interesting builds and random pictures of the stuff that inspires him. Come meet him in person March 29-31 Planet Comicon Kansas City at Bartle Hall!