A Little Gay Interview With Ryan Downs
Ryan Downs (he/him)
The stars aligned when deadline pressures pushed Ryan Downs to take his idea for Black Zodiac from a dream to a reality.
After swapping Portland weird for Austin weird, Ryan launched his collection of Black zodiacs in 2020. Unravel the mystery behind these mystical works of art as we sit down with Ryan to learn more about the man behind the magic.
How long have you been creating?
Since forever! But I started Black Zodiac Prints in 2020.
What got you into it/how did you get started?
The idea of Black Zodiac Prints had been kicking around in my head for a long time, spurred on by the question I kept asking myself—"How come I've never seen black faces in art nouveau or in the Zodiac/astrology space?"
That idea turned into creation when I signed up for the Black Maker's Market and was accepted not having completed my original 12 portraits for each Zodiac sign. I put myself in a situation where I HAD to finish them and stop only dreaming about them.
What inspires you?
Individualism, authenticity, and belief. They apply to anything you want to do or aspire to be and they make a huge difference in output and outcome.
What's your earliest memory of creating?
I stumbled upon some crude drawings of Wolverine and Storm from the X-Men. I still have the sketchbooks! I couldn't have been older than 7 or 8, but I've always been drawn to comic books and animated television shows.
What advice do you have for someone who's starting their creative journey?
Find small ways to work on your craft every day. That doesn't just mean doing the part of the process you like doing over and over again. Mistakes and failures are extremely valuable parts of the process and you learn way more from them than from success.
What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced so far?
Straddling art and business. Coming to terms with the idea that having "your own thing" is a serious investment (with a serious payoff).
How important is community in the art and creator profession?
It's hard to go it alone! The art communities I have been a part of have been so supportive with advice, opportunities, and celebration. Black Zodiac Prints would most certainly not be what it is today without them.
How do you know your work is ready?
I think that's a mixed bag. Sometimes you just 'know' when you're ready to release your darling to the world. Sometimes it's a deadline. Other times it's a calculated thing where it maybe doesn't feel quite right, but your investment in it is right. What helps me rationalize it is that there's always going to be a next time, so I try not to get stuck in "perfection."
What's do you love about your queerness?
Challenging the status quo and learning more about myself and others. Queerness is such a range of feelings, self-expression, and personality. I find the spectrum of queerness absolutely fascinating.
When you came out, did that impact your creative process and output in anyway?
Coming out allowed me the freedom to explore more facets of my creativity.
How does your identity of being queer inform your art (if it does)?
My most important goal of Black Zodiac Prints is to showcase the black community as the many parts that it is composed of. Black people aren't just athletes. They're also politicians. Black people aren't just rappers. They're also poets and civil leaders. Black people aren't just cis-gendered heterosexuals. They're also bi, gay, trans, and queer.
What advice do you have for young queer people starting to realize their creative potential?
Explore many fields of creativity! They all interlink in really surprising ways. Ask for help and advice. Listen and be open but don't conform.
In what ways has openly being queer positively impacted your life?
Showing up as my full self wherever I go allows me to be the best version of me. That affects everyone I come in contact with and aligns with my virtues and my own self-esteem.
What would you like the future of the queer art community to look like? Or to represent?
I'd like for the art community to continue doing what it's doing! More places need to exist like the The Little Gay Shop to support local communities through creativity, shared skills, and togetherness.
Favorite color or pattern?
What's something people don't know about you?
99.9999% of the time, I leap before I look. It's worked out (for the most part so far) but when it doesn't it's usually a huge mess.
Who was your first queer crush?
One of my best friends in high school!
What was your first ever email address or AIM/IM handle?
Tatusya515—named after a video game character from an obscure-ish Japanese franchise.
If you could have any 'B' rated superpower, what would it be? (i.e. shooting frozen yogurt from your fingers - the idea is you can't save the world with just your super power)
Fall asleep / wake up EXACTLY when I want to.
Brighten and enlighten your life with Ryans art by visiting Black Zodiac or by shopping with us!