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Boone Wildlife Artist Ryan Kirby on Painting Wildlife and Producing Cover Art For Outdoor Life Magazine

by Emma Speckman


Sept. 26, 2014. Three years ago, when Illinois native and hunting enthusiast Ryan Kirby, 32, left his graphic design job at the National Wild Turkey Federation in South Carolina to pursue his passion for painting wildlife scenes, he did not know whether or not he made the right choice, but as his recent successes prove, it was.

Kirby graduated with degrees in graphic design and multimedia from Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. For seven years he worked in the outdoor industry for National Wild Turkey Federation as a designer and illustrator, but three years ago decided to quit his job and launched out on his own as a freelance graphic designer, illustrator and wildlife artist

“I had some God-given ability and I had some great teachers in high school that really helped me out a lot,” Kirby said of his artistic ability.

Most recently, his work is featured on the cover of October’s issue of Outdoor Life, a popular outdoor magazine with a circulation of more than 750,000. The issue will feature “Running and Gunning,” a Kirby painting featuring a white-tailed deer. This cover will be the first illustrated cover published by Outdoor Life in more than 20 years.

“I grew up reading Outdoor Life and hoping to one day experience for myself all the fishing and hunting adventures you read about inside,” said Kirby in a press release. “It’s an honor to have my work featured on the cover.”

In his 32 years, Kirby has experienced many such adventures, including bowhunting moose and caribou in Alaska, as well as elk in Montana. These real-life hunting excursions provide the creative inspiration for many of his paintings.

“I grew up on a farm in Illinois and from a very, very early age we were tagging along with my dad outdoors hunting and fishing,” he said. “That’s really what set the basis and fueled my passion for the outdoors.”

“We pride ourselves on covers that grab attention and tell a story before you even open the magazine,” said Andrew McKean, Outdoor Life editor-in-chief. “Ryan’s painting leaves you wondering. Will the deer get away? Will the hunter make an immaculate shot? What’s going to happen? Ryan really captured the magic of the season and of hunting and we’re glad we chose him to bring back art to the cover of Outdoor Life.”

Outdoor Life was first published in 1898 and today boasts a circulation of more than 750,000. The magazine covers the outdoor lifestyle with a focus on fishing, hunting, survival and camping.

Currently, Kirby lives in Boone with his wife Kim, an Appalachian State alumna who now works as an advisor and coordinator in the M.B.A. program at the university. The 1,000 square foot downstairs portion of their home serves as Kirby’s art studio, graphic design studio, storage room and meeting area for clients.

“I pretty much handle a lot of the client communications,” Kim said. “I maintain a lot of new or current client relationships and I handle a lot of the print side.”

“It’s been a fun ride and Kim and I have been able to do it together,” Kirby said.

Right now his entire operation is based online or through contacts he meets at trade shows, but eventually he said he would be willing to showcase some of his work in some of the galleries in the High Country.

To learn more about Ryan Kirby or to contact the artist, visit RyanKirbyArt.com. To connect with Kirby online, follow Ryan Kirby Art on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Outdoor Life featured Kirby’s painting “Running and Gunning” on its October cover. This is the first illustrated cover the magazine had released in 20 years.
Cupped and Committed Mallard
Cupped and Committed Mallard
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Flying Solo White-Tailed Deer
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Chocolate Lab Game Face