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New Art - Conceptual Realism - Mark Ryden

Updated on February 13, 2013

Mark Ryden Beginnings

I'm covering Mark Ryden next in this series because he was the first artist in this new genre to really profit, financially, from his work.

Mark Ryden was born on January 20, 1963 to Barbara and Keith Ryden in Medford Oregon. At some point in his youth his family moved to Escondido, California and Mark's older brother Keyth Ryden, took up a career in album cover art. During Keyth's absence, Mark studied some of his older brother's works, was influenced by them, and eventually won a scholarship to The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. He graduated the school in 1987.

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Mark Ryden & Fan at The Tree Show. Image credit wikicommons.Tree of Life - Mark Ryden
Mark Ryden & Fan at The Tree Show. Image credit wikicommons.
Mark Ryden & Fan at The Tree Show. Image credit wikicommons.
Tree of Life - Mark Ryden
Tree of Life - Mark Ryden

Mark Ryden Shows

Since graduating Mark David Ryden has been working steadily as a painter of conceptual realism. His work often feature the juxtaposition of 1950 pop culture, "Golden Book" characters, Abraham Lincoln, meat, and obscure symbolism.

Ryden's first show was in 1998. Titled The Meat Show hosted in Pasadena and consisted of eighteen paintings all featuring children, symbols, 1950s child-hod toys and fixtures along with butcher-like cuts of meat. Of this Ryden states that the texture, color and look of raw meat lends itself to painting

Ryden also pointed out that as consumers we often disconnect that gorgeous slab of tasty steak from the very process that got it there; that once it's on our plates we tend to forget that it came from a once living animal.

Since The Meat Show, Ryden has put on exhibitions almost yearly including Bunnies and Bees (2002), Wondertoonel Paintings (2004), Blood Show (2005), Fushigi Circus (2006), The Tree Show (2007), The Snow Yak Show (2009) and The Gay 90s Old Tyme Art Show (2010).

One of his paintings from The Tree Show, titled The Tree of Life (see pencil study), sold for $800,000 before the show actually opened to the public. During the show Ryden sold 500 prints of General Sherman for $1,000 a piece, They sold out in less than a day.

The Creatrix - Mark Ryden
The Creatrix - Mark Ryden


Liike Robert Williams and Mati Klarwein, Mark Ryden paints in oil on canvas. Critics and art students alike state that his technique is more attuned to those of the old masters than other contemporaries.

It is rumored, and at times verified, that Ryden's studio is jammed with tin and sheet steel toys, plush bears and dolls, meat market cut charts, children's books, along nature and anatomy science volumes.

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Rosie's Tea Party - Mark RydenAllegory of the Four Elements - Mark RydenGhost Girl - Mark RydenLittle Boy Blue - Mark Ryden
Rosie's Tea Party - Mark Ryden
Rosie's Tea Party - Mark Ryden
Allegory of the Four Elements - Mark Ryden
Allegory of the Four Elements - Mark Ryden
Ghost Girl - Mark Ryden
Ghost Girl - Mark Ryden
Little Boy Blue - Mark Ryden
Little Boy Blue - Mark Ryden

Album Covers and Dust Jackets

Album Covers
Ryden has also designed album covers for the artists Michael Jackson (Dangerous), Ringo Starr (Time Takes Time), and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (One Hot Minute) among others.

Book Dust Jackets
Two of Stephen King's books feature dust jackets featuring Mark Ryden commissioned works. They are Desperation and Richard Bachman's "The Regulators."

Magazine Features

Ryden has been featured in Juxtapoz Magazine (three times), Hi-Fructose, LA Weekly (twice), Bliss and The Japan Times.

Ryden Quotes

"When I was a child in school my teachers would wonder why my drawings of dogs would have their intestines showing or why my self portraits had a third eye. They disapproved, but I got a lot of support from my family and I learned to really enjoy confusing my teachers and even scaring them. Children have no inhibitions when making their art. I’ve never seen my 4 year old son have a creative block; and his art is much more interesting than most adult’s art. Children are miraculous."

"I believe in letting imagination thrive in my art. I am not afraid of nostalgia or sentiment. I value taking the time to make a painting “beautiful.” I want to breath life into my paintings."

Book Signing

Mark Ryden will be signing his new book, "The Snow Yak Show" at;

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Thursday, August 12, 2010
The Schwab Room: 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Admittance (not the book) is free!

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
The Schwab Room
151 Third Street (between Mission + Howard)
San Francisco CA 94103


Submit a Comment

  • LiamBean profile image

    LiamBean 7 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia

    Thanks G L. I'm also a big fan of Dali and hope to do a hub on him as well. I think many of these artists were inspired by Dali.

  • G L Strout profile image

    G L Strout 7 years ago from Ohio, USA

    Interesting artist. I am reminded of Dali a bit. Thank you for a great article.