Drawn That Way: The progressive pencil etchings of Nikita Ryan.
Nikita (Nicky) Ryan is an artist and writer causing quite the stir on Instagram with her gay male erotica pencil drawings, an interesting and welcome change on the seemingly selfie obsessed medium. A committed life-long artist, Nicky trained in graphic design and multimedia but in her words, it is drawing and painting that remain her number one passion. Having run into Nicky at Pride in Brighton and Hove this summer, Craig Hanlon-Smith caught up with her to discuss why this art form and why this subject.
“I have always drawn the male body but I started this project properly a couple of years ago”
Your current Instagram account is clearly focused upon gay male erotica. Why this particular genre? “mainly because of my writing, which is a more recent venture. I have discovered a love of writing erotic gay romance and fantasy and have several books in various stages of completion which I hope to get finished and published.
The drawings started alongside my writing, with the idea of providing a visual record of my characters but have since evolved into their own entity. And I love doing them”.
How does your own sexuality inform this work? “I am a straight woman, which surprises a lot of people who look at my art, as they assume I must be a gay man. But I find the male body exciting, and male bodies together extremely sensual and beautiful. And so far, I haven’t found any other woman drawing gay male erotic art, which is maybe surprising considering that there are many male artists who draw female erotic art”
How would you describe your own relationship with the LGBTQ communities? “I am an ally and fully support LGBTQ rights. It does not sit right with me that certain people have an issue with others just because of who they love and want to be with, and it is something I feel very strongly about. I have several gay friends and through socialising with them regularly on the gay scene in London and attending Prides with them, I have met many more people and am really interested in their stories. I will never know how it feels to be in the position that our society has made a lot of the LGBTQ community feel, but I feel privileged to be accepted into their world. I hope that my art in some small way can help with the acceptance of same sex relationships”.
Talk us through how you approach your models or indeed how they approach you? “The main platform to showcase my art is Instagram and I also use Twitter. Most of my models are guys that have approached me, generally through Instagram and offered me their services! They then send me photos to work from. I have also approached people myself through social media (and some in real life) and asked I could draw them. No-one has turned me down yet! I also use images from the internet that I find sensual and interesting, but one goal is to have a space where I can invite models to and work them in real time.
I have been surprised at how well it has been received, as the subject matter is obviously evocative. But I like to think that, rather than full-on explicit images (although some of them are) I try to show the softer side of relationships, the passion and the desire, and maybe people appreciate that. As an artist, you put yourself out there and leave yourself open to criticism, especially with a subject such as mine. But I also think that is what art is for, which is to push boundaries and open people’s eyes.
I might add that I do tend to get sent a lot of interesting pictures from men, which you can imagine, and it never fails to surprise me how free some people are with sending nudes to, let’s face it, a complete stranger. And I’m sure some confuse it [Instagram] with Grindr!”
This style feels like a step into an older form of twentieth century art and illustration. Would you agree? Is that your intention? “I find that really interesting because, to be honest, I have never really thought about it, but I can see what you mean. It wasn’t my intention, as I just started drawing and my style has evolved in this way.
What are your hopes for your work and do you have any plans to exhibit in the more traditional sense? “My main hope is that people with continue to like and appreciate my drawings. I am extremely interested in mythology and folklore and want to explore the gay theme within them, which I am in the process of doing now. I had five of my drawings accepted into the Erotic Art London exhibition, at the Oxo Tower on the South Bank, from in October this year which was exciting, and ultimately I would love to exhibit a larger collection somewhere. I would also love to meet other artists who produce gay male erotica and collaborate with them.
I think there are such hang-ups with sex and sexuality in general, and even more so with same sex relationships, and I would love for my art to help end the stigma surrounding this. In my opinion it should be seen as a natural and beautiful thing.
And I am always looking to hear from potential models!”