Alumnus Mathis Ryan: Designing for the City

                                                                               Sample work created by Mathis for City of Memphis

Mathis Ryan graduated from MCA in 2011 with a Bachelors in Design Art with a focus on Sequential Narrative and a Minor in Art History. After graduation, he bounced around a few design jobs from an Impress Associate at Office Max, to a Headstone Designer, to an Illustrator for Brother International. He currently is the Lead Graphic Designer for the City of Memphis in Marketing and Communications. Mathis is engaged to another MCA Alumni, Elizabeth Waylett, and they live about three blocks from where they both graduated with their cat, Bill, and their dog, Saxon.

How did you decide to come to MCA?

I was born in Memphis, and one of the first places I lived was Midtown, on Cox. My Aunt was driving me down Poplar on the way home one day (I couldn’t have been older than six or seven), and, as we passed Overton Park, she told me that’s where artists go to school, and I might go there someday myself. Well, it stuck. When I graduated high school, I joined the Air Force with the goal in mind to register for MCA after a couple of years into my enlistment. It always felt like I was supposed to go there, and it was the most natural thing in the world.

What was your favorite class or project while you were here?

It would have to be one of the comic projects in Sequential Narrative. My classmates and I made webcomics and had our critique done via Skype by Kris Straub and Scott Kurtz. If you don’t know who those guys are, check out Broodhollow and Table Titans. You won’t regret it.

Who was your favorite teacher?

I really couldn’t pick just one. Joel Priddy was like a father figure to all of us comic and illustration guys. We all still refer to composition elements as “kisses” and “horses asses” because of him. Jim Ramsey is one of the most knowledgeable art history professors I could have hoped to meet, and he’s the reason I took enough AH classes to get a minor in it. David Burton made reading fun, and we still compare reading lists and discuss what we’ve read as if I never left his class. Lastly, Drawing Composition with Remy Miller. Nothing like listening to obscure Bob Dylan while having your drawing project that you labored for hours over be karate-chopped apart by a guy that knows a rush job when he sees it. Taught me to take more time on my projects, as folks can always tell.

If you could go back and take something different at MCA, what would it be?

Metals probably. I helped a friend on her projects a couple of times, and something about working with those delicate saws and intricate tools was really fun. Even though I cut myself a bunch.

What would people be surprised to learn about your MCA education?

That I never once took a painting class, and never have I ever fired a kiln. My handwriting has been, and always will be, terrible, and working with construction paper is for all ages.

What drew you to your current job?

They were hiring? (jk, lol)
The cool thing about design is how it elevates things, I wanted to do my part to pretty up the city that I call home. In any case, I see it as the the opportunity to improve my skills, while still having enough bacon in the icebox. Plus, I, like, totally once shared an elevator with the Mayor.

How did MCA prepare you for that position?

The Graphic Design instructors I had at the time were monsters for detail. Everything needed to be measured down to the nearest pica, and god help you if you didn’t use a bone-folder. Plus, I got real good with an exacto-knife.

What do you like to do with your design degree that doesn’t have to do with you work?

I’d like to get back to comics full time, but they ain’t exactly hiring at the doodle plant. Currently, me and a bunch of other Alumni are working on a project that I’m not at liberty to announce just yet. Use context clues to guess at what that might be.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?

Draw and play video games in between housework and seeing friends, and get in fights with strangers on the internet.

What’s your favorite thing about Memphis?

My dog lives here. That, and there’s, like, ten parks within biking distance from my house. Seriously, Memphis is one of the greenest cities in the world, why would I want to live anywhere else?


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