With skeletons and human anatomy contrasted against vibrant shades from orange to blue, Ryan Gerdes’ art evokes themes of life and death. At Linfield, Gerdes, class of ’09, displayed his art on the walls of the student gallery, but now you can find his bold designs on T-shirts.
Gerdes and business partner Kyle Byrd recently launched a screen printing studio from Gerdes’ garage in Portland. The two have been working to set up the studio for six months and have been practicing different methods for screen printing T-shirts and sweatshirts.
“Our studio is called 3Bird Press, and we hope in the next few years to be printing shirts and posters full time,” Gerdes said in an e-mail. “For now, we’re sharpening our skills and saving money.”
As their business grows, Gerdes finds social networking websites immensely helpful.
“With 3Bird Press, we’re networking and experimenting,” Gerdes said. “Facebook is actually an incredible source for marketing. Just maintaining [our photo] album once to twice a week reminds people that we exist, and thus, when [shirt ideas] pop into someone’s mind, we ring in their memory.”
During the beginning stages of launching the studio, Gerdes said he and Byrd have been taking every job they can find to gain experience.
“We’ve printed anything from custom shirts to bachelor party tees, promotional business cards, our own shirts and hoodies — really anything that pops up,” Gerdes said. “For each consecutive shirt we print, we try and push our boundaries, so we’re constantly learning new techniques.”
Gerdes said he finds screen printing an unexplainable amount of fun, a pursuit befitting of his art.
“He has a really clean graphic style, and it lends itself well to screen printing,” Liz Obert, associate professor of art and visual culture and Gerdes’ former adviser, said. “I think he’ll do well. He’s definitely very creative, and I think his design is really accessible.”
Gerdes art is also currently featured in the National Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago. The group gallery show focuses on human anatomy in contemporary art and pop culture.
The show, put on by the blog Street Anatomy, includes three screen printed pieces by Gerdes. He had been following the blog and submitting artwork to it when the blog creator invited him to participate in the show.
“The prompt was very vague: do something anatomical. I did three memento mori screen prints — the Latin theme that is most prevalent in my work meaning: ‘Remember you will die,’” Gerdes said. “I was very flattered to have been invited to show with these awesome established artists that I’d been following on the site for years. I sold a piece the opening night.”
Gerdes works as a full-time contractor for Hewlett-Packard Co. in addition to having numerous freelance clients. Beginning as a passion for creative endeavors, this career path developed through Gerdes’ years at Linfield.
“I’ve always taken solace in drawing, writing and photography, for as long as I can remember. I only realized it could be a career [during my] sophomore year of college,” Gerdes said. “I took a design course with Liz Obert, and it opened the floodgates. I became obsessed; it was all I could talk about and all I wanted to do with my time.”
Gerdes’ art professors remember him as a standout student.
“I rarely work with students who are as passionate and motivated as Ryan,” Brian Winkenweder, Art and Visual Culture Department chair and associate professor of art history and visual culture, said in an e-mail. “Driven by a sharp graphic sensibility, Ryan innately understood how to communicate complex ideas with an economy of means.”
Now an established graphic designer, Gerdes said his work is a perfect fit.
“It’s a very gratifying career; that is to say, it’s really rad to see your logo or poster or [T-shirt] design out and about — to see it in action,” Gerdes said.
For more information about 3Bird Press, visit Gerdes’ Facebook page.
Gabi Nygaard/Staff reporter
Gabi Nygaard can be reached at email@example.com.