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Trendsetters: Ryan Coleman Art

Abstract painter Ryan Coleman is generating buzz around Atlanta with his uplifting and whimsical mural art. His brightly colored creations have been featured at the Renaissance Atlanta Airport Gateway Hotel, the Promenade building in Midtown, the Five Points MARTA station’s Broad Street Plaza and most recently at the Northside Hospital Cancer Institute in Sandy Springs.

“As people have become familiar with my work, opportunities have started to pop up,” he says. “For the past three years, I’ve focused on painting walls as well as my studio work.”

A 2001 graduate of the Atlanta College of Art, Coleman spent eight years in New York City working as a studio assistant to renowned sculpture artist Jeff Koons while pursuing his own art in his off-hours. In 2011, he moved back to Atlanta with the goal of working full time as an artist. His studio work has been exhibited at the High Museum of Art and in other galleries in the U.S. and abroad. But all along, he’s stoked his love for painting walls in public places.

His energetic, 600-foot-long Don’t Forget To Dream mural on the MARTA station’s concrete bunker caught the attention of Art Initiative Inc., an Atlanta-based consulting firm that helps architects, designers and corporate clients develop plans for art displays. Coleman was invited to submit a proposal for the Northside Hospital mural, and he won the project earlier this year. It took him about six weeks to paint the pillar that greets patients arriving at the Cancer Institute. This 20-foot-tall by 100-foot-round structure was his biggest challenge yet.

Coleman typically begins a mural with freehand drawings enhanced on a computer. He then projects the digital images onto the mural wall, adding elements as inspiration hits. Usually, the wall is flat, but the Northside Hospital project involved a three-dimensional pillar. “We spent the first five days doing projections and tracings,” he says, describing his work with an assistant. “We moved the projector 10 to 15 times, projecting onto one area and then moving about 10 feet.”

One of his other challenges was the construction going on around him. However, he’s becoming used to working in a chaotic environment where lots of people are passing by.

“I love the process from start to finish,” he says. “With murals, you’re interacting with people who may not go to an art gallery ever. You always get comments, and it’s neat to have other people’s points of view.”

He takes his responsibility for public art seriously and chooses colors and shapes appropriate to the setting. “Color can really have an emotional impact on the viewer,” he says. “People are not coming to the hospital by choice, so I tried to choose colors that were soothing, calming and relaxing, but not too subdued. I hope there’s a sense of optimism to the work, and maybe it will take their mind off what they’re going through. It would be an accomplishment to bring a smile to their faces.”

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