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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Go Bold

Graphic artist Ryan Olbrysh delivers vivid illustrations, including for Evansville Living

Evansville Living’s January/February cover showcases the city’s prominence as a sports town. That much is apparent from the bold, stylized cover illustration spotlighting notable hometown athletes, coaches, and rising programs. As detailed in Publisher & Editor Kristen K. Tucker’s editor’s letter, Ryan Olbrysh is the creative engine driving the Evansville Living team’s vision for an illustrated cover. Using a diverse set of design techniques, the Las Vegas, Nevada-based photo illustration artist and graphic designer blended photos and illustrations to create a cohesive visual narrative.

Olbrysh didn’t always dream of being a graphic designer, but he has always had a natural artistic talent. As far back as grade school, he enjoyed lettering and drawing. He grew up in Lombard, Illinois, outside Chicago and enjoyed taking art classes at school and in the summer. But it wasn’t until he attended the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, that Olbrysh began taking graphic art courses and landed a job for a catalog printing company.

This Quentin Tarantino-themed illustration by Ryan Olbrysh was published in July 2019 by Empire.

Olbrysh decided he wanted to embrace his creative side and went to work for a small print shop designing business cards, brochures, and simple logos. He then moved onto a few ad agencies doing freelance temporary work and became an expert in Adobe Photoshop along the way. In 2004, Olbrysh moved to Nevada and got a graphic design job at the city magazine Las Vegas Life creating photo illustrations, among other things.

“I credit my first magazine art director for having confidence in me,” he says. “I was so scared, but she kept giving me these really great photo illustration assignments.”

His affinity for photo illustrations has only grown since then (and he’s earned several industry awards and honors along the way). Nowadays, Olbrysh specializes in artistic collages for publications such as Baltimore magazine, Newsweek; Denver, Colorado’s mile-high city magazine, 5280; the Wall Street Journal; the Hollywood Reporter; and international magazines such as Germany’s Der Spiegel. A film enthusiast, Olbrysh also enjoys creating designs related to movies, such as a July 2019 Quentin Tarantino-centric piece for Empire. When he starts on a new collage design, Olbrysh looks to find the hierarchy of the images.

Ryan Olbrysh’s collage illustrations start out in black and white (left). He inlays color once image placement is cemented (right).

“I ask, ‘What’s the most important image, and put them in order for me,’” he says, “because when there are different sizes of images, it leads your eye through the piece better.”

With the Evansville Living cover design, four-time Olympic medalist swimmer Lilly King was placed at the top of the page. He then created a rough outline and moved elements around — for example, he decided the Reitz Memorial High School girls’ soccer team would look nice at the bottom where there was more space for the photo’s many details.

Olbrysh designs preliminarily in black and white; he says he doesn’t want clients to get caught up in the colors. After the photo arrangement is approved, he creates the color scheme.

“Doing color that way gives you an opportunity to paint things and balance the whole image color wise,” Olbrysh says. “It’s a lot of playing around with color, and sometimes it’s a house of cards when one thing affects where everything else goes.”

Evansville Living’s January/February “Sports Town” cover

Evansville Living’s cover has mostly realistic colors — purple for University of Evansville Coach David Ragland’s shirt, for instance — but Olbrysh adjusted tones and textures to add depth to the collage. He says collages often can look like blobs, so he separates things to make them stand out. Evansville Living editors selected a vibrant orange for the background to help the cover pop on newsstands.

The design also uses natural elements like trees and clouds to disguise parts of the photos that wouldn’t make sense in context. The photo of two-time IHSAA wrestling state champion Gabe Sollars was cropped at the knees, so Olbrysh had Sollars emerge from behind an image of Roberts Municipal Stadium. In addition, the photos in each collage often come from a variety of sources, so it’s paramount to make sure the lighting and quality look seamless.

Overall, Olbrysh wants to make sure each of his designs sends the right message and has the right tone.

“Adding elements like texture or colors helps tie everything in a cover together, and makes the photos look like they all belong together” he says.

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Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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