Artist paining outdoors
Ryan Jensen Painting, Trinidad, California, 2021
Oil painting of boats in a harbor
Ryan Jensen, “3:45 At Woodley Island,” oil on canvas, 24 x 18 in., 2021 

How did you get started and then develop your career?

Ryan Jensen: Partial credit goes to the multitude of hours I spent drawing throughout my childhood. I was always sketching something: it was a way for me to process life. My father was a painter and I learned a lot from him, but I had no idea I’d end up being a professional artist as well. I just knew I loved to draw.

It wasn’t until my mid 20s that I started tackling color. I remember when I bought an easel one day and just went for it. I really struggled, yet there was something that felt so good about painting outside in the fresh air. In the elements, witnessing the beauty of life around me, being a part of it all. However, painting was still just a hobby, and it wasn’t until my early 30s that I seriously picked up a paint brush.

I arrived at a turning point in my life where it became clear to me that I had to take charge and choose a path in life that I loved to be on. I had been afraid I wouldn’t be able to survive as an artist. I had to make that leap of faith in myself, which was a real mental switch. But I truly believed that if I dedicated the time to painting, I’d somehow be okay, both financially and spiritually. So I went for it and began painting every day, all day. The bad news is that it hasn’t gotten any easier. The good news is that I’m happier than I’ve ever been.

How do you describe success?

Simple, hard work! Plus, opportunity. Success can happen in a world of ways, but the kind that I enjoy the most is when I put everything on the line for it. As an artist, I’m taking risks and often going all in to ensure I’m doing everything I can to be successful. I could weigh my success on last year’s sales or by counting Facebook or Instagram likes, but that is fleeting and puts me on a rollercoaster of highs and lows.

For me, true success is really the amount of passion and hard work I can put into a piece. Opportunities will present themselves if I can stay motivated and passionate about painting. When the success comes it’s only because there was no other option.

How do you find inspiration?

For me inspiration is around just about every turn here in Northern California. Our coastal atmosphere provides a light so clean and pure that everything it touches glistens on a good day. I am blessed to live in a beautiful place, yet I know that a great artist can create something beautiful from everyday scenes. I am constantly looking at the subtle details in my daily life: the play of light and shadows, combinations of complementary colors and shapes.

People who know me well will often catch me with my head tilted to the side, one eye closed, one eye open, seeing with my artist’s eye.

Psychologically, I also pull inspiration from my inner fears: of not being good enough, of failure across the board. As an artist, being my own boss does put a lot of pressure on me. Pressure is good. I seem to have a little bit more fun when the pressure is on.

What is the best thing about being an artist?

I am able to unleash my creativity and pour myself into what I love doing. Painting can be a real struggle at times; it’s a lot of hard work. At the end of the day though, it’s the friends I’ve made, the people who create and appreciate art, that have been the hidden gems that I am so thankful for.

Oil painting of a ship called "Maria Elizabeth"
Ryan Jensen, “Maria Elizabeth,” oil on panel, 10 x 8 in., 2021
Oil painting of sunflowers
Ryan Jensen, “Last Garden,” oil on canvas, 72 x 48 in., 2020
Self-portrait oil painting
Ryan Jensen, “Untitled Self Portrait,” oil on canvas, 36 x 36 in., 2012
Oil painting of trees in fall near a lake
Ryan Jensen, “The Trees They Whisper,” oil on canvas, 48 x 60 in., 2021

Photo credit: Joseph Wilhelm –

To see more of Ryan’s work, visit:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here