Back to News Behind the Brush Strokes: Brendan Ryan ’20

Behind the Brush Strokes: Brendan Ryan ’20


Student Painting Fetches Nearly $2,000 with City of Yonkers

Brendan Ryan ’20 isn’t just a college student interested in art. He’s pursuing his art with a passion.

You’ve probably seen Brendan working on one or another of his creations around campus—he frequently paints in lounges and places where the Mount community will stop by, chat, and watch as his work develops.

A double major in Studio Art and Visual Art and Experimental Media, Brendan is an extraordinarily gifted artist who’s not only catching the attention of the Division of Communication, Art, and Media, but who’s making a splash in the neighborhood, including recently selling one of his creations to the City of Yonkers.

"Elephant in the Room"
“Elephant in the Room”

Known for his innate creativity and technical abilities, as well as his stream-of-consciousness process, his talent extends across visual arts disciplines from photographically realistic portraits in pencil, to illustrative paintings, prints, and ceramics. Take it from Enrico Giordano, Associate Professor of Fine Arts, as well as his mentor:

“In Brendan’s work, fanciful bestiaries, mechanical objects, flora and fauna, maps, and even literature seem to morph before one’s eyes—they become kaleidoscopic images, unfolding in luscious forms and colors, in the act of coming to life. A lizard might become a cougar, which in turn can morph into a profile of a beautiful woman, a pocket watch, a speckled frog, or snake; which then, amazingly becomes a magnificent elephant. Hidden in other forms and colors are the trees, mountains, lakes, and much more. These works imagine universes where nature and culture are interchangeable.”

And Brendan agrees.

“I always start with one thing or idea and it continues to evolve into something else—I just let my pieces develop with wherever my mind goes.”

Starting up his career young, with a piece of chalk and an asphalt canvas, his drawings always seemed to catch the attention of those around him.

Brendan's first drawing
Brendan’s first drawing

“I always felt connected to art,” continued Brendan, who got most serious with his craft during his high school years at Donovan Catholic in Toms River, NJ. “My teachers pushed me to try different mediums and I just enjoyed being able to express myself—plus I kind of had a knack for it. Everyone around me always supported me. I can even remember the encouragement from a childhood teacher telling my family early on: ‘Your boy’s an artist.’”

Through printmaking and photography, acrylic paint and permanent markers, and even wood carving and colored pencils, Brendan’s always exploring new techniques. And there’s no shortage of pieces he’s developed throughout his career.

"Moby Dick"
“Moby Dick”

“Moby Dick,” a 30” x 40” acrylic painting on canvas; “Poppy,” a portrait drawing of his grandfather from when he was in the Navy; and “Elephant in the Room,” an 18” x 24” piece designed with colored pencils, graphite pencils, and Sharpies, just to name a few of his recent creations.


“Viewing Brendan’s art requires active participation—it’s a journey filled with many aesthetic rewards,” said Professor Giordano. “That journey begins when viewing his art from a distance, when it can seem nonobjective, abstract. But as one gets up close, layers of imagery begin to emerge. The longer one looks, the more is revealed.”

That’s exactly what happened when “Elephant in the Room” was on display at the Blue Door Art Center (BDAC) in Yonkers last spring.

During its run at the BDAC’s annual Mount faculty and student exhibition, it caught the eye and attention of Wilson Kimball, Commissioner of Planning and Development for the City of Yonkers, who contacted Professor Giordano with a simple question: “How much?”

Excited, and slightly overwhelmed by the news, Brendan took the time to discuss the possibility of selling his art with Professor Giordano—especially since this would be his first sale. He reflected on what it meant to him and his work, but also knew he felt strongly about the opportunity to leave his mark. After much consideration, he set a price and the City of Yonkers purchased the piece for $1,850.

To celebrate “Elephant in the Room” in its new home, Brendan and Professor Giordano were invited to Yonkers City Hall for a formal unveiling and photo-op on October 18.

Brendan and Professor Giordano
Brendan and Professor Giordano at Yonkers City Hall

Looking back, Brendan had other plans than just art when he selected the College of Mount Saint Vincent. After an impressive four years, he knows he found the right place for him: A college that supported his talents and helped him explore his passions and leave his mark, both in and outside the classroom—and even beyond the art studio.

With graduation only a spring semester away, Brendan’s also looking ahead at future career plans.

His extraordinary attention to detail and fine draftsmanship earned him two summer internships at Robert Stack LLC, an architecture firm in Ship Bottom, NJ, where he designed and built scale models of high-end homes. Now, he’s planning to pursue a Master of Architecture degree and, subsequently, he’s been notified that there’s a job waiting for him at the firm should he decide to follow that career path.

“Anything you love takes hard work,” said Brendan. “Your experience is what you make of it—you have to put in what you want to get out.”

Photo of the architectural scale model Brendan created at his summer internship out of chipboard and bristol paper, currently being built in New Jersey
Photo of the architectural scale model Brendan created at his summer internship out of chipboard and bristol paper, currently being built in New Jersey

View more of Brendan’s works of art.

About the College of Mount Saint Vincent
Founded in 1847 by the Sisters of Charity, the College of Mount Saint Vincent offers nationally recognized liberal arts education and a select array of professional fields of study on a landmark campus overlooking the Hudson River. Committed to the education of the whole person, and enriched by the unparalleled cultural, educational, and career opportunities of New York City, the College equips students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary for lives of professional accomplishment, service, and leadership in the 21st century.