Bryant is an Award Winning Alcohol Ink Artist, who began his journey with this medium through a fun afternoon project with his mother, the Artist Diane Small-English. In his Artist Statement, his very words seem to echo the feeling that his gorgeous paintings evoke, and he shares, "I am inspired by intense color contrasts, movement and the need to make the mind spin through abstraction. 'Art is Life . . . Artist Life.'" He goes on to describe the experience of working with the alcohol ink to be one of constant flux and motion: "My work is freeflowing and unpredictable by nature of the medium. Alcohol Inks are highly pigmented, fast drying dyes that are activated to move, bloom and blend when they interact with 91% rubbing alcohol. Because of the unpredictable nature of the liquid medium, when painting, I'm not very aware of what the outcome of the work will be. I am creating and managing the inks to create images that resonate and strike the imaginations of the viewer. I am driven by color concepts and sparkle, and live by the words, 'Broken Crayons Still Color . . . and a little Glitter and Sparkle Never Hurt Anyone!'"
A week ago I went on a journey across Jersey City to visit with Bryant in his studio, and in some ways I felt very much like Dorothy going over the rainbow. Jersey City is a very large and sprawling place, with long stretches of road that lead over highways and byways. Many people choose to drive because it's much simpler and quicker that way, but I love to walk when I can because it helps me understand the lay of the land and I discover hidden treasures along the way. When I arrived at Bryant's studio, I realized that my journey, though interesting in itself because it was through a part of a neighborhood I don't often visit, was really a journey to visit Bryant, and that the treasure was in the person I was visiting and the works of art that he unfolded and shared with me that afternoon.
We started our visit with a conversation about his creative history, and then he took me to his work space and began to describe the process of his art while he created a new piece. It is such an interactive process and such a highly concentrated one that I enjoyed every minute of his demonstration as he poured the inks and used a variety of tools and sprays and pouring techniques to share with me the variety of possibilities inherent in working with this type of ink. He primarily uses Yupo Paper, but he also experiments on other surfaces such as metal, and it is in the experimentation that the fascination lives because there are an infinite number of ways the Alcohol Ink and alcohol can react and be combined and moved around the paper with the different tools and methods he uses. The result is always a one of a kind piece that cannot be recreated, and it is also very much alive because if the paints are touched with 91% alcohol even after they are dry, they can begin to move and bloom and reshape and restructure again. Each piece is also very much a part of Bryant, because it is his decision when the piece feels finished, and he stops the process when he knows it's the right time, and after allowing it to dry, seals the image. And the wonder of this medium is that even in that time when he is waiting for it to dry, he can leave it and come back to find that it has shifted and changed again. It is a fascinating process and one that creates vivid and memorable images that are unique and personal and yet universal in their resonance with the viewer.
When I photographed a piece of Bryant's titled "Brilliance" that I brought home with me, I was reminded of a poem by Wallace Stevens that has long been a favorite, "Of Mere Being" from "The Palm at the End of the Mind: Selected Poems and a Play" Copyright 1967:
Of Mere Being
By Wallace Stevens
The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze decor,
A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.
You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.
The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.
* * * * * * *
Over the course of the afternoon of my visit with Bryant, we had spoken about his painting "Free To Fly" and the exhibit he had given the same name. There was so much gorgeous work to see in his studio, but there was something very special to me about "Free To Fly" that for some reason made it stand out to me as being even more extraordinary among the other extraordinary work. While we looked at some of his larger works I had commented on one that I felt was really special, and he told me that it was "Free To Fly". As we continued our conversation, about art, the creative life, and so many of the intricate parts of what it means to be an artist, we began to talk about the feeling of being a bird that in some circumstances feels bound. It is in that moment when the wings are again free, when the brilliance of the artist can shine and be truly alive, that we are like the bird in that poem, singing a song that may be foreign to everyone else but that in its uniqueness creates a space for each one to just be, and to be filled with that radiance and live.
In His Studio
Jersey City, New Jersey
An Inspiring And Stunning Addition
Photographs Of The Artist And Selected Works
Photographs Courtesy Of Bryant Small
Manifest Wildest Dreams
People Places And Dreams
Wild And Free