Visually Speaking: Ryan Hupman
Anna Horsnell

Cue the music. When you’re speaking about an artist as comfortable with a guitar in his hand as he is with a paintbrush or carving knife, it only seems fitting we listen to a little blues music in the background. Along with his brother Scott, Ryan Hupman fronts the award-winning local band The Hupman Brothers. What many music lovers may not realize however is that the man is a very talented painter and wood carver as well. Let’s have a look.

It seems creative roots run deep in the Hupman family. Asked for a little background, Hupman introduced a family of artists. “I am from Shelburne, Nova Scotia, and I got into painting when I was a kid. I painted the Bluenose and received a ribbon from the exhibition that said something like “Special,” and that’s all it took. My parents and extended family are also artists and makers. My father carves wooden duck decoys and my mother made stained glass. My brother Scott is also a fine artist and wood carver. My uncle Roger is a painter as well. He used to visit from Toronto and critique my drawings, telling me things like “Spider Man’s legs are a bit small for his body.” When I moved to Wolfville to earn my education degree at Acadia, I met many like-minded artists and musicians. Local artist Jeannie Edmonds Hancock has served as a mentor to me and has passed along important insights and methods related to technique.”

It’s not unusual for artists to work in different mediums. For Hupman, “they’re all the same. Music, painting, and carving—they all serve a purpose to keep my hands and mind busy, to help me show off and to satisfy that unrelenting need for attention. I reference painting and carving in my lyrics, so certainly the work that I do with my hands influences the music. Additionally, many of the subjects in my paintings you can hear mentioned and described in the lyrics. So really, everything is connected. It gives me great satisfaction to create something that wasn’t there before. So, writing a song is the same as completing a painting or a carving. Not only do you feel good about what you have accomplished, but you can share it with others to enjoy too. And, over the years I have been lucky enough to trade some of the things I make for money.”

Whether he’s painting landscapes, still life, wildlife, or figures, there is a practiced ease to Hupman’s brushwork that stays true to the subject. Where does it all begin? He explains, “I like colour. I often paint from photos and sometimes from sketches. For me, the purpose of the sketch is to learn the value relationships in the image. So that when I come around to painting, I am more prepared. Oftentimes I feel the need to just go fast and run ahead of my brain so that doesn’t get in the way of what I am trying to do. In fact, the first step to painting is to remove your brain, or at least that little guy that talks back. I am still learning how to paint and still feel intimated by every blank canvas, but I am learning how to look closely at light and shadows and colour temperature by simply being in the garden or being outside in nature. Just looking.”

Hupman recently completed a series of eight landscapes highlighting Cape Blomidon that rival any rendition of that much-loved landmark. Released as a run of postcards, each one varies in season, light and vantage point. For the artist, “Blomidon is a powerful place. It cuts a profound silhouette in the sky that is often difficult to represent in drawing and painting, but you know when you get it just right because it is something so familiar. Yet, it is always changing depending on the night or the morning or the day. Blomidon might be green. Sometimes it’s blue, grey, black, and sometimes it is completely hidden by fog.”

There’s one more side to this musician and painter. “I am also a carver of kitchen treen, bowls, and spoons. I am heavily influenced by the Swedish tradition of green woodworking which means shaping freshly cut wood with an axe and knife. In a way I treat my woodworking as a form of sculpture.”

What’s next? “I’ve been teaching school off and on as a substitute for over a decade, but I’m finally leaning into making art full time and it’s scary! But it feels right.” Then he adds, “I do have exciting plans to pack a snack and my paint-box and sit somewhere pretty and paint.” Sounds good. No pun intended.

See the artist’s work on Instagram @RyanHupmanArt and Facebook where you can also direct message any inquiries. The new Blomidon postcards are available at the Rolled Oat Café, Main Street, Wolfville as well as other local shops.