This article is part of a series highlighting local talent in Natrona County.

Ryan Atkins Kolby Fedore, Townsquare Media
Ryan Atkins
Kolby Fedore, Townsquare Media

Sitting outside of Scarlow's on a warm, but windy spring day, Ryan Atkins and I chat about the little things.

"I live in a fairy tale. I enjoy what I do."

The artist excitedly observes everything around him, pointing out motorcycles and cars as they pass.

I'm envious of his energy, at this point amped up by an afternoon coffee; he is as animated as his paintings.

Atkins is a watercolor portrait artist. It's fitting we meet at Scarlow's because that's where I first learned of his work.

There's a startling madness and modernity to the portraits. He uses electric colors to create visual stimulation and an emotional appeal.

"Do you have a muse?" I ask, guessing as much already.

He's drawn her at least 50 times, and many of his paintings follow a similar pattern: pouty lips, button nose and puppy dog eyes.

"She's a gamer-girl", the manic-pixie-dream-girl character, stunning, emotional -- the opposite of the Mona Lisa, but similarly reflecting the times.

The Muse, Bec. Courtesy Ryan Atkins @ryanatkinsart on Instagram.
The Muse, "Bec." Courtesy Ryan Atkins @ryanatkinsart on Instagram.

Atkins is a fourth generation Wyomingite. Growing up, his family did not have a lot of money. They once lived in a teepee he recalls, but they were happy.

As a kid, he learned to love the outdoors. "Rocks and boxes," he says of his passion for geology and computers.

He built his first computer in 1986 pre-internet.

Before doing what he does now -- applying polyurethane to vehicles at his business, Clear Bra of Casper -- Atkins had a career in computer sciences.

His tech background has helped him market to people world-wide using platforms like Reddit and Twitter.

The day after Carrie Fisher's passing, NBC shared a picture Atkins had posted of the galactic princess on the news. He said they found it via Twitter.

Devil's Tower; Atkins' bucking horse tattoo displays his Cowboy State roots.
A Wyoming boy, Atkins has a bucking horse tattoo on his right wrist holding his painting of Devil's Tower. The same hand harbors the letters A, R, and T on his knuckles.


Atkins creates most of his art in the evening; "It's not for the day," he shares. "The world calms down at night and I stop caring about things that don't matter." He tells me he is an introvert and prefers to work alone.

"There's a lot of chaos to it."

Most of his portraits take about two hours, but he says he's done 40 hour portraits, too. It really depends on what the client wants.

A painting is not a photograph, and we discuss the tenuous balance of creating something that captures both a likeness, yet flatters the subject. There's also an element of fantasy that goes into his work.

Atkins' daughter, "btw those are real sprinkles" he pens on an Insta post. Courtesy.
Ryan Atkins' Painting of his daughter using real sprinkles on her lips. @ryanatkinsart on Instagram.

Atkins exudes color.

Pink and blue are in every piece he's created -- "Wild Fuchsia and Andrews Turquoise" to be exact.

He came of age in the Late Eighties. He was inspired by pulp fiction along with sci-fi like Tron, and Star Wars.

"I'm scared of using black" wrote the artist on an earlier Instagram post. "The thought of even having a true black in my [art] seems absurd. Black is absence of color OR an amalgam of all colors but white..."

..."I'm scared of using black, the thought of even having a true black in my 🎨 seems absurd. Black is absence of color OR an amalgam of all colors but white...wait isn't white light inclusive of all colors within the spectrum? See my problem. Its scary because it'll ruin your work, it's scary because you can't come back and scary because quite frankly transitioning from lamp black to hypercolor™ skin times is something not in my artistic toolbox. Working thru my fear and next time I'll be less scared." @ryanatkinsart on Instagram

At some point in our meeting, Atkins flipped the script on me, asking -- (which is a key detail) consent is very important to him -- if he could draw my picture.

About a week later I showed up at his business to pick it up.

The shop is immaculate, two finished cars gleam under bright lights.

He is, not surprisingly, wearing baby blue joggers and striking sneakers. Paintings hang on the walls and a flat screen TV reports news of a writer's strike.

Atkins plucks the newly-finished painting off his desk and hands it to me. I stare at the girl in the picture.

She looks like me, yet processed through the lens of someone far-removed from the face and all its history. The enchanting quality of his style is there -- a dreamier version of the selfie it was drawn from.

Little brush strokes and pencil marks remain, letting you in on an intimate process that results in a unique finished product.

@ryanatkinsart on Instagram
@ryanatkinsart on Instagram

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