We have had the great fortune to come across the U.K. based artist Ryan Quickfall during our motorcycle obsessed adventures. We're not sure when his work first came to our attention, but we quickly got in touch with this talented and all around good guy, and are proud to count him as friend and collaborator. We caught up with he and his alter ego, Ryan Roadkill, to discuss his process, chat about his approach to our Godspeed Co hang tags, and learn about his affinity for skeletons. - GSCo
THE MADNESS TO HIS METHOD
Catching Up With Moto Artist & Flat Track Demon Ryan Roadkill
Words: Mike Higgins Images: Ryan Quickfall & Team
The name's Quickfall. Ryan Quickfall. And like any proper Brit worthy of an alias, he's seemingly mild mannered – when not working up shady characters for his latest project, or working up the muster to get his moto screaming around the flat track. This double agent likes his cocktail of work and hobby shaken and stirred, and with just a twist of madness. By birth he is Ryan Quickfall, a name anyone would be thrilled to have, but for his art and his alter ego, he's chosen the moniker – Roadkill.
Since his first memories of childhood, he's scribbled his own version of the world down on paper: to offset the boredom of life in the English hamlet of Newcastle Upon Thyme. The world he was creating was far from boring.
That world has evolved over the years, taking on a distinct personality and shape that very much defines the Roadkill aesthetic. The style can be traced to Ryan's love of the comic books and graphic novels he poured over, first as an arty kid, then as a burgeoning illustrator. The shape, for much of his work, can be linked to one overriding theme – the motorcycle.
"As a kid, I always drew to kill time." Ryan says, "Quite often, the content was cars, aircraft or motorcycles. It was a matter of progression that I rode bikes myself. And so I started to do motorcycle illustration more and more."
The past ten years have seen a real change in the motorcycle culture. What was once a niche or even fringe set of folks with a particular outlook, is now an ever-growing community from a widening range of society that looks at two wheeled machines as both a lifestyle choice, and a pop-art icon. Combining his whimsical yet gritty style with a motorbike-centric subject matter wasn't a deliberate choice, but it proved a great fit.
A Roadkill illustration is much like the motorbike itself. Beautiful, meticulously crafted, with bright pops of color ... but with an underlying sense of danger. The art, like the bikes, is alive with vibrancy and personality. Above all else, it moves.
"I'm just so used to expressing movement," Ryan says. It's just something that is engrained in my brain. The motion is just informed from doing all the motorcycle artwork."
The influence can certainly be seen in the inherent motion and emotion in his world, but also in the characters he creates to inhabit that world. The Roadkill universe is made of an eclectic collection of misfits. Each of them quirky, funny, and fantastical in their own way.
"There's no specific reason that I do that," Ryan explains. "It's just something I started doing because I enjoyed it. Maybe I've got a weird sense of humor."
A recurring form that often takes center stage is the skeleton. More mischief than macabre, these undead have a way of lending a gravitas to the jubilance, but also bring a welcome levity to the grim and grittiness.
"One thing I like about the skeletons. There's no sex, and there's no race to them. I always think it's mad, that everybody is a skeleton inside, and you never get to see it. So maybe subconsciously, I see that as illustrating the inner self."
Humanity depicted as skeletons is a thematic that has been prominent in art since the first cave drawings and hieroglyphics. The Calaveras (skulls), made famous by the pioneering Mexican printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada, was a powerful commentary on the social inequalities of his time. Their use, quite controversial then, made the simple but profound point – we're all skeletons in the end.
"I'm a huge fan of Posada's work," Ryan says. "And you know, that's what I've always said about motorcycles themselves. No matter who you are, rich, poor, whatever ... as soon as you go out on a motorbike, and you meet another person on a motorbike ... you're the same."
That stripping away of identity, outside of what's being portrayed through the action on the page, allows his characters to be anyone, and in some ways everyone. There's a delightful sense of mystery, alongside all the whimsy.
This seems to carry over to the artist himself. Whether he's masked in the helmet and riding gear of his flat track racer identity or cloaked by the cast of characters of his Roadkill alias, Ryan seems to relish the freedom that a bit of anonymity offers.
"I just try to enjoy myself," he says with a slight grin. "So, any opportunity I get to sort of mess about. Well, I'll take that opportunity."