How Meditation Can Fuel Creativity: An Interview with Artist Michael Ryan

What helps you bring your full and authentic self to your time in your studio? Are there certain activities or habits that help you get in the right mindset to start your day and get those creative juices flowing? If you’ve been around the Savvy Painter community for very long, you know that I am a huge fan of meditation and mindfulness. I have seen the direct correlation between self-exploration and creative expression. Here to help us explore the connection between creativity and our inner life is the artist, Michael Ryan. 

Michael Ryan is an artist based in the Netherlands whose paintings have been exhibited nationally, as well as in the United States, Russia, and France. His artistic expression is influenced by being in the moment, and the act of paying attention. Ryan is especially inspired by what he observes around him. Primarily working with oils, pastels, and watercolors, he is fascinated by light, color, and the relationship formed between colors. His bold pieces are painted on metal or linen.

I can’t wait for you to get to know Michael, I know you will get a lot of valuable insight from his perspective - make sure to check out images of his artwork located at the end of this post. 

In sudden demand 

Can you imagine going from just making it as an artist and a waiter one week to find yourself in another country with suddenly 50 commissioned portraits lined up? While that scenario sounds made up, it actually happened to my guest, Michael Ryan! 

After a chance meeting with a Dutch businessman who offered to bring him to the Netherlands to paint the portraits of his two children, Michael was off to a new country and a totally new direction in his career. While some might find themselves intimidated by the sudden demand and clamoring for their work, Michael took it in stride. Looking back on this time in his career, Michael reflects on how much he really enjoyed capturing someone's essence on the canvas. 

Finding your center 

Over the years it has been an honor to speak with artists who come from all walks of life. It always intrigues me to hear how each one of my guests has managed to find their center. Some might call this their “Why,” or their “Purpose,” or their “Calling.” Some might just refer to finding their true self. For Michael Ryan, his working day begins early with yoga and long walking meditation. By taking this step early in the day, Michael finds his mind and body united, focused, and prepared for creative expression back in the studio. What practices have helped you find your center? 

Trust yourself 

As you navigate the challenges of a career as an artist, Michael and I encourage you to spend that time investing in your inner life. While some might not find as great a benefit as others, the investment is well worth it. What do you have to lose in taking the time to learn about meditation and other practices? You might just find that you learn some helpful insights about yourself along the way. Don’t let others direct your path, trust yourself - you won’t regret it. 

Outline of This Episode

  • [0:05] I introduce my guest, Michael Ryan. 
  • [2:00] How did Michael end up in Amsterdam? 
  • [7:30] 50 portraits in three years?
  • [9:30] Learning the Dutch language. 
  • [11:30] Was Michael intimidated by the tsunami of portrait commissions? 
  • [15:30] What drew Michael back to New York? 
  • [18:30] How did Michael deal with moving with all of his art and supplies? 
  • [20:30] What is Michael currently working on? 
  • [24:30] Finding inner quiet before you enter the studio. 
  • [38:00] Michael describes his series, “Shimmering Mess” 
  • [44:00] How has the pandemic affected Michael’s time in the studio? 
  • [48:30] Do you incorporate your emotions and thoughts into your art as they come? 
  • [50:20] Trust in yourself. 

Other artists mentioned on this episode

Resources Mentioned on this episode

Connect With Antrese

Paintings:

A typical Dutch landscape

Evening Beethovenstraat

Sri Lankan Schoolgirl

November morning

Inner setting

Night Trees

Light of Key West

Early Commission Portrait - Hope

Early Commission Portrait - Kate

Early Commission Portrait - Julie

Early Commission Portrait - Jan de Tuinman


  • I so loved listening to this podcast! I relate to so much that was said re how painting has been for me during the pandemic to also loving the art of Wolf Khan. Thank you Antrese and Michael 🙂

    • You are so welcome, Connie! I’m so glad you enjoyed this episode – It is another reminder that giving ourselves the time to “just be” and create is so powerful.

  • OH WOW – another brilliant interview. So much food for thought & creativity. I’ve listened several times now & receive kernels of wisdom each time. thank you for your excellent questions Antrese, you really know how to get to the heart of the matter. Have a BEAUTIFUL day, LiZ Jardine

  • Thank you so much for this episode Antrese. Michael, love your work and love the idea of “shimmering mess”. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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