Today we’d like to introduce you to Ian Bryan.
Ian, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My grandmother taught me the art and science of Entomology (the study and preservation of insects) at a very young age. Some of my first memories with her are of traveling to the overwintering sites of Monarch butterflies along the California coast, in places such as Pismo Beach, Monterey, and San Louis Obispo. Here, the Monarchs would rest on their long migration down to central Mexico for the summer. The populations were so dense that often times you couldn’t even see the leaves on the trees where they had come together to rest. These towns will hold “Butterfly Festivals” during the migration seasons, and the whole experience really left quite an impression on me.
When it was time to leave, we would collect the butterflies that had died around the bases of the trees, and bring them home to study and preserve. The Monarchs, if preserved carefully, will last a very long time under glass, making very beautiful pieces that we would bring to friends and family members after our trip as gifts. And in fact, this is the case for all butterflies and insects. Some collections in universities and museums are well over 100 years old. It is light refraction from the scales on the butterfly wings that give them their color, not a pigment. Because of this, there is no visible fading over the years, and they look just as ornate and vibrant as they did during their adult stage of life.
I practiced this art throughout my childhood and into my teenage years. But by the time I entered high school, new interests had taken a front seat.
In 2014, I moved to Laguna Beach. One of the first ways I familiarized myself with the area was triathlon training, spending a lot of time open water swimming in the ocean, biking throughout Orange County, and running in the Aliso Woods wilderness park. It was there that I began to see some of the same insect and butterfly species familiar to me from childhood. I rented an apartment from a Laguna Beach Sawdust Festival veteran artist, Shamus, and through him, I was introduced to the local art scene. This was a completely new world to me.
I was taking sophomore classes for Mechanical Engineering, and really had no awareness of the creative fields of work. I was making a shadow box with a relatively fresh praying mantis I had found laying near Shamus’ welding table one evening and had some decorative papers on the table for gift wrapping. I noticed the gold and silver leaf decorating the cigar box I kept my remote controls in matched beautifully with the decorative papers, and the browns and greens in the inks complimented the praying mantis in a way that when all combined in concert gave a very unique look.
Over the next few months, I took a few of these new creations around to coffee shops and small businesses in Laguna, and they sold well! Before I knew it, I was participating as a Sawdust Festival artist alongside Shamus, and wherever I brought these butterfly pieces they would sell out, quickly.
Clients began to ask for larger pieces, and I discovered a network of dealers in the US that would source butterflies from sanctuaries around the world, opening up a palate of color an shape as diverse as any other art mediums I’d seen. Soon I was selling art for up to $10,000 at Ritz-Carlton, The Bowers Museum, and Art Galleries throughout OC. I have recently installed a new body of work in Costa Mesa’s new coffee bean roastery, Moongoat Coffee. Moongoat’s Grand Opening is this coming Friday, September 27th.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I have been fortunate in that this type of art is not common, and has been very well received. I run a few other businesses and art projects, all with the common thread of using natural materials and showing them in a new light to inspire others to take a closer look at the abundance we find all around us. So in that sense, it has been a smooth road. The struggles I more identify with as learning experiences.
Deciding to get behind my own creative endeavors 100% has been a challenge because everything you do is trial and error in that endeavor. If I were to point out one of my own strengths as it relates to this challenge, it is that I seem to have a universal aesthetic. There aren’t too many times I step back after completing a project, and think “Wow, that didn’t work at all!”. And when I feel like I’ve executed a vision as it looked during conception, most other people seem to get excited about it too. That encouragement keeps your hear full and mind strong for all the twists and turns along the journey.
Tell us more about your art.
I feature real butterflies and other insects in my art. The concept behind supporting butterfly sanctuaries and nature preserves in the tropics by ordering specimens that have died naturally is pretty interesting, and in my opinion provides an elegant solution to a modern problem. Butterflies are only breed in or near their natural habitats, and when large numbers of butterflies are raised, those caterpillars need an enormous amount of food.
Relative to other re-forestation projects and long term carbon storage, this effort represents a small percentage of the available solutions, but it does represent an extremely attractive solution that is fun to talk about, interact with, and design environments and experiences around.
These butterfly sanctuaries become popular destinations for eco-tourism and introduce animals at the very bottom of the food chain into ecological systems that depend on insects to rebuild. The art is an attractive reminder that these places are home to some of the most beautiful species on Earth and that these places deserve protection and rehabilitation.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
There was a particular art exhibition at the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point that was curated by a gallery I was working within Laguna Beach. A group of 20 of us were asked to participate in a three-month show, and of all the artists the butterfly piece that I made in collaboration with one of the fellow participants was the only one that sold, at three times the value of my next biggest piece, just under $10,000! It was installed in the client’s home in Newport Beach, where it remains. Selling art at that price is a big moment because it gives you the encouragement that you might actually be able to make a living doing one of the things you absolutely love the most.
- “Mosaic” butterfly pieces start at $220
- “Gallery” butterfly pieces range from $2,000-$10,000
- “Butterfly Surfboards” start at $2,000
- Address: 2013 Placentia Ave. #5
Costa Mesa, Ca 92627
- Website: www.jonathanseagul.com
- Phone: 925.818.8211
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @jonathanseagul
- Facebook: JonathanSeagul