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The Art of Entrepreneurship

Ryan Campbell is an artist with business savvy and social-media chops.

By Maureen Kingsley

Artist Ryan Campbell stands in front of his artwork in his gallery in Hawthorne, California
Ryan Campbell

El Segundo resident Ryan Campbell (pictured)—an employee of Raytheon Technologies who holds an MBA from Pepperdine and has worked in finance, supply-chain operations, and logistics for Sony Pictures Entertainment and The Walt Disney Company—might seem like an unlikely fine artist and gallery owner. He is, however, a driven and ambitious individual with plenty of ideas and self-confidence to spare, turning his passion for painting into an occupation and side business. “I started painting just before the pandemic hit,” Ryan tells me as we stand in his studio in Hawthorne, which he recently occupied and is converting into Hawthorne Art Gallery. “I began by watching videos by Bob Ross [the late TV personality and artist], then going to Blick’s art store and buying supplies and setting up on the balcony of my home.” Painting mostly abstracts and dramatic landscapes on canvas on that balcony, Ryan ramped-up his new hobby considerably once the pandemic arrived in California and life as he knew it came to a halt. “I became obsessed,” he says. During that time, he painted more than 100 works and began experimenting with building his own canvases and frames, too.

Abstract painting in shades of dark blue with a slash of red paint just left of center
"Royal" by Ryan Campbell

It wasn’t long before Ryan, his creativity, and his ambition outgrew his small balcony, and he began renting studio space at Hawthorne Arts Complex. That facility closed earlier this year for redevelopment, however, forcing its tenants elsewhere. Ryan then found a small commercial space on Prairie Avenue with west-facing windows providing ample daylight, and he has since fashioned it into both his own personal art studio and a place to display his work and others’. “Ultimately,” he says, “this space will become ‘Hawthorne Art Gallery’ and will be rented out for art shows” periodically. “I created this gallery for myself and for other artists coming up,” Ryan explains.

Abstract painting in shades of blue, purple, fuchsia, and red, with gashes of orange just left of center
"The Stain" by Ryan Campbell

He is already helping other artists sell their pieces in addition to selling his own, pointing to a few paintings resting against a wall of his space that were done by a fellow young artist. Ryan’s deep understanding of and facility with social media and its algorithms results in ever-increasing views of his work and steady audience engagement, and his experience with logistics and supply-chain management is a boon to his artistic colleagues who are unfamiliar with the business side of the field.

Left to right: Ryan's artwork hangs on a wall of his gallery; "Mountain" original artwork; "Chaos" original artwork

“I enjoy helping other artists sell their pieces,” Ryan says. “I enjoy coaching them through the process.”

Rays by Ryan

While Ryan is a savvy and driven entrepreneur, he is also a talented artist with a knack for combining paint colors in bold ways and skillfully balancing light-reflecting and light-absorbing hues in his work. His abstracts in particular—including “The Stain,” our cover image for this issue, and “Royal,” pictured above—command attention and draw the eye to both a focal point and its surrounding detail.

Other work of Ryan’s includes landscapes painted in bright, amplified colors, often featuring dynamic, dramatic skies and bodies of water (see “Mountain,” pictured above); as well as bold, graphic pieces in an abstract expressionist style and primary colors (see “Violated,” in upper-right corner of the gallery image above). Oil paints are his preferred media for their richness and timelessness, he says, and he occasionally paints in acrylics, including Black 2.0, the most matte black paint available. He says he finds painting abstracts the most fun.

Abstract landscape featuring a body of water, sunset, and two sailboats
"Sail" by Ryan Campbell

To maintain a steady energy level for the duration of a painting, Ryan completes it in one sitting, typically on a weekend. He finds inspiration from Instagram, art books, videos, and in-person art festivals, such as the recent Hermosa Beach Art Festival, where he displayed and sold work.

Ryan brands his work “Rays by Ryan” and sells originals, canvas prints, and clothing on which his art is printed. He takes pride in the fact that he has sold to buyers in 43 states and four countries.

“I enjoy the duality of doing both the creative work and the business, logistics, and marketing side,” Ryan says of his entrepreneurship.

View his work on Etsy at RaysbyRyan, on Instagram at RaysbyRyan and HawthorneArtGallery, and on Facebook at Rays By Ryan.

This story appears in the July 2022 issue of The El Segundo Scene.

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