Explore Seattle

Signed Henry: Talking to Artist Ryan Henry Ward

Seattle artist Henry on inspiration, getting started and what's on his travel wish-list.

He signs his pieces simply, "Henry," and if you walk around Seattle, you’re going to run into one of them. Ward’s colorful murals can be found on garage doors, in restaurants, on the sides of buildings and even on vehicles. He spoke to Where about when he started painting, his favorite spots to view art and where he’d like to travel.

When did you first start painting?

I first started painting at age 16. I first left home at 16. I made my family members paintings as a way to reconnect without using words.

Your work can be seen all over town. Any favorites?

I have done a lot of work in town so it's hard to decide. I guess the new one at Sutter Homes (920 N.W. Leary Way) is one of my favorites. The walruses at Naked City Brewery in Greenwood (8564 Greenwood Ave. N) and the goldfish house on Nickerson (Nickerson St. and the Fremont bridge).

How do you develop commissioned work—do you plan with the owner of the space or are you usually free to do what you want?

Depends on the owner. It's really a mixed bag of tricks. We always seem to find a way of making the vision shared, but ultimately I'm the artist and only do work that fits my vision.

Henry Mural
(Courtesy Ryan Henry Ward)

Where does your inspiration come from?

I make art constantly. My imagination is an endless ocean.

Your art is sold in various formats at 1201 Industries. How did that come about?

1201 is a new company run by Kyle Smurden. He contacted me and asked if he gave me a percentage could he sell T-shirts and prints of my work. My instincts trusted him.

Where else can visitors to Seattle find your art for purchase?

I sell art out of the Way Station Coffee on a regular basis. (N.W. 40th St. and Leary Way NW)

Where are your favorite spots in Seattle to see art?

I'm a big fan of public art and graffiti. I guess I like to see it where I least expect it.

Do you have a favorite museum?

Favorite museum is the Seattle Art Museum. I’m a bit biased though, because they employ me from time to time to do performance painting and education. They do have some powerful shows that come through, though. Sometimes life changing exhibits for me.

What about a favorite bar?

Favorite bar is The Sloop Tavern in Ballard(2830 N.W. Market St.)

Henry mural at the Sloop Tavern
Outside the Sloop Tavern (©Stacy Booth)

What is your fondest memory in Seattle?

Fondest memory of Seattle is smoking cigarettes at the Hurricane Restaurant at 2 in the morning when I was 16 years old experimenting with psychedelic drugs.

Favorite landmark?

Gas Works Park's old gas factory remnants.

What is a must-see or must-do for someone visiting the city?

A must-do is get a long board and cruise down the biggest hill you can find.

Where is your favorite vacation spot?

Favorite vacation spot so far has been Durban, South Africa.

Any must-pack item for when you travel?

Rule No. 2 of "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy": Always bring a towel.

What is the number one destination on your travel wish list?

Southern India is top of my travel list.

Window or aisle when flying?

I prefer aisle seats. I like getting up and walking around quite a bit.

How do you like to explore a new city or destination?

When I travel, I prefer to walk myself to near death. 

Henry Mural
(Courtesy Ryan Henry Ward)

My Perfect Day

8 am: Sleep

10 am: Sleep

Noon: Sleep

2 pm: Wake up, have coffee. Eat a bit of food, take the dog swimming.

5 pm: Paint

8 pm: Paint

10 pm until 4 am: Paint