Ryan Hoerner: Cryptic Crayon

What is your background in art? How did you get started?

I started early in life being taken by people's creativity and ever since I was a kid I wanted to create something unique, something I had thought up and haven’t seen done before. I took every possible art class through High School and College. After trying just about every medium I could get my hands on I found my own path. 

Tell us about your process.

I like to keep a note of ideas I think of on my phone, it all starts with a concept for me. I really like to have meaning to what I am making.  I then draw everything up and melt it directly to wooden canvases I build. Its essentially a variable heat element so I can drag wax from the crayon directly to the canvas at certain temperatures. Crayons will change color based on the heat applied (that was pretty much year 2 of developing my process). Everything is sealed with a top coat to prevent future melting. 

What inspires you? Who are your biggest influences?

This is a hard one to condense into a few sentences but I find the most inspiring thing to me are people with true passion. These truly passionate people eat sleep and breathe their work or craft. These creatives often sacrifice a personal life to pursue this passion, which can be misconstrued as selfish but I can attest there is no choice when you are passionate. As far as specific influences I would say Alex Grey is high up on my list. Personal friends have had a huge influence on helping me put myself out into the world. My Uncle Steve was an extremely talented artist and he always inspired me to walk a creative path.


What are the biggest hurdles to creating? Do you ever suffer from artist's block? How do you cure it?

I think the biggest thing for any artist in any field is to find your voice or perspective. Embracing the thing that makes you unique propels you into a creative mind set. I find “artist’s block” dissipates once you know yourself as an artist.

Why crayons?

It was an idea based on nostalgia and where artists first become creative as a child. I wanted to show something geared for kids can be applied in a unique never seen before way.

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How long did it take for you to master the process of melting crayons?

I am currently in my 8th year of melting crayons now. I think it got to a point that I was proud to show it in its 5-6th year but I have made some key developments in technique since then and expect to make more in the future. The creative process of developing a technique from scratch is my favorite part and I know I will make changes or discoveries to make it better as I continue.

Do you prefer a specific brand of crayon? 

I have tried them all and should’ve expected the result from the start, Crayola is the ultimate crayon. They have the brightest pigment with the least amount of wax. I think we all remember getting crayons at a restaurant and they were almost clear when you tried to draw or color with them. Also Crayola allows you to buy in bulk by the color which is very helpful especially with large pieces. 


Is there anything you can’t live without in your art studio other than crayons?

The most important tool I use is a simple wood burning knife with a variable temperature control, very important to control the flow and prevent colors from changing due to high heat.

Do you hide meanings in the pieces or is there a story that you are trying to tell? 

That is essentially why I decided on the name Cryptic Crayon. Planting meanings and secret images that propel to an overall theme. Now in saying that, I love that art can be interpreted in any way by the viewer so even if I am meaning one thing it can be seen as something else. My messages range to something small like the Buffalo Head Series where the Buffalo Heads are made up of things we hold dear in Buffalo to the upcoming gallery which is an idea that overlaps all of the pieces. 


Tell us about your gallery opening?

The gallery opening on August 3rd is a plan I had about a year ago. I wanted to get back to some landscapes and as I haven’t done any with my crayon technique. I thought it was a perfect time to explore it again. The show is titled “Vessels” and has a message of how everything is linked in one way or another. One of my go to designs is organic shapes and lines that are similar to the shapes of roots, rivers, circulatory systems and roads. Rivers are vessels that transport waters to carve our lands and nourish life. Roots reach into the ground to grasp nutrients and continue its path of growth, splintering and spidering off in random directions in hopes to find more to absorb. The vessels in our bodies transport oxygen through the body and help us grow to what we become. Lastly, roads guide people into certain directions, even those who take the less traveled way are still connected to the main vessel that it has sprouted from. Vessels and the organic maze they create drive life forward and yet it all seems to be an organized-chaos as the end result is something humans ponder quite often…”why?”

The show will start with a happy hour across the street at Colter Bay (561 Delaware Ave. Buffalo) from 4-6pm where people will have the opportunity to win prizes and artwork before the gallery opens at Buffalo Big Print (78 Allen St. Buffalo) from 6-9pm. Colter Bay will also be catering the gallery opening.


Is there a piece you are most proud of?

I actually really am proud of the show as whole. Most pieces took anywhere from 70-160 hours each to create so I am very happy to see the light at the end of this year long tunnel.


What organizations do you work with?

I spend so much time melting crayons I do not have much time for a personal life, but I donate to causes I believe in.

What are your short term goals/long term goals?

I would love to make art my full time gig. That is pretty much every goal of mine. I work in an artistic field though so I have it pretty good.


Any advice you wish you listened to or ignored when starting out as an artist? 

I try not to live in the “what if” land but I can tell you the best advice I ever received about being an artist. When I was a year or two into developing the crayon technique my friend said to me “just jump in and figure it out as you go or else you will never do it” he was referring to me opening a shop, and selling at shows. I took his advice and never looked back. Sure you have valleys and peaks but that's the fun part of creating, learning a better way to do what you're doing and perfecting the craft. 

Can people place an order for a custom piece? If so, how would they do this?

The best way is to email me (cryptic.crayon.ryan@gmail.com) and then we can discuss size and intricacy as thats what really determines the price. 


Anything else you'd like to share?

I'd just like to thank everyone who’s been supporting me over the past 8 years and can’t wait to take the next step creatively.


Band: Mogwai 

Movie or TV Show: Absolutely Anything Sci-fi

Bar/Restaurant: Fat Bobs

Place to go Unwind: Camping anywhere

Animal: Wolf or Lion but can settle with either a cat or dog 

Food: Addicted to Haribo Gummies! 


For more about Cryptic Crayon follow along:

Instagram - @Crypticcrayon

Facebook -Cryptic Crayon


Drew Williams