The Lost Medium of Watercolors: The Art of Ryan Tramonte

May 07, 2018
Ryan Tramonte’s watercolors exist within that elusive moment when a glimmer of sunlight escapes through the majestic oak trees that shield New Orleans from the brutal summer sun’s rays and pierces the eye. Ryan’s unique use of vibrant colors, light, and perspective plays with the viewer and even tricks the hypothalamus into thinking one’s own body temperature is rising. His works speak to the tender, benevolent side of the The Big Easy.

I sat down with Tramonte over a glass of Thai iced tea he had been steeping all afternoon and a plate of irresistible chocolate chip cookies. We were in the kitchen of his studio, Pink RyNo Studio that doubles as his country home and on that particular night, was to be the venue of a small after prom celebration for his son, Brennan.

It was quintessential southern hospitality.

Experimenting with different elements in his works, Tramonte explains: “I like to work with light and dark; I like to make it unrealistic too. There’s a piece in the studio right now that’s totally wrong--it should not be lit that way. But, the way that it is, looks really good. And so, someone who knows light and dark will know that it’s not lit correctly.” Color is important with watercolor painting and Tramonte has his finger right on the pulse of how far to push a color before the all too common point of no return, when you are talking about this medium. “I will mix color just to find new color, it’s actually a wonderful and therapeutic way to investigate color.

Pointing to the bleeding edges on one of his originals, Tramonte continues: “I do not love this. I have to have some kind of control because with watercolor you really don’t have a lot of control. So, for someone like me who’s detail-orientated, this is really a medium that should be driving me crazy. Instead it’s driving me to success.” The undefined and loose edges of watercolor seem to serve as a strong boundary for what Tramonte is willing to allow to happen in each piece.

Challenging himself to find a subject matter that would excite and reignite the younger generation’s curiosity in watercolors, he succeeded with one of his more surprising themes—insects! “The more colorful and ostentatious I go with the insects, the more the younger crowd responds. Landscapes—snooze fest!”

Against the backdrop of Tramonte’s grandmother’s kitchen, he recounts his first memory related to his passion for art. “My dad’s mother was my Maw Maw Tony and she had a drawer in her kitchen that was all the way to the right-hand side of the cabinet. And in that drawer was a little box—if you look inside my studio today, I keep everything in little boxes. And in the box were No. 2 pencils and a roll of paper, sometimes even paper towels. I would sit on the front porch, which is where the whole family would sit pretty much daily in the spring and summertime. I started drawing there. It was my mom who picked up on the fact that there was something more than just stick figures happening.”

Despite showing early signs of talent, Tramonte’s story was not completely linear. “Southeast Louisiana is a wonderful place to grow up, but back in the 80’s it was not necessarily the most wonderful place to have your artistic talent nurtured. While my mother was actually very influential in putting me in the right lessons and my art teacher, Barbara Louque, was phenomenal, you didn’t really get a lot of support, you didn’t see men painting a lot back, or at least not where a teenager might be able to see them. I’m not one of these artists that have created all my life. In my early twenty’s I quit and picked it up just about two years ago. Which is great for me to come back to art and one of the first major things I did was the Sings and Strings Jam festival poster in Garyville— I’m from Lutcher but Garyville is right next door. The place I thought that never supported my gift now has giant banners of my artwork all over town.”

Since returning to his talent two years ago, Tramonte has produced a studio full of originals and countless prints and giclées, in an effort to provide accessible art for the masses. “Once you’ve made a million dollars, you should be able to buy whatever you want. But until then, there should be an opportunity out there for people to collect. I want people to be able to afford original artwork.”

Tramonte’s mission is to begin a program that brings affordable art lessons to kids and families. His hopes are to make sure that younger generations not only have a sense of their talent and the support talent needs to flourish. You can find his entire watercolor and acrylic collections at