1 of 2
Photo courtesy of Ryland Lovvorn.
Ryland Lovvorn is an Oak Mountain High School graduate and current Samford University student.
2 of 2
Photo courtesy of Ryland Lovvorn.
Ryland Lovvorn is a mixed media artist, and she works with prints, weaving, photography and other media.
Art is something Ryland Lovvorn has always enjoyed but for a while did not actively pursue. She wanted to be a nurse for most of her life, but when it came down to applying for college, she had to reassess that goal.
“I started looking at schools based on nursing and when it boiled down to it, I had to sit back and think, ‘Do I want to go to medical school and do nursing, or do I want to enhance this love of art I already have?’” said Lovvorn, an Oak Mountain High School graduate and Samford University senior. She ultimately decided to pursue a future in art, “which was a very scary decision, but I’m glad I did it,” Lovvorn said. She now runs her own business, called Ryland Creative.
She said she enjoyed coloring books and creative activities as a kid, but the door to the art world was not really opened until she transferred from Westminster School at Oak Mountain to Oak Mountain High School in her sophomore year.
“It was a hard transition [between schools], but the art classes at Oak Mountain definitely helped kind of open that world to creativity,” Lovvorn said.
Her art teacher helped inspire her and other students, including the ones who did not really want to take art, Lovvorn said. The classes also provided a chance to dabble in different types of art.
She also kicked off her Etsy shop in high school, which Lovvorn said was pretty much a way to make money.
“It very much started out as, ‘OK, what does everyone like? What’s selling right now?’ … so I was doing floral patterns on cups and paintings and that sort of stuff. Not really stuff I’m super passionate about,” Lovvorn said.
Since she decided to fully pursue art, however, Lovvorn has grown more comfortable in her role as an artist. Her courses at Samford University have helped hone her art, she said, but being surrounded by students with set education tracks and career paths — those in nursing school or pursuing business degrees — can make the open world of art kind of intimidating.
“For a long time, I was very hesitant to take on, ‘I’m an artist. This is what I’m going to do. This is what I’m passionate about,’” Lovvorn said. She even pursued other majors as ways to apply her art, such as architecture, but did not find any of those paths as fulfilling. A study trip abroad to London during fall 2016, however, helped calm some of her worries.
“After London, I was like — I can do this,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what people say. This is something I’m passionate about, and if it is, the Lord has clearly planned it out for me to take it full force and stop worrying about what everyone’s thinking.”
The semester-long trip to London was inspiring for a variety of reasons, Lovvorn said. During that trip, she was able to pursue more photography and develop that skill.
She also saw creative people who were surrounded and supported by the community, which she said demonstrated that art is a viable career path.
She felt similar support when she — surrounded by other artists — was featured during Birmingham Art Crawl in 2016 and sold more pieces than she expected.
Other times those ideas have been supported were when she helped create costumes and props and paint faces for her sorority in Step Sing, an annual event at Samford.
“This is what I’m gifted at, and I’m going to use that,” Lovvorn said. “Kind of getting to see my gifts used and appreciated has definitely helped.”
After graduating in May, she said she hopes to take time to refine and develop her art, but in the long term, Lovvorn hopes to use her skills in art therapy. Her parents’ recovery ministry, called Route 1520, helped encourage her to use her artwork as a way to help others.
“You can’t help but just see the Lord all around,” she said. “Definitely my faith has infiltrated it, and that’s why I want to be able to use it as a therapy and to help people in the recovery process. I definitely want to use it in a way that gives back.”
Her parents also inspired her to continue with art, despite any doubt she had about it.
“If it weren’t for my parents, I probably wouldn’t even be doing art right now,” she said. “Just because my dad being a creative, my mom being a dreamer — they’re the reason I really stuck with it.”
As an artist, Lovvorn said she hopes other artists, especially young ones, feel encouraged to pursue their gifts. While actively working toward a career involving art was “better late than never,” Lovvorn said she wants to make sure others do not let what other people say or expect to get in their way.
“Because I really think I let that hinder my process, and I think if I had just taken it full force and just gone with it, I’d be interested to kind of see where that Ryland would be,” she said. “I would just encourage young artists and creatives to get in a creative community.”
For more on Lovvorn’s work, go to rylandlovvorn.com.