You’ve probably seen his work on buildings around town. They’re hard to miss. And then there’s the signature: Henry.
So who is this Henry and what’s his story?
Let’s begin with this fact. Ryan Henry Ward is Seattle’s most prolific muralist. He has close to 200 murals around town.
Let’s get to another fact about the 41-year-old artist. When he was in third grade he wrote a letter to President Reagan, announcing he would be an artist one day, and requesting the President send him stickers. So did the President deliver?
“Nope, never got the stickers from Reagan. It’s probably why I’m more of a liberal now than a conservative,” he said laughing. “If he would have just sent me the stickers!”
And there’s this fact. The artist ended up in mental hospitals three times when he heard voices.
“The doctor said he was schizophrenic,” said his mother Teri Ann Ward.
“That was 2008. That was right after I’d finished my 35th mural in Seattle,” Ward said.
He emerged from the darkness.
He hasn’t had a psychotic episode in four years. And since then, he’s created many more murals for businesses, schools, and community organizations.
“When I’m painting, those are the moments when I just dissolve, and that’s like bliss, you know,” Ward said.
Ward uses his middle name as his signature.
“Everywhere you go, every neighborhood you go into, you’ll see a ‘Henry’ somewhere,” says one of his many fans.
Another fan talked about the brightness and joy his murals bring to us.
“Our city is so gray and he brought a lot of color into it,” the fan said.
It’s what he wants in his life, that brightness.
“If that’s what I want, that’s what I’m going to create,” he said.
With every mural he creates, you see the explosion of colors, splashes of silliness. It’s Henry’s visual take of the world.
“I don’t think he can not paint,” said his mother.
Good thing for us, he keeps painting.
Ward is a professional artist hired to create his signature murals, but often he’ll volunteer his time and talents if he feels it’s for a good cause.