images & words by photographer Ryan Hamrick (@hamrick)
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably owned a bike for about as long as you can remember. As a kid, you loved having a way to get to friends’ houses, the gas station down the street for junk food, other places you weren’t technically supposed to go by yourself, you know, fun.
But personally, I can’t really remember ever loving my bike. Never. Until recently.
I’m Ryan Hamrick, and I’m a independent lettering artist and designer that recently transplanted to Austin, TX from Pittsburgh, PA. You may have seen some of my work over on the State Bicycle Co. Instagram page over the last couple of months (you’re not following State on Instagram? You should probably fix that…).
If you’re not familiar, Pennsylvania is pretty hilly. Sure there are some less-than-flat areas here in Austin too, but not where I’m at, and let’s face it, the climate is substantially more bike friendly here, especially come winter time.
So I decided I was going to try to get into cycling here, to try something new, get a little exercise, and shit, just to have some fun. Being a very visually-oriented person with a tendency to lean towards the minimal, the sleek, simplistic look of a fixed-gear bike was the clear direction for me to go in. After a little research, it was obvious that State Bicycle Co. was a strong leader in the market, so I instantly latched onto them. Smart move.
I’ve been riding the 6061 Black Label — in matte black, of course (minimal) — for about two months now, and honestly, it’s pretty incredible to see all the ways it’s changed different parts of my day-to-day life.
Naturally, I can already see a huge difference in my endurance and overall fitness; riding several miles nearly every day will do that for you. But I was surprised at how many other ways it has effected me.
I’ve never enjoyed any other form of exercise so much that I didn’t look forward to a rest day or a break from it. I literally feel like a bum if I don’t manage to get a good ride in at some point in each day.
One of the coolest things I’ve noticed, though, has to be how much a good ride gets my creative juices flowing. My time on my bike each morning has quickly become my single biggest inspiration-finding time of the day. They say walking is huge for thinking through problems, coming up with great ideas, etc. Well riding has proven to be like walking on steroids for me, in that regard.
I draw letters for a living, essentially, whether it be for logos, advertising, t-shirt design, you name it, and with letters, there’s only so many things you can do to them before they no longer look like the letters they’re supposed to be anymore. So finding new ways to get creative and stay original in my line of work can really be tough sometimes.
Since taking some personal time each day to ride and be totally free to let everything else go and be alone with my thoughts, I’ve seen a massive spike in genuine creativity and new inspiration. Talk about liberating.
Working on these Motivation Monday posts each week for the past couple months has been nothing short of amazing. With the exception of a solid suggestion from Mehdi on week two, I’ve been coming up with all the quotes for them myself, but I have to say, sometimes it feels a bit like cheating. The incredible shots and scenes created in these product images by Jeffrey Olsen are so beautiful, the story almost writes itself sometimes. You know you’ve caught the bug when just a dope picture of a bike is enough to get your blood pumping.
I use a lot of different techniques in my projects, so naturally, I’ve tackled these Monday posts in many different ways as well. Almost everything starts on paper, though. Sometimes, I go for a highly detailed pencil sketch, which I may or may not redraw in vector afterwards, depending on the overall look I’m going for.
Other times, I’ll bust out the brush pens and actually lay down the lettering in a more calligraphic writing style, as opposed to drawing it. I usually like to leave these as they are on paper, letting the beautifully rough edges naturally created by real brush strokes show through in the final piece after a high-res scan.
Sometimes, I’m feeling the backdrop so much, I’ll break out the Wacom tablet and straight-up letter directly over the image itself digitally like I did with this stunning shot of the Montecore 2.0.
No matter the method, though, I set out each week to produce a powerful piece of art that, when paired with the always legendary State photography, leaves you all with a strong nudge in the direction of getting out there with your bike and letting yourself be great.