What inspires Las Vegas artist, musician and mental health advocate Ryan Brunty?

Ryan Brunty poses in front of his mural at Fremont and 11th streets.
Photo: Steve Marcus

Depression is invisible. When it hit Ryan Brunty, he decided to give it a sympathetic face, drawing a “sad yeti” named Yerman. Today, Yerman’s gloomy expression and brave posture is at the heart of Depressed Monsters, Brunty’s apparel and toy line. Part of the proceeds from the line are donated to various mental health agencies, and Brunty takes advantage of its popularity to speak about depression-related issues. (Visit depressedmonsters.com to learn more.)

Presently, Brunty is creating Yerman’s spring line, rehearsing a new, “skate punk-themed” band with his former Moonboots bandmate John Coulter and, as ever, devoting himself to his girlfriend, singer-songwriter Sabriel (“I’m just fully immersed in what she’s doing every day … She can look at something, focus on it 100 percent and just learn it.”). But he’s more than happy to take a work break to talk about the art, music and people that keep him energized.

What are your biggest artistic influences? Music has always been the big influence on me, whether I’m playing it or listening to it or researching it. Since I was a kid, it’s been Kurt Cobain. Kid Cudi has a big influence on what I do; he struggles with his mental health, and he’s really courageous about how he talks about it.

But I really like just about everything. Show me a country song and I’m gonna like it. Currently, though, it’s this genre called vaporwave, which is ... they down-sample ’80s music, mostly. And there’s a subgenre of vaporwave called mallsoft that’s supposed to give you the feeling of walking through a mall in the ’90s. I know it sounds so hipster and out there, but I just absolutely love it.

I know you’re a comics fan. What are you reading right now? I’ve been working on a graphic novel on and off for the past five years. It’s been on the back burner for a while, but to get inspired, I go through slice-of life-graphic novels. One is Blankets by Craig Thompson; it’s an amazing memoir about growing up in a really conservative Christian household. I’m also reading Daytripper by Fabio Moon. Basically, it’s about him reliving the best days of his life.

Where’s the best place in this town to see art that you like, on a consistent basis? I like experiential art. I’m really excited about Area 51 opening up; I think that’s gonna be super cool. Though I’m gonna be honest with you, the best place to see art is ... I’ve kind of created this cocoon in my house so I can stay focused. I’m just constantly surrounded by work from artists that inspire me. I’m super inspired by other artists that are outside of the realm of things that I do. It makes me wanna try harder, and be a better artist and a better person.

And how about live music? Bunkhouse forever. They consistently book the best bands in town.

Where do you go in town to decompress? Well, it was Bonnie Springs. When [it was] announced that it was gonna be torn down, that was a kick in the gut. Usually, though, I’ll just walk around Downtown and try to get inspired. I love Water Street, too. I like to walk a lot. That’s how I find peace when I’m stressed out—I’ll walk around and feel the breeze, feel my feet on the ground. You know, the age-old psychology stuff of just being present and mindful.


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