Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Art in the park with henry

"Quadrapus and Friends" by Seattle mural artist Ryan "Henry" Ward.

Art in the park with Henry: An afternoon of community creativity

Some families are always on the lookout for Henry!

My family and I loved the sun and palm trees when we first moved to Los Angeles nearly a decade ago, but it was no Emerald City. Boy, did we ever find ourselves missing Seattle! 

Like gut-wrenching missing.

To help ease the longing, I wanted to find something that really reminded us of home. 

But what?

The answer came in the art of Ryan Henry Ward — the artist who signs his murals and other works with the simple black-lettered moniker “Henry” enclosed in a white bubble.

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Meet Henry at Golden Gardens

Meet the artist Ryan Henry Ward, aka Henry, at Golden Gardens park on Saturday, September 10. Bring your own painting supplies and create within a community during the “Art in the Park with Henry” from noon to 6 p.m.

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Move over Space Needle

For many people, especially visitors, the Space Needle is the first image that comes to mind when they think of “the rain city.” But for a lot of us Seattle-area locals, the colorful art signed “Henry” trumps that glimmering orange-topped tower. 

Filled with fantastical elements, wide-eyed fish and animals and mythical creatures in eye-popping hues, Henry paintings reflect what the artist most wants viewers to feel: playful, happy, curious, imaginative, joyous. 

That’s why we commissioned Ward to travel down to our California home and paint murals on several outside walls. We needed a happy, boisterous reminder of home. 

Art in the park with henry

The “tree of life” mural depicting the author’s family created by Seattle artist Ryan Henry Ward, aka Henry. Photo by Joe Shapiro.

A special boon for us was getting to spend time with Ward, who stayed at our place to complete the murals. We were overjoyed with the colorful “tree of life” that included all of us depicted as animals – a Henry signature — that Ward left behind when he returned home. Through evening conversations with Ward and his pup, we got to know a little about the wounds and passion that have driven him to become one of Seattle’s most prolific artists.

A healing work

Ward’s is an amazing story that moves from a terrible accident to mental illness to healing and success through self-acceptance and almost daily painting. 

“I use painting as a tool for my mental health,” he says.  I feel like when I paint daily, my mind is calm, focussed and in a general healthy frame of mind.”

Although children certainly gravitate toward the works of Henry, Ward says he doesn’t paint with any specific age range in mind.

 “I feel like my art connects to people from all age groups,” the artist says. “It transcends being for a certain audience. As an artist, I want to inspire people to live their dreams and utilize their imaginations to the fullest extent.”

An artist who never stops

Since the early 2000s, when Ward started painting Seattle in high-energy hues and imaginative creatures and depictions of nature, his signature now jumps out from more than 2,800 canvases and 500 murals across the country. About 450 of them are located in and around Seattle, painted on restaurant exteriors, school walls, retaining walls, shops, houses, cars and other surfaces throughout the region, Henry art pieces have been associated with major local companies, including Microsoft, Amazon, Seattle Sounders, The Sasquatch Festival, The Seattle Times and others. Most recently, he installed two murals in the Orcas business park in Georgetown.

Bringing Henry home

His art also hangs on the walls of a lot of local homes. Henry paintings are available on canvas, limited-edition prints and non-limited prints. They come in book form, as plush animals, on hats and tee-shirts and more. There are Henry stickers, posters, mugs, giclee prints, patches. 

Recently, the artist turned some of his favorite works into wooden puzzles. Want a creative way to add a Henry to your home? Purchase a puzzle ($40-95 at Itsahenry.com), put it together as a family, glue it to a board and hang it. Voila! 

Art in the park with henry

Henry art in wooden puzzle form.

Paint in the Park with Henry

Ward will be painting and eager to chat with other artists – all ages, all levels, any medium – during his September 10 “art in the park” event.

“Art in the park day is not only for kids. It’s for all people,” says Ward. “I love the simplicity of the concept. Let’s get together as a community and make art. Bring your own art project to work on, bring some food and drinks and let’s enjoy making art as a community.” 

Be sure to pack your own art supplies to join in the fun. 

Ward hopes participants take art away from the event, but also something more:

“I hope people feel a sense of goodness and good-natured community of artists and creatives getting together for nothing more than creating together.”

Back in Seattle and always looking

Our family is back in Seattle now, having returned here at the front end of the pandemic with several of the Henry paintings we’ve accumulated over the years. The murals he painted on our California home now welcome another family home.

It turns out we just couldn’t live on palm trees and sun alone. We needed gray skies and evergreens, and to be able to walk through Ballard and other parts of the city doing one of our favorite things – hunting down Henrys.

Read more at Seattle’s Child:

“Seattle’s Child calendar upcoming events”

 

About the Author

Cheryl Murfin

Cheryl Murfin is managing editor at Seattle's Child. She is also a certified doula, lactation educator for NestingInstinctsSeattle.com and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at Compasswriters.com.