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Las Vegas is the home of many beautiful women; however, none are quite as magical as those created by Kurtis Rykovich who pulls his inspiration from fairy tales, horror, comics and the furthest depths of his imagination. However, while his Damsels are the focus of his career as an artist, there’s more to Rykovich than just the dozens of beautiful women he’s brought to life. Take a look at how this painter found his footing in the art world, why he chooses to live in a fantasy universe and which leading lady will become his next muse.

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 When did you first develop an interest in art and do you have a professional education in painting?

I’ve had an interest in art for as long as I can remember. I was always drawing, painting and creating in some form. When I thought of the title “artist,” it is the only thing that stood out in my mind as something that I wanted to be. I really didn’t give myself a second choice. I grew up in a small town four hours from Las Vegas and I was so excited to attend college to focus on painting.

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How would you describe your signature style and how has it evolved over time?

My signature style has always been figurative and narrative. During my earlier years, I really wanted to perhaps branch out into fashion design, so a lot of my figures were pictured in more avant garde outfits and there was always a lesson to the piece.

Growing up, I loved fairy tales, anything magical or impossible. My mom was always introducing me to new aspects of fantasy, unfortunately she passed away when I was 17. Her death affected my style for a good four to five years, but then it clicked. I wanted to create worlds and characters full of energy, spirit and, perhaps, a dash of darkness, since no life is perfect. So this passion for fairy tales and beauty has led me to where I am now and will definitely continue to evolve.

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Why do you primarily paint women and when did you first develop an artistic interest in the female form?

I grew up around strong women and idolized them from a young age. I was a misfit in most parts of my childhood. I was never very “masculine” or interested in what typical boys in small country towns should be interested in. So, you could only imagine what kind of attention that gained, and as a result, I related more to female personalities. As I’ve progressed in my career, my Damsels have turned more into creatures — they represent beings with impossible beauty and always have a good dose of magic and darkness to them — that makes them seem inhuman. I have always wanted to be something unique, magical and rare, in a way, the Damsels are doing that for me.

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What led you to develop work inspired by popular culture and so far, who has been your favorite character to recreate?

About five years ago, I really started to ponder what made me an artist and why I started painting. I realized pop culture was a huge part of that, so I started to revisit some of my favorite fairy tales and icons when I was growing up. By far, my favorite pop culture subject I could revisit and paint over and over again would be Alice from “Alice in Wonderland.” I’ve painted different renditions of her quite a few times and there will probably be more to come in the future. She represents being lost then, at some point, finding yourself and to me, this is fascinating. I believe we all do this many times in our lives, at least I know I have. We all fall down the rabbit hole every now and then, and must find our way back. It is the journey in between those two events that pulls at my heart strings and inspires my different renditions of Alice and the creatures she runs into along the way.

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If you had to pick, would you rather paint Disney or comic book characters?

Disney, hands down. I relate to the way they have been able to make fairy tales so relatable. They are nostalgic and have helped create our morals and lessons on life. I love to explore the juxtaposition of their interpretation and original orientation of the fairy tales. A lot of these tales were originally not so lighthearted and had a helping of darkness that helped teach a lesson.

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Which pop culture character have you yet to paint but plan to in the near future? I don’t have just one, but my next would be Sleeping Beauty, a.k.a Briar Rose. I’ve painted her once, but it was many years ago. I’ve since read the original fairy tale again and I’m itching to get another chance to create her. The image keeps rolling around in my mind and waiting for the right time to be created. There’s something about this fairy tale; perhaps it’s the beauty and helplessness of an endless sleep. There’s so much angst and dynamic feelings, when you read this tale that has not yet been portrayed in pop culture. With all the deadly spindles, thorns and dark fairies—how can I resist?

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What’s up next for Kurtis Rykovich? I hope, in the near future, to do some larger pieces and create larger environments that expand beyond the portraiture of the Damsel. I want to give you a peek into their world, just like if you happened to be a fly on the wall in that moment. I also want to further look back into my past and pull inspiration from different areas of folklore and mythology. My Damsels have become such a key part in representing feeling in my work that they will continue to take the main stage, but I will be looking into their lives and expanding the lens to unveil a little more of their world. It’s a challenge I am ready for.