Ryan Crippen (aka Reactor-88) is a digital & traditional artist located in Los Angeles. While his interaction design job pays the bills, during his free time he enjoys designing and hand-painting his own art toys. His other hobbies include 3D modeling, motion design, tinkering around with machinery & electronics, woodworking, and DIY home improvement. He also enjoys spending time with his wife and dogs, hanging out with friends, riding his motorcycles & mountain bikes, and just being close to the water. He caught the art toy bug back in 2005 while on a mission to get back into traditional painting. His hand-painted toy designs are highly sought after by toy collectors and he has been a fixture in toy shows & events in the U.S. and abroad.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- Q: Where did the name “Reactor-88” come from? Is it your grafitti/street name?
A: I appreciate street art, but I have never been a grafitti artist. The name Reactor-88 spawned from a time when I was searching for a name for my portfolio website. The reactor part came from an abstract 3D digital art piece I created with what I dubbed as a “mini reactor”. The number 8 is important to me as it is extremely positive and holy in Japanese culture.
- Q: How do you paint such clean, crisp lines? Do you use masks and stencils?
A: All of my line work is done by hand- no stencils or masks. I’m very patient and have many years of practice behind my artwork- I’ll attribute most of it to that. I do have some tricks I use to keep my hands steady- like a strategically placed pillow to support my arm sometimes.
- Q: You used to paint “totem”-looking toys and stuff? What happened?
A: I have a fascination with native/tribal artwork, and was really drawn to the art of the Pacific Northwestern Native Americans- Totem poles specifically. I spent a lot of time researching and studying the art, symbology, and meaning behind them. Around the same time I found designer toys and the world of toy customizing, so I painted a Kidrobot Munny as an homage to their art. It was received extremely well and needless to say things snowballed from there. It made me happy that I was painting objects that had a lot of meaning to me and were also being enjoyed by the art toy community. My hope was that my creations would encourage people to learn more about the PNW Native American art and culture.
- While this was all well and good, I was always a bit torn creating these pieces- while they were my own stylized designs and concepts, the origin of the style itself was definitely nothing I could ever claim as being my own. I did paint other types of toys and also put focus on my original Spade-Skull designs, but as the years went on, I became known as the “Totem Guy” and that I basically “owned that style” it in the art toy world. When I first heard that, it really made me think about whether this is something I should continue doing. At the same time the topic of cultural appropriation began springing up more in the news, so I spoke with some Native American friends on the general subject and in regards to the toy art I was creating. While being fully aware at how Native Americans have been marginalized by Western society throughout history, but being champions of the arts, they personally felt what I was doing was okay. They didn’t feel I was misrepresenting my work as having traditional cultural significance, and it was stylized enough to be different in an artistic sense. That sort of put me at ease, but it always stuck in the back of my mind. So from around 2014 on I’ve slowed down a lot with my custom painted toy work for this reason (and a few others). While I was still producing a handful of “Totem” toys in that time, I was also starting to focus on other creative endeavors and thinking about moving in new directions.
- Recently I had an online interaction with an individual who definitely felt what I was creating was inappropriate. With that information and a better understanding of the subject in general, I’ve decided I will no longer be painting custom toys that are styled after or resemble any part of the Native American culture. I’ve also removed all references to them on my site, social media, and other areas I can control. Moving forward I will be putting my energy back into my original Spade-Skull designs and focusing on other concepts that are buried in my ancient sketchbook.