This is one of those stories that simply makes you feel good and proves that the human spirit can overcome all obstacles to pursue a dream. Such is the case with Ryan Forshaw, master graphic designer, illustrator and visionary...

Beauty out of Adversity

Ryan Forshaw, was not always into visual imaging or design. In fact, those were probably the last things on his mind as a young man coming of age in Manchester UK. Yet as all young men do, Ryan took to showing off for friends while playing around on the soccer field at school one evening in 1996. Hanging up-side-down from the soccer post, he lost his grip and took a fall that would result in a serious, disabilitating injury to his spinal column... leaving him irreparably paralized for life. And this is the beginning of Ryan's journey through adversity into the world of digital arts. Ryan would experience a long recovery and rehabilitation in the Spinal injuries unit of the Manchester hospital. In the occupational therapy department they had computers which were setup with headsets that enable people with no hand movement to control the systems. The headset which is connected to the computer has a receiver box which sits on top of the monitor and on the headset there are three small boxes, one in the centre and one on the right and left, when the computer turns their head in whichever direction the infra-red picks up the movement and moves the screen cursor as needed. To left click there is a tube that is placed in the users mouth and when blowed into it clicks a switch. For the right click button there is a large button about 2 inches diameter which rests near your head or shoulder.

With the introduction to this equipment, Ryan became infatuated with the use of computers -- even in his paralyzed state. Having a keen interest in art he was instantly attracted to the possibilities that the computer programs could offer. During long months of rehabilitation, he became proficient in MS paint and Jasc PSP 6 until several years later discovering Adobe Photoshop. Since then there has been no looking back.

Digging into the wealth of knowledge available for digital imaging, Ryan studied digital imaging from people already making a living from their skills. After learning and still learning new techniques the prospect of creating digital art appealed to him as a means of income and perhaps even a life-long profession. He sent some of his work to competitions in the digital imaging magazines and online contests -- and was delighted to have his work placed in a few top picks and win a few prizes in the process.

Early this year he took the plunge and began setting up his own business. The rest is history as Ryan' design studio takes on more and more design, illustration and photo manipulation projects for hire.

Let's take a look, and let Ryan fill you in on just a couple of pieces...

Ryan says:

The troll image was created for a digital photography competition. The brief was to create a self portrait image and manipulate the image in any way you liked. To give the troll rough textured skin I used photographs of reptile skin and wooden textures and desaturated these and applied the overlay blending mode to blend then into the human skin which had a green colour balance adjustment layer applied. To give the effect of the troll be part of the forest I used a mask to blend the neck with a tree stump. The Image took second place in the competition.

camera fuse Camera fuse: This image was created to illustrate time. To do so I scanned a sample of film strip and a fuse. I then added the fuse to each section of the strip which was gradually being burned down the closer the film strip gets to the camera. To give the strip a sense of movement I applied the Distort > Shear filter and added a Gaussian blur filter to the section which appears closer to the viewer. For the explosion and sparks coming from the burning fuse I had some fire photos with a black background and added a Radial zoom blur to these and used a screen layer blending mode and positioned them in place. The final touch was to scan a lit match to and incorporate this into the composite to add more interest.
Here are the components
Here is the finished image

Other favorites...

  • The Lounging Lizard combines an unusual photo with some rather usual artifacts! (for the full effect, hover you mouse cursor over the photo!)
  • Street Chopper: takes an ordinary photo and transports it into a not so ordinary setting, and
  • The image of a Lion is the springboard for a creative adventure into an unreal world --- with a little help from a tree and a cloudy sky.

Ryan's insight and perception is remarkable -- and as you can see, he was able to rise through some life-changing adversity to bring forth beauty in digital imaging. But that's not all Ryan is up to. Take a look at Ryan's rather excellent portfolio at

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