Ryden studied Illustration and graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, in 1987. His solo debut show entitled "The Meat Show" was in Pasadena, California in 1998. He currently lives and works in Eagle Rock, California, in a studio that he shares with his partner, artist Marion Peck. He is divorced and has two children Rosie and Jasper.
Ryden's work combines a saccharine cartoon-like sensibility - much like the doe-eyed Margaret Keane creatures of the 1960s - with a detailed fullness and a creepy combination of numerology, little girls, meat, Catholic and Buddhist symbolism, and carnivalesque Americana. Toys are a big component of his art. His work ranges from large highly-polished oil paintings to small black-and-white works on paper. Like modern illustrators Sir John Tenniel and Edward Gorey, Ryden is influenced by the fantastic art of Alice in Wonderland and early Renaissance landscapes.
Ryden's work has gained greater prominence within the public domain thanks to so-called lowbrow art publications such as Juxtapoz in which his work features regularly. In fact Ryden has collaborated with other lowbrow artists such as Gary Baseman and Tim Biskup, in addition to composers Stan Ridgway (Wall of Voodoo) and Pietra Wexstun, (the CD soundtrack to "Blood - Miniature Paintings of Sorrow and Fear")
Mark Ryden's paintings instantly trigger a warped déjà vu. His works recall a parallel universe of 1950s Little Golden Books and the whimsy of Lewis Carroll. His cheery bunnies, rendered in the glowing hues of children's books, are more likely to be carving slabs of meat rather than frolicking in the forest. Ryden's work mingles superb technique with outre images to create a world of strange and disturbing beauty. At once intriguing and unsettling, baffling and enchanting, Ryden's works are subtle amalgams of many sources and influences as wide-ranging as Psychedelic and Vienna School artists, Neon Park and Ernst Fuchs, to classical French formalists Ingres and David. In November of 2001 Ryden his debut New York exhibition with the Earl McGrath Gallery which then traveled on to the Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, CA. Mark Ryden was born on January 20, 1963 in Medford, Oregon, but grew up in Southern California. He received a B.F.A. in 1987 from Art Center in Pasadena, California. He currently resides in Eagle Rock, California.
Ryden has designed album covers, and his paintings are in public and private collections. Over the past decade, the marriage of accessibility and craftsmanship has catapulted Ryden beyond his roots and to the attention of museums, critics and serious collectors. Ryden’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide, including a recent museum retrospective “Wondertoonel” at the Frye Museum of Art in Seattle and Pasadena Museum of California Art.
Ryden's current exhibit, "The Tree Show," opened to acclaim at the Michael Kohn gallery in Los Angeles on March 10, 2007 -- and features a selection of oil paintings and sculptures. A separate chamber, containing many of Ryden's detailed studies for each of the paintings and exquisitely carved frames, is also made available. The largest of the paintings, "The Tree of Life," sold for $800,000 before the exhibit opened. According to Gallery currators, one later addition, an oil painting featuring a ghostly girl in a wooded location, has been acquired by Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.
Mark Ryden has two sisters and two brothers, one a fellow artist named Keyth, (the spelling from Keith was changed in 1969, for reasons relating to numerology and to distinguish himself from his father's first name) who professionally goes by the name KRK Ryden.
Ryden was one of the guests to attend the wedding of Jessicka and Christian Hejnal of Scarling. on October 13, 2007 in Los Angeles. His wedding gift was a miniature portrait of the couple was a faithful adaptation of Jan Van Eyck's "Arnolfini Portrait" that was reproduced on the invitations.