Top 12 Titles for Creatives

Top 12 Titles for Creatives

My Top 12 Titles for Creatives – Thought Provoking work on Creativity

I find myself sharing many of the gems of wisdom found within these books with students, and thought that having a reading list resource for creatives would be a good addition to my blog. I hope you enjoy! The links are affiliate links: If you order, I receive a tiny credit from Amazon. I have listed them in no particular order….

But first: new work from my week at Menucha:

"Night by the Sea" ©Ruth Armitage, Watercolor on paper 15x22"

“Night by the Sea” ©Ruth Armitage, Watercolor on paper 15×22″

Some of my Favorite Reads:

First: A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech – This is a look at some of the psychological processes that happen during creativity. If I had to pick just one of these books for students to read, this might be the one!

 A Kick in the Seat of the Pants by Roger von Oech – More wisdom and creativity exercises from the author of A Whack on the Side of the Head. 

Another Great:

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield – This is a quick read, and a very motivational look at what holds us back from creating. I would probably rate this book as the 2nd most important on the list!

The Art Spirit by Robert Henri – a true classic.

Robert Genn Letters Vol. 1 & 2 – Short essays on creativity, painting, art, galleries and life. Genn attracted a cult following by writing ‘letters’ to his blog followers each week.

Bird by Bird by Anne LaMott – This book is about writing, but everything LaMott describes about creative writing also applies to painting and other creative pursuits. I love her sense of humor and self-deprecating wit. I can honestly say, this book helped me solidify my identity as an artist.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert – Gilbert somehow gets the nitty gritty of the mystical parts of the creative process. A very enjoyable read, and a new way to think about the ego.

Strictly for inspiration

Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver – Mary Oliver always inspires. She is a true creative genius.

Art and Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland – a great read about the psychology of creativity.

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp – Though Tharp describes her creative process as a choreographer and dancer, there are pearls of wisdom for all creatives in this fascinating peek into her world.

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon – A quick read with lots of food for thought.

For the Practical Minded:

I’d Rather Be in the Studio by Alyson B. Stanfield – This is a classic manual for how to create a business from your art. Artists don’t always think of themselves as business people. Alyson helps turn that thinking around with practical guidance to take you from hobbyist to professional.

Finally, The Creative Curve by Allen Gannett – I’ll admit, I haven’t read this one yet, but it will be next on my list. Gannett, founder and CEO of the marketing analytics firm TrackMaven examines the science behind whether ideas sink or swim in this fast-paced environment.

Do you have any favorite books on creativity or art? If I’ve missed your favorite, please share in the comments below!

The Seduction of Praise

The Seduction of Praise

Praise and success are a tricky thing for the artist. While everyone wants to be successful and praise is seductive, the nature of art is so subjective that there are many definitions of success. During the creative process, we run the risk of becoming perfectionistic if we allow thoughts of success to overpower the idea at hand. We all know that perfectionism is fear, and bold creations cannot thrive in an atmosphere of fear.

“We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.” – Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

I have been re-reading “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. I find it difficult to maintain a regular studio routine during the holidays. Well, let’s be honest here. I always find it hard to maintain a regular studio routine. That’s what the book is about. I’ve been trying to balance making time for artwork with preparing for the Christmas holidays. At times like this I’m thankful to have a dedicated studio space where I can retreat, even for short periods.

Another reason that praise or success can be a fickle mistress is that it breeds pride. Pride is different than self-confidence. Hubris, or pride, is the most serious of the 7 Deadly Sins. I’m not talking about feeling the humble joy of success. Hubris is more about egoism, or undeserved self-aggrandizment. I have seen many artists hamper their own creative growth because of pride. Pride demands that we ‘save face’ and avoid failure. The creative process demands that we risk failure to grow and change.

“Success leads to the greatest failure, which is pride. Failure leads to the greatest success, which is humility and learning.” – David Brooks, The Road to Character

Artists must always monitor the evaluation of their own work. One must be unflinchingly honest – we have to maintain a healthy amount of self-esteem to even attempt self-expression. But we must avoid hubris or false pride in order to maintain humility and openess to the creative process.

Avoiding Seduction – Keeping it in perspective

Everyone loves to hear that their work touched someone. Sales tell me that someone loved my work enough to live with it. I also receive positive feedback from social media and from juried shows. But by the same token, I know that I need to remember:

  • Moma probably won’t be calling me next week
  • Most juried shows contain one or more paintings that don’t impress me
  • Most people are happy with hanging wall decor from Target or any other Big Box Store

All this is to preface the announcement that I will have work in another upcoming juried show:

“Jump” ©Ruth Armitage, Acrylic on Paper 30×22″

Ratindra Das has accepted “Jump” for the 9th Annual Signature American Watermedia Exhibition in Fallbrook, CA. I’m honored to be in great company. Artists must be a signature member of a Watercolor Society or Group to enter this show. So, the competition is tougher to get in. Standards for achieving signature membership vary.  Generally it means your work has been accepted into more than one exhibition or has passed a review board.

The show will run February 4 – April 15, 2018

Open Daily February 4 through April 15, 2018 | Mon – Sat 10 am – 4 pm | Sun Noon – 3 pm

The Janice Griffiths Gallery @ The Fallbrook Art Center
103 S. Main Ave, Fallbrook, CA 92028

Art for Everyone – Sitka Invitational

Art for Everyone – Sitka Invitational

Two shows this week:

Art for Everyone – Sitka Invitational!


Please join me to celebrate the release of Art for Everyone, a new textbook created by the Faculty at Chemeketa Community College to help alleviate the high cost of textbooks for art students. I’m thrilled to have my artwork grace the covers of this important textbook.

I’ll be at both receptions, November 2 and November 9, at the Gretchen Schuette Gallery on Chemeketa Community College’s campus. Click on the poster below for more details!

Art for Everyone

Also this week, I’m excited to be a part of the Sitka Art Invitational. I’ll be speaking about my work on Sunday, November 6 at 1:30 pm. The show features over 130 talented Northwest artists. What I love about this show is the feeling of community. Everyone pitches in to celebrate the arts and ecology of this special retreat on Cascade Head, near Otis, Oregon. Artists residencies, workshops and ecology are all a part of this place, but it is the people who make it happen!

Join us: Saturday & Sunday, November 5 & 6, 2016 at the World Forestry Center! Click on the card below for more details:



Rocklin Workshop Re-Cap

Rocklin Workshop Re-Cap

I wanted to take time here to formally thank Connie Rodriguez for hosting my workshop last month in Rocklin, CA. She did a fantastic job of gathering eager and enthusiastic students from all over the area to participate.

Here is a re-cap of the workshop.


We had 15 enthusiastic painters of all experience levels in a great classroom at the Rocklin Community Center. The classroom was close to the hotel where I stayed and I really enjoyed walking to class one morning. As you can see from the photo above, everyone worked hard and jumped into each challenge that I set with gusto!

Some of the exercises were more difficult than others, but they forged ahead with enthusiasm and were so successful! I only wish I’d gotten some photos of their terrific work.

Here is what I have done with the demonstration paintings that I started in class. Below is the finished painting from day one’s demo. I kept adding light washes over the central part of the painting, then finally glazed over the entire central area with a thin wash of acrylic ink in Indian Yellow. I like how it gives a much warmer feeling to the piece.

"Bridge of Light" Mixed Media 15"x11" ©Ruth Armitage 2015

“Bridge of Light” Mixed Media 15″x11″ ©Ruth Armitage 2015

I also worked more on my second demonstration painting. I glazed over the center area, which was more violet in tone, with a thin wash of sepia acrylic ink. I also used some rose colored embroidery floss to stitch some antique lace from a silk handkerchief onto the top of the painting. The hankie was my grandmother’s: a souvenir from the 1925 World’s Fair in Paris. The Paris connection seemed to fit with the story from All the Light We Cannot See. This painting will hang at the Lake Oswego Reads show this month, opening Thursday the 5th.

"Listen" ©Ruth Armitage, 2015, Mixed Media on Paper 11"x15"

“Listen” ©Ruth Armitage, 2015, Mixed Media on Paper 11″x15″

I’m always interested to hear your comments! Here are a few remarks from the workshop participants:

“Ruth is the most calm  competent, knowledgeable and patient instructor I have  ever experienced.”

“Rave reviews!  Loved you and the way you teach.  Refreshing, inspirational, and informative.”

“You have an approach of teaching methods in which the students can work and explore, but not be guided by your style. It really is the student’s personality that comes thru in the individual works.”

“I felt your workshop was a good all around learning experience for everyone, any level. You have such a great sense of humor, it made us all feel relaxed and right at home.”


Lake Oswego Reads: 2015

Lake Oswego Reads: 2015

I leave this afternoon for my class in Rocklin, CA. I’m all packed and ready, just waiting for my ride to the airport, so I decided to sit down and write a post about another upcoming show I’m involved in: Lake Oswego Reads. I’ve participated in this show before and I’m always amazed at the variety of artwork that results from the inspiration of one book. One of the main reasons that I decided to participate this year was my love for the chosen book: All the Light We Cannot See  by Anthony Doerr.

Here are the details of the show:

February 5th, 2015 – Art Unveiling and Artist’s Reception – Graham’s Book & Stationary

Graham’s is located at 460 2nd St. in Lake Oswego, Oregon. The show will be on display for the entire month of February, then will travel to various library locations throughout the state.

Participating Artists:

Beth Verheyden, Bill Baily, Bonnie Garlington, Debby Neely, Dyanne Locati, Jani Hoberg, Kara Pilcher, Lisa Wiser, Loren Nelson, Mary Burgess, Robert Schlegel, Ruth Armitage, Sally Bills Bailey, Susie Cowan, Susan Greenbaum, Sue Jensen, Barbara Wagner, Leslie Cheney Parr and Jan Rimerman

I can’t show you my painting for the show, because I haven’t made it yet. But I can show you some teaser images from other artists! I hope you’ll make plans to see the show!

"Finding Light" ©Leslie Cheney-Parr 2015

“Finding Light” ©Leslie Cheney-Parr 2015

"House Key" ©Jani Hoberg 2014

“House Key” ©Jani Hoberg 2015

"Road to Saint Malo" ©Robert Schlegel 2015

“Road to Saint Malo” ©Robert Schlegel 2015

Learning from the Masters – How directed practice creates results

Learning from the Masters – How directed practice creates results

Plein Air at Morrison's Lodge, Merlin, Oregon

Plein Air at Morrison’s Lodge, Merlin, Oregon

My husband and I just spent a wonderful weekend with friends at Morrison’s Lodge, on the Rogue River near Merlin, OR. I devoted one day to plein air painting in this beautiful spot… It was a fun way to interact with all ages, from kids to adult. They really enjoyed seeing the two paintings that I completed coming together, and changing radically from one hour to the next.

One of the analogies I made when talking to them about my art was that just like any other art form, painting takes practice. Kids can really relate to practicing piano, violin or guitar. I was able to tell them that I have been practicing my art for over 25 years, just as someone who plays in a symphony would practice. I have taken intensive classes, and solicited criticism of my work too.

Learning to paint has been a result of studying from the Masters of my craft and choosing to do directed practice. Two articles I read this morning really emphasize this idea of focusing your efforts:

Lisa Call, a highly successful textile artist, talks about how we use our 10,000 hours of practice on her blog. I would encourage you to read the entire article!

One of the keys to improvement and conscious practice is getting critical feedback. Lisa says:

  • “Get critical and immediate feedback on your artwork. Better yet – learn to give yourself valuable critical feedback. Surgeons get better over time because they get immediate feedback to their work. Interestingly radiologists reading mammograms do not get better over time because they do no receive any sort of immediate critical feedback on their work. It can take years before their mistakes are discovered. This idea of critical and immediate feedback seems to be key in improving our skills.”

Donna Zagotta, one of my most influential art mentors, has produced an entire series of blog posts on Deliberate Practice. Her article “Heading in the Right Direction” points out some ways to direct your practice:

“There are 4 major components to a Deliberate Practice Program:

  1. Know precisely where you want to go
  2. Make a list of small and specific actions for getting there
  3. Work one step at a time
  4. Feedback and evaluation”

Donna keeps a list of artists whose work she admires so that she can study what ways she might improve her own work. She continues her series on today’s blog post: That Time of Year.

One of my goals for this year has been to improve my use of expressive line and mark-making. Interestingly, this goal came about because a painting received a compliment from an instructor! He said that my mark-making in an experimental painting was expressive. I actually felt that this element was the least successful part of the painting, and decided to try to focus more effort on making marks that were pleasing to me. In order to do that, I read books on the subject, including Steven Aimone’s book: Expressive Drawing: A Practical Guide to Freeing the Artist Within .

I also decided to do some experimenting with different materials for drawing and mark-making. Because I was open to experimenting, I found some new, more pleasing, techniques that worked for me. I also figured out which methods felt less natural for me. Zentangle was one style that immediately felt natural to me. I enjoy the meditative process and have incorporated several elements from this art form into my watercolor paintings. Look at my Down on the Farm series and see if you can spot some areas influenced by Zentangle. What works for you? I’d be interested to hear your comments.

If you are looking for some feedback or direction in your own work, you might want to look at signing up for one of my upcoming classes. Former students have some great things to say. October and November are great months to spend time in the studio with other like-minded artists! I hope you can join me.




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