I love this quote by Mary Oliver about patience and fulfillment, shared by one of my students in last week’s ABC’s of Abstraction workshop. I think adult learners often forget the years of practice that art-making entails.
“The hour of fulfillment is buried in years of patience.
It is what I was born for –
to look, to listen –
to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over…”
The quote seems particularly appropriate for my students, because I was attempting to help them find their own way, their own aesthetic and their most comfortable way of working. Exploring outside of their comfort zone took patience and commitment. The reward was the fulfillment of finding new ways to express themselves!
The group was varied in their experience with working abstractly, but I think there was something new for everyone in the approach. I was particularly pleased to see how abstract many of them became after just a few short days.
Finally, I was also very happy that none of these artists tried to emulate my work, or each others’ work. Each artist’s work stands alone: as individual as they are.
Student work and comments:
“Thank you for sharing a deeper introspective process for creating our work. You are a fabulous, knowledgeable teacher.”
“What a joy it has been to be with you these past few days; to have you open up new doors for me. Thank you for being so giving.”
Sarah “So glad to have shared this experience with you. The impact will be long lasting.”
“Thank you for a great class. I’m ready to continue to forge ahead.”
“Thank you for your generosity in teaching us and guiding us into greater freedom and possibility in our work. A wonderful class and a joy.”
“Thank you so much for the space you created in our workshop – specific, yet expressive – focused, yet light hearted. I have gained so much in just a few days!”
Catt “Thanks for helping me move out of my comfort zone and try something new!”
“Thanks so much – you’ve opened so many doors for me!”
Tom, taking a bow! “Thank you for revealing all I didn’t know about abstract painting. My fear level has decreased and my creativity is surging!”
I worked on something a bit different in my demonstration paintings. This is still in process, but let me know what you think – leave a comment!
“Dad’s Shoe” ©Ruth Armitage, 30×22″ watermedia on paper
Art supplies are magic. They can make even the most unimaginative artist want to pull up the nearest easel and start creating. Like the smell of a new box of crayons at the beginning of the school year, new art supplies really stir my soul. If I’m in an artistic slump, visiting an art store or a trade show gets my creative juices flowing.
At our convention for the Watercolor Society of Oregon we had a fabulous trade show this month. I was able to learn from representatives for Winsor & Newton, Daniel Smith, DaVinci, Strathmore and many more. I tried new colors, learned about old ones, and sampled brushes and papers to my heart’s content.
I even brought home some new things to try!
There was only a slight danger that I would fall in love with something totally new, and switch the course of my artwork forever. After all, the supplies only get you started on your art journey. What keeps you coming back for more is the content or essence, the meaning in the art.
Art Supplies Aren’t the Only Answer
Read more about this subject: Don’t Dilute Your Aesthetic Urge. I enjoy demonstrating my techniques in watercolor, acrylic, oil and mixed media. But, what really gets me excited in teaching is to see students take risks of expression. These brave souls challenge themselves to make a statement that is truly personal. They often find a way to express themselves that is unique and new. That is the ultimate goal of working with new materials.
I’ll be sharing my process for painting with Oil & Cold Wax medium this Saturday at Art Extravaganza! Read all about it in this earlier post. The event is another opportunity to learn about materials, experiment, and network with other artists.
Six Reasons to Stop By:
- Product Demonstrations
- Door Prizes
- Pop-Up Store by Merri Artist
- Panel Discussion by CERF
I hope you’ll find yourself dreaming of new creations and Art Supplies after this fun event. Bring a friend and Join me!
Can’t make it, but want to learn more?
Think about joining one of my upcoming classes: Click here for a full listing. Here’s another fun post from the archives about taking art classes. Or Sign up for my email list to read about other opportunities.
Oregon has had its share of ice this winter, and I took advantage of this unusual weather to do a bit of ice crystal painting.
I wet a sheet of 300 lb. Fabriano soft press watercolor paper, took it outside into the freezing cold, and dropped fluid acrylics and acrylic inks onto the surface, allowing the ice crystals to form patterns on the paper as they solidified. Then I brought it inside and kind of forgot about it, until it was time to do a demonstration for a local watercolor group.
Here is what my ‘start’ looked like after it dried. It’s hard to see in this image, but the paint dried in a crystalized pattern in some of the thinner areas. I love the lacy texture it left in different areas of the work.
1 – transparent colors work better
2 – the paint and ink need to be slightly watery.
This detail image shows part of the painting that has ice crystal formations
I thought I’d share a few in process shots that my friend Liz Walker took during the demonstration. As I worked, I was thinking about my childhood experiences at the local swimming hole on our property. I added calligraphy using a water soluble crayon, and started putting in shapes and color variation. One of my goals was to keep the color changes fairly subtle.
“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight — but never stop fighting.” — e.e. cummings
Finally I started adding small detail using an acrylic marker.You can see some of the areas in the detail shots below.
And I started varying the color more! Jeez – This doesn’t look at all subtle!
Here is how the painting looked at the end of the demonstration.
When I took a look at it this week, I decided that the top 1/3 of the painting needed to be simplified and lightened. Here’s how it looks now! I hope you’ll try ice crystal painting next time you encounter some freezing weather! I’d love to hear your thoughts on seeing the process. Questions and comments are welcome.
“Jump” ©Ruth Armitage, Acrylic on Paper 30×22″
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!
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:
Teaching art workshops is gratifying beyond belief. It is a joy to watch the students in my workshops receive a challenge with open arms and run with it in completely different ways.
“Art Enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” – Thomas Merton
Some of my favorite comments from the workshops were:
“Ok – MIND BLOWN!”
“Your specific suggestions, positive encouragement and creative assignments helped push me into unfamiliar territory.”
Here’s how the group in Gold Beach summarized the workshop:
“Three days of encouragement and challenges culminated in dramatic breakthroughs and conclusions for artists included in Ruth Armitage’s “Creative Spark” workshop in Gold Beach. And, there was lots of fun along the way!
Deftly weaving the elements of design into her visual presentations, Ruth then demonstrated techniques with which to develop sketches, photos, drawings, and failed paintings – through several iterations – into a finished work. She used a myriad of methods and materials, something to appeal to all participants. From gouache to Gelli pads, we explored ways in which we can resolve pauses and hiccups in our work.
The final Show and Tell proved the validity of personal discovery to find satisfaction with our results. Ruth’s gentle Socratic method elicits responses from her students to help that famous lightbulb sparkle.”
Side Benefits to Teaching Art Workshops:
One of the other reasons that I enjoy teaching art workshops is that it pushes me to be the best painter I can be. It makes me really think about different ways to express my ideas. The painting below evolved because of an idea stimulated by collage. The title “River of Dreams” stuck with me through the first two studies:
River of Dreams Study v. 1
The original collage featured a young child camouflaged by an oriental rug, and it had images of sharks in the water below. This one was too literal for me, but I wanted to show students that they could change a literal image and make it more abstract.
River of Dreams Study v. 2
This one was better since it is more abstract, but I wasn’t happy with the colors, and the bottom didn’t seem ‘dangerous’ enough.
Here is the final version. Often we have to go through several paintings to get to the final expression.
‘River of Dreams’ 22×15″ Acrylic on Paper, Ruth Armitage, ©2016 SOLD
Thanks to all who participated in these fun art workshops, and to the key players at Oregon Society of Artists and Gold Beach who helped make them happen!
If you’d like to see me demonstrate, visit me during Portland Open Studios! October 8 & 9th or 15th & 16th, 10-5. Click the following link to read my post about the tour and related events.
Finally, I hope you’ll enjoy these images of workshop participants and their paintings! Click on the images to enlarge and scroll through. What really excites me is that all the participants in these art workshops created work that really reflects them. The work is not simply a copy of what I do, but a reflection of their own ideas and creativity. There is a range of realism to abstraction as varied as the people in the workshop.
Creative Arts Community
Last week I taught a workshop for CAC (Creative Arts Community) at Menucha, a beautiful retreat center in the Columbia River Gorge. Each year this group brings together fantastic workshop instructors and interested adults for two weeks of creating together. This community is over 50 years strong because of these special ingredients:
- A dedicated board and volunteers
- Meals served family-style
- An incredible setting
- Dorm style and private rooms
- Evening programs
- Sharing of art
- Walks in nature
- Small classes for individual attention
My workshop focused on painting in Oil & Cold Wax. We talked about working in a series, content, design and techniques for working in Cold Wax. I was so pleased with how hard each student worked and the results were amazing. Here are a few paintings that resulted from my time at Menucha, and the demonstrations I gave:
“Winter Pond” Oil & Wax on Panel, 12″x12″ ©Ruth Armitage
“Burning” Oil & Wax on Panel, 12″x12″ ©Ruth Armitage
“Summer Breeze” Oil & Wax on Panel, 12″x12″ ©Ruth Armitage SOLD
“It was a wonderful week. Ruth gave the perfect recipe for a successful teaching experience. Just the right number of demos, giving us lots of work time, wandering around the room for individual mini conferences and lots of encouragement along the way. Keeping the class joyous and not stressful were also great attributes for a super experience. I especially thought her use of the i-pad was very cool to take a picture of our painting and show us different design possibilities.” – Sharon Segal
“Ruth, thank you so much for the truly rich experience this past week. Your willingness to spend so much time with each of us working through our hundreds of issues, problems and questions was beyond anything I’ve experienced from an instructor. You are so very generous, kind, and wise. And your lightness of being allowed us to not take ourselves too seriously.” – Karen Story
Scenes from Menucha and the Columbia Gorge
I also wanted to share some of the beauty of this place and the students who shared it with me. Enjoy these photos from my art workshop at Menucha! If this looks like fun to you, check out my other upcoming classes on my art-workshops page. My Maui class is filling fast. It’s already 1/3 full – don’t miss out, register today!