5 Ways to Cultivate Focus in Your Art

5 Ways to Cultivate Focus in Your Art

Most serious Artists and Collectors agree that focus is important for an artist’s body of work. Focus provides continuity from one painting to the next, and allows the work to hang together when presented en masse. But how does one go about creating a focus in their work? And for collectors, how does one amass a collection that works together? Here are a few ways to cultivate or create focus.

1. Focus on Subject Matter

Probably the most common way that collectors create focus is to concentrate on collecting a particular type of work. Some are drawn to landscape, while others prefer abstract or figurative paintings. Similarly, artists often gravitate toward particular subject matter.

My own work has always focused on narrative, despite the genre. The earliest still life paintings incorporated objects precious to me that told a story. The “Haunting Aunties” figurative paintings also tried to convey a sense of storytelling about family history and bonds. My current abstract work is also based upon narratives surrounding my rural upbringing and connection to the farm where I was raised. Because I know what my main interest is, I can delve into sub-plots and explore different stories in an in-depth way.

2. Focus on Design Elements

One thing I try to convey in my workshops is that each artist may be drawn to different means of expression. Some artists prefer to emphasize color, while others may be more interested in using line. Collectors may also have some of the same predilections. One patron may prefer to collect work that is bright and colorful, while another may prefer black & white photographs or drawings, yet another person may be drawn over and over to primitive pattern work or sculpture.

I have a strong bias toward using color. Warm and cool contrasts have always captivated me, and my eye is always drawn to new color combinations. I’m currently focusing on using subtle color contrasts wherever I can.

3. Focus on Style

Even if an artist decides that they will focus on the landscape, for instance, various works may not be cohesive in a body of work because of different styles. For instance, a single realistic black and white landscape would stand out from a group of colorful abstracted landscapes. If an artist is true to their own vision and pursues a style that fits their temperament, the work is more likely to be cohesive. By committing to working in a specific style, the artist’s work will gain focus. Collectors often prefer to purchase work in a certain style as well.

Currently, my focus in on an abstracted, almost non-objective style. Within the spectrum of abstraction, I tend to fall toward the very abstract, even though much of my work originates in a very real subject.

4. Focus on Medium

Many collectors prefer to collect the majority of their work in one medium, such as watercolor or oil or sculpture. Artists, too, can often be known for their work in one medium.

Personally, I have enjoyed exploring watercolor, gouache, collage, drawing, acrylic, encaustic, cold wax and oil. Although my work spans many mediums, my application of the various types of paint or pigments often makes it difficult for viewers to tell what the medium is. This is because my brush-work, palette and shapes are fairly consistent between mediums.

5. Focus on a Series

Many artists make work in a series, each individual piece relating to the broad idea and yet differing from its companion pieces in varying degrees. The individual pieces may focus on different facets of the idea or different conditions. The artist Claude Monet is an artist who worked on different series during his career. His most famous may be the Water Lilies – a series of work inspired by the lily pond in his garden. He also painted a series of work exploring different light conditions on haystacks and on Rouen Cathedral.

For me, painting work in a series give me an opportunity to experiment with color and to explore different facets of the broader idea of my farm upbringing. My earlier series the “Haunting Aunties” explored the influence women, especially women in the family, have on each others’ lives.

An example of focus in a series

Here is a peek at how working in a series helps me to refine my ideas. Below are three paintings, all of the same subject. These paintings all began in my workshop in Springfield – The ABC’s of Abstraction. They became increasingly abstract as I worked on them. I began with the idea of painting my dad’s shoe and pant leg from memory. He used to keep cigarette butts in the cuff of his jeans to avoid fire danger in the summer. This idea is a potent memory of my dad.

I began with the image on the left. It focused on the leg of Dad’s Levis, and you can see the white cigarette butts in the cuff shape near the bottom. The second image shown is actually the third painting of this subject. In this painting I decided to focus more on the shoe, even though the cuff and cigarettes are still there. I also emphasized line more in this image. The third painting is titled Effigy. An effigy is a symbol of a person, often used as a monument and sometimes the ‘butt’ of angry demonstration. I thought the title fit the almost iconic representation of this symbol for my dad. I feel this image still has echoes of the previous images, but I like the abstraction – how the paint is beautiful on its own without the subject matter.

How have you found focus in your work or your art collecting? Click below to leave me a comment or share with a friend.

"Damn Cigarettes" ©Ruth Armitage, 2017, 22x15" Watermedia on Paper

“Damn Cigarettes” ©Ruth Armitage, 2017, 22×15″ Watermedia on Paper

“Dad’s Shoe” ©Ruth Armitage, 2017, 30×22″ Watermedia on Paper

 

"Effigy" ©Ruth Armitage, 2017, 30"x22" watercolor on paper

“Effigy” ©Ruth Armitage, 2017,  30″x22″ watercolor on paper

“Abstract literally means to draw from or separate. In this sense every artist is abstract… a realistic or non-objective approach makes no difference. The result is what counts.” (Richard Diebenkorn)

Pour it On! WFWS42 and WSO

Pour it On! WFWS42 and WSO

WFWS42 and WSO’s 52nd Annual Spring Exhibition

The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art hosts “Pour It On! Watercolors from the West.” This exhibition features work from the Western Federation of Watercolor Societies and the Watercolor Society of Oregon.

On view from April 8 to June 19, 2017, “Pour It On!” is three shows combined into one. 

Work on view explores the range of water-based media, including acrylic, casein, collage, gouache, tempera, and translucent and opaque watercolors. Here is a link to one of the paintings I’ll have in the show.

The exhibition will open with a free, public reception on Friday, April 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. I hope to see you there! Invite a friend and share this post on your favorite social media. On Sunday, April 9, at 2 p.m., McGuire will lead a tour of the exhibition. 

“Rust” ©Jeannie McGuire

This project has occupied my time for the last five years or so.  I’m thrilled to see it coming together in such a fantastic way. Each year, a different regional member society hosts the Western Federation of Watercolor Society’s annual juried exhibition. This is the first time that the Watercolor Society of Oregon will serve as the host and we are excited to help bring this show to life.

About the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

We are grateful to the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art for its support of the exhibition. The University of Oregon’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is a premier Pacific Northwest museum for exhibitions and collections of historic and contemporary art based in a major university setting. The mission of the museum is to enhance the University of Oregon’s academic mission and to further the appreciation and enjoyment of the visual arts for the general public.  The JSMA features significant collections galleries devoted to art from China, Japan, Korea, the Americas, and elsewhere as well as changing special exhibition galleries.  Additionally, the JSMA is one of seven museums in Oregon accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.

Location

The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is located on the University of Oregon campus at 1430 Johnson Lane. Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for senior citizens. Free admission is given to ages 18 and under, JSMA members, college students with ID, and University of Oregon faculty, staff and students. For information, contact the JSMA, 541-346-3027.

Watercolor Society of Oregon

To top it all off, WSO also sponsors their bi-annual Watercolor Convention in Eugene, April 7 – 9, including watercolor workshops, lectures, paint-outs and more. Ms. McGuire leads a 5 day workshop March 27th – 31st. Finally, more information is available on the WSO website: www.watercolorsocietyoforegon.com or on the WFWS website: www.wfws.org.

Art Extravaganza 2017 Sponsored by Clackamas Art Alliance

Art Extravaganza 2017 Sponsored by Clackamas Art Alliance

If you’ve never experienced Art Extravaganza, you’re in for a treat! Sponsored by the Clackamas Art Alliance, this vendor trade show is an opportunity for artists, educators, students and all art enthusiasts to test, try and buy new and favorite art supplies and tools.

You’ll enjoy:

  • Product Demonstrations
  • Artist Demonstrations and Lectures
  • Panel Discussion by CERF+
  • Workshops
  • Door Prizes
  • Networking Opportunities
  • Pop-Up Art Materials Store by Merri Artist

Some of the many exhibitors:

  • Alvin
  • Arches
  • Faber Castell
  • Gamblin Artists Colors
  • Mel’s Frame Shop
  • ReClaim It!
  • Strathmore Artist Papers
  • Winsor & Newton
  • Yasutomo

It’s free to attend, and the mini-workshops are very reasonable. Also, I’ll be giving a lecture and demo of my process using Oil & Cold Wax Medium on Panel from 10:30 – 12:30. Tuition is $10 and space is limited.

If you’ve been thinking about taking my workshop in June at Oregon Society of Artists, this would be a great preview of the class.

You can get tickets and pre-register for the free trade show by clicking below. The first 50 people to pre-register will be entered in a drawing for a reproduction of Susan Kuznitsky’s pastel painting, beautifully framed by Mel’s Frame Shop. Register Here

Here are some of the other artists who will be sharing demonstrations:

  • Shelly Caldwell – Mixed Media Assemblage
  • Renè Eisenbart – Watermedia Painting
  • Sheila Ford Richmond – Block Prints, Fabric Paints
  • Karen Hadley – Mixed Media, Acrylic, Collage
  • Susan Kuznitsky – Pastels
  • Cindy Lommasson – Chinese Brush Painting
  • Sarah Sedwick – Artgraf
  • Amanda Sweet – Watercolor

Finally, check out the event page for a full list of vendor exhibitors, classes and demonstrations.  I hope to see you there! And just in case you think winter will never end here in Western Oregon, I’ll leave you with nature’s own Art Extravaganza, directly from my soggy garden – Happy Spring!

Learn About The Artist’s Palette

Learn About The Artist’s Palette

Learn About the Artist’s Palette

"Summer Storm II" ©Ruth Armitage, Watercolor on Paper, 22x30"

“Summer Storm II” ©Ruth Armitage, Watercolor on Paper, 22×30″

Join me from 12-3pm on Saturday, February 25th, 2017 at the Portland Art Museum’s Rental Sales Gallery. You’ll have a chance to meet and visit with 4 artists: Chris Bibby, Chuck Bloom, Rachel Wolf and me.

You’ll also get to explore different wines by Chehalem Vineyards to excite your palate.

Two palettes or palates in one day! (*grins*)

I have decided to talk about my color palette… something that remains fairly consistent between the different mediums I work in: Oil, Watercolor and Acrylic. Each artists palette is as individual as a snowflake. I’ll discuss some of my favorite hues and how I use them.

One thing non-artists may not know is that in each medium, the relative properties of a pigment remain fairly consistent. For instance, Cadmium Red is an opaque (can’t see through it) pigment in watercolor, acrylic and in oil paint. Pigments can be classified as transparent, semi-transparent or opaque. They can also be synthetic or organic, staining or non-staining, pure or neutral… You’ll hear me throwing a lot of these terms around when I discuss the pigments.

I’ll also talk about choosing a mixing surface for each medium. Watercolorists often refer to this mixing surface as a palette, so it can get confusing! Throw in the palate you use to taste food and wine, and a person could get lost in the terminology. Fortunately, both color and wine provide subtle and unlimited variations of bliss.

I will bring some new work, too, so come downtown and check it out! I’m including a handy map, so you can easily navigate, and parking isn’t usually a problem in this area. I hope to see you there!

The gallery is located on SW 10th Ave at Jefferson Street, Portland, Oregon. 503-224-0674

Homage to Arts Organizations

Homage to Arts Organizations

I don’t see enough people paying homage to Arts Organizations. Without these vital groups in our communities, the intensive work of bringing art to the public eye would be ignored. Personally, I’ve been working diligently for the Watercolor Society of Oregon to plan for the 42nd Annual Western Federation of Watercolor Societies Exhibition. The show will feature up to 100 water media paintings by top artists from across the Western United States. WSO will also feature their annual Experimental Exhibition. Both shows will be stunningly displayed at the  on the University of Oregon Campus.

When folks visit these exhibits, I don’t think they consider all the hours of effort that goes into producing the event. This weekend’s Sitka Art Invitational is another great show featuring Northwest artists. (Including me! I’ll have three pieces in the show.) This amazing art organization benefits the community in so many ways. I hope you can stop by Miller Hall at the World Forestry Center to see the show.

Look at this time-lapse video of just how much work the set-up alone takes:

Join Us! Sitka Invitational Public Exhibit and Sale

November 5 – 6, 2016

Saturday & Sunday, 10-4pm
Admission: Adults $5 – Sitka Members free – Under 18 free
Located in Miller Hall at the World Forestry Center.

Experience nature-inspired artwork in a variety of mediums and interpretations. Our 23rd annual Art Invitational will showcase 350+ works of sculpture, ceramics, paintings, metalwork, glass, fiber arts, book arts and prints, by more than 130 Northwest artists. The event kicks off with a party with the artists on Friday evening. Sales are shared 50/50 which helps support the Northwest art community as well as Sitka’s programs.

Party with the Artists

Friday, November 4, 6-9pm

Join the artists who make this colorful gathering an event to remember. Hors d’oeuvres, wine and hand-crafted beers accompany this lively celebration.
Click here for details or to purchase tickets.

PDXOS – Portland Open Studios – Related Events

PDXOS – Portland Open Studios – Related Events

Portland Open Studios – Experience Creativity

22x15" Acrylic on Paper, Ruth Armitage, ©2016

“River of Dreams” 22×15″ Acrylic on Paper, Ruth Armitage, ©2016

Join me for two weekends of Open Studio, in my beautiful Oregon City studio:

October 8th & 9th and October 15th & 16th, 2016, 10 am – 5 pm each day.

The tour is organized by neighborhood, and our own Community 8 boasts some creative and beautiful artwork. I love the fact that you can find paintings, drawings, photography, jewelry, sculpture and ceramics on this tour. Something for everyone.

Artists will be demonstrating their techniques and available to answer questions about their artwork. It is a great opportunity to meet the creators in your community, listen to them speak and see their latest body of work. I always love the opportunity to peek behind the scenes where the creation takes place. (more…)

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