Nefelibata: Cloudwalker

The word Nefelibata has drawn my attention recently. The word originates in Portugese, derived from ‘nephele’ (cloud) and ‘batha’ (a place to walk.) It refers to one who lives in their own imagination or dreams, or one who does not abide by the precepts of society, literature or art; an unconventional, unorthodox person.

 

One of the things I often repeat in my workshops is that I’m ‘not encumbered by reality.’ I am inspired by reality, but I don’t feel obligated to try to reproduce it. In fact, when I come too close to reality in my artwork, I’m often unsatisfied. I feel that the interpretation of that reality is more interesting than accuracy. I’m drawn to work that ‘riffs’ on reality. It is the individual’s response to reality that I find interesting in art, writing and music.

In looking for a painting to embody this concept, I chose one that recently returned from the Portland Art Museum’s Rental Sales Gallery. I found I’d never posted it on my site before! I often send pieces out into the world before I have a chance to promote them… and this piece is one of those. I’ve always loved the activity and detail of this piece. The texture and line work are so evocative of memories of ‘major’ (in my memory) thunderstorms.

Summer Storm, ©Ruth Armitage, Watercolor on Paper, 22"x30" $1950

Summer Storm, ©Ruth Armitage, Watercolor on Paper, 22″x30″ $1950

Thinking about Meaning in Art

This spring I was privileged to receive a critique of my work from an artist I respect. The artist giving the critique works in a realistic manner. One word they used to describe my abstract work was ‘facile.’ This has been bothering me for a while now… and I think I’m almost over it.

One reason it bothered me, is that I don’t find abstraction easy to do. Not at all! I think abstraction is more difficult than realism. I also feel that these particular paintings embody (for me) more personal meaning than many of my more realistic paintings.

Another reason this comment disturbed me might be more subconscious. With abstraction, I feel that I’ve found a way of working that feels natural. Not easy, mind you, but natural – suited to my skills, my aesthetics and my content. Maybe this is why the critiquing artist thought the work looks ‘facile.’

The definition of facile:

(especially of a theory or argument) appearing neat and comprehensive only by ignoring the true complexities of an issue; superficial, simplistic, oversimplified.
I feel there is a fine line between capitalizing on our strengths and challenging ourselves to fit others’ expectations. However, I do want my work to suggest a mystery, a deeper meaning and a personal response to the world. I don’t want it to appear simplistic or superficial.
What are your thoughts? Do you find abstraction (particularly mine) to be less meaningful than realism? Don’t worry about hurting my feelings! I can take it… Thanks for joining the discussion.
Don’t miss these new workshop offerings: New Workshop Listings
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!

Painting and Golf – 3 Similarities – New Workshop Announcements

Painting and Golf – 3 Similarities – New Workshop Announcements

In last week’s plein air workshop I kept thinking about the similarities between Painting and Golf. I like to make analogies when I teach, to help students keep perspective on the creative process. By comparing painting to other activities like music or golf, the students can step back from their frustrations a bit, and see things in perspective.

“Achievement is largely the product of steadily raising one’s level of aspiration and expectation.”  – Jack Nicklaus

3 Similarities:

  1. Both Painting and Golf are extremely challenging. In both painting and golf, the success rate is low, even for professionals. Tiger Woods does not expect to hit a hole in one on every hole, or even every game. Similarly, professional artists do not expect every painting to succeed the first time. Artists make preliminary sketches and studies, just as golfers take practice swings and practice putting and driving. Both Golf and Painting attract hobbyists and professionals alike.
  2. Practice is required for both Golf and Painting. Driving and putting are not the same as playing the game of golf against opponents. By the same token, class exercises and sketches are not the same as making a painting. Practice must be focused on improvement, not repeating the same mistakes over and over. Directed practice in golf might focus on correcting a swing. Similarly, directed practice in painting might focus on improving a value pattern or color scheme.
  3. Golfers and Painters must both focus on a good Mental Game. Keeping a positive mental outlook boosts confidence in both fields. Focus and attention are important to help overcome the difficulties of each pursuit. Success in golf or painting can often breed a kind of obsession, too. Both Golfers and Painters become passionate about their pursuit. The variety of golf courses, just like the variety of painting subjects, can entertain enthusiasts for a lifetime.

What other similarities can you think of between Painting and Golf?

***A quick reminder, for former students, I’m celebrating 10 years of Art is Truth the Blog by creating a new forum for interaction: Art is Truth Cadets Facebook Group!

If you’re a former student and you’d like to join – click the link above and request to join. We share work, opportunities and feedback here. I hope you’ll participate… it won’t be the same without YOU!

Here are a few select snapshots from my plein air workshop with Vistas and Vineyards! Click the thumbnails for the full image.

New Workshop Announcements

ABC’s of Abstraction – International Society of Experimental Artists: September 24 – 28, 2018 – Newport Oregon

We will cover both the elements of design and the ‘mental game’ in art-making.

Using acrylic and collage, students will explore shape, line, color and texture to craft vibrant paintings that stir the emotions.

You will learn organizing principles, painting tips and techniques for overcoming self-doubt and indecision. Still a few spots left – Register Here


ABC’s of Abstraction – All Media Santa Clarita Artist’s Association: November 9 – 11, 2018

Contact Jeanne Iler for more information.


ABC’s of Abstraction – Acrylic: Tubac School of Fine Art, Tubac, AZ: January 11, 12 & 13, 2019.

More information Click here  

I hope you can join me!

"Whistling" Watercolor on paper, 10"x11" ©Ruth Armitage $295 unframed

“Whistling” Watercolor on paper, 10″x11″ ©Ruth Armitage $295 unframed

12 Binge-Worthy Summer Art Films

12 Binge-Worthy Summer Art Films

It’s so easy these days to access top-quality Art Films, and summer is the perfect time to sit back and relax. You’ll beat the heat and absorb inspiration and information at the same time! I’ve started a good list with these titles, but please be sure to add your own suggestions in the comments. If you’ve found this list binge-worthy, be sure to share with an art buddy. If you decide to watch, let me know what you think, too!

People think that the directors direct actors. No. Really, what the director’s doing is directing the audience’s eye through the film.
– Julianne Moore

A Few Favorite Art Films

  1. Cézanne et MoiNetflix– An intimate portrait of the turbulent friendship between Cézanne the painter and Zola the writer.
  2. Eva Hesse – Netflix– Documentary about a rising star in the New York art scene of the 1960’s, her life, style and untimely death
  3. Packed in a Trunk – The Lost Art of Edith Lake WilkinsonNetflix – Decades after this artist was institutionalized, her great niece sets out to understand why.
  4. Hieronymus Bosch: Touched by the Devil – Netflix – Using x-rays and other technology, this documentary explores the secrets behind the artist’s famous religious works.
  5. Without Gorky – Netflix – The filmmaker turns the lens on her own family as she explores the impact her grandfather – Arshile Gorky – had on three generations.
  6. Hilda – Amazon Prime – In the late 1950’s Hilda lived and worked with the greatest painters of the Abstract Expressionist movement. Official Selections of the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.
  7. Loving Vincent – Amazon Prime – The first animated film done completely in oil painting, explores the life of Vincent van Gogh.
  8. Mr. Turner – Amazon Prime – Spans the last 25 years in the life of Britain’s most revered painter.
  9. Pollock – Amazon Prime – Explores the turbulent life of Jackson Pollock.
  10. Surviving Picasso – Amazon Prime – Starring Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore – told from the viewpoint of Picasso’s longtime mistress and mother of his children.
  11. Frida – Amazon Prime – Nominated for 6 Academy Awards including Salma Hayek for Best Actress, Frida is a triumphant motion picture about an exceptional woman who lived an unforgettable life.
  12. Modigliani – Amazon Prime – Arriving like a comet, he danced on tables, drunk with passion for life and art and his ending was the tragedy of true genius like Van Gogh and Mozart. He was Modigliani.

Other Recent News

Below you’ll find a couple of demonstration paintings from recent workshops. I have new workshops in the works, and will be announcing my fall/winter schedule on August 1! When you get the notice, don’t delay. Many classes fill quickly. In the meantime, there are still a few spots available in these two workshops:

Creative Arts Community: Painting with Digital Exploration – August 12-18, Corbett, Oregon. Registration ends this Friday, July 20th.

Learn how digital painting can expand your creative process. Students will use the ProCreate app and an iPad to plan and alter works in progress. Learn to use this inexpensive app to try out ideas before you execute them in paint. The workshop will begin with instruction on using the app to draw, paint and use layers to experiment on photos of your painting in process. Students will work on their own projects in their choice of water-based media. Acrylic, watercolor or mixed media are all welcome. Lectures will focus on design and creativity, and Ruth will provide demonstrations and individual guidance on using digital media to explore painting options. Our goal is not to create finished digital art, but to use the digital screen as a sandbox for development of ideas. Take risks digitally before you decide on the real painting. This process encourages growth and exploration. It is an excellent visualization tool.

Click Here to register.

"Sediment" ©Ruth Armitage Acrylic on paper 21"x14"

“Sediment” ©Ruth Armitage Acrylic on paper 21″x14″

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

International Society of Experimental Artists: ABC’s of Abstraction, September 24 – 27th, Newport, Oregon

Using Acrylic and Collage we will explore both the elements of design and the mental game of art-making. Learn new ways to generate ideas, combine methods and evaluate your results. You will learn organizing principles, painting tips and techniques for overcoming self-doubt and indecision.

Click here to register!

"Forest Vineyard" Acrylic on Paper 14"x21" ©Ruth Armitage 2018

“Forest Vineyard” Acrylic on Paper 14″x21″ ©Ruth Armitage 2018

Finally, for former students, I’m celebrating 10 years of Art is Truth the Blog by creating a new forum for interaction: Art is Truth Cadets Facebook Group!

If you’re a former student and you’d like to join – click the link above and request to join. We share work, opportunities and feedback here. I hope you’ll participate… it won’t be the same without YOU!

 

I Became a Maker

I Became a Maker

I became a maker by following the example of my mother. She is well-known for making beauty out of what is on hand. Her friends marvel over her knitting, sewing, cooking, gardening and decorating. I love the following quote, because it exemplifies what I think most creative people feel:

“People are creators. But I doubt that many realize this. We are not meant to go out into the world and find flawless things, we are not meant to sit down and have flawless things fall into our laps. But we are creators. We can create a beautiful thing out of what we have. The problem with idealistic people is that they see themselves as receivers instead of creators, they end up hunting for the flaw in everything in order to measure it up to their ideals. Now, when you see yourself as a creator, you can look at a chunk of marble and see the angel within it. Then you carve until you have set that angel free.”
– C. JoyBell C.

The creative process requires us to solve problems, overlook imperfections and visualize success. It requires faith, perseverance and tenacity. I learned all these things from my mom, and I’m still learning them. Watching the persistence she employs to tackle a long term project is inspiring. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her say “I can’t.”

This week, I received a beautiful gift from Mom. She created the rug pictured below from 1/4″ strips of wool, hooked into a backing of burlap. Over the course of the last 8 months, she’s worked on it almost daily. I’ll always treasure it, as a symbol of all the hours of labor and love that she’s invested in it, and in me.

Hand-Hooked Rug

Hand-Hooked Rug

Doesn't It Look Beautiful

Doesn’t It Look Beautiful?

Mom Giving another Hand-Made Gift

Mom Giving another Hand-Made Gift

My friend, Margaret Godfrey, made a wonderful hand-painted turntable for her grandkids. You can read about her project here. What is the best hand-made gift you’ve ever made or received?

Avoiding Fear: Painting with Digital Exploration

Avoiding Fear: Painting with Digital Exploration

Fear can derail our creativity.

One way I work at avoiding fear is using digital exploration in my painting process. Using my IPad to try out changes before I make them in paint removes the fear of failure that I see many students encounter. If you’re reading this post on email, you might want to hop on over to the blog and view this Ted Talk about failure by Ken Robinson:

One reason that many of my demonstration paintings are successful is my habit of putting on a ‘brave face’ when I’m demonstrating. I want to be an example of a painter who will try anything that pops into my head. I’m not painting by rote habit: I’m exploring. I know that I may fail and I continue experimenting anyway. This leads to exciting breakthroughs in front of my students.

I’ve written about dealing with fear before (see a few examples here & here.) So have some of my favorite authors: David Bayles – Art & Fear and Steven Pressfield – The War of Art.

Avoiding Fear

I help students learn how painting without fear leads to more creative work. Digital exploration with works in process helps students avoid fear by allowing them to experiment in a ‘sandbox’ using the Apple Pencil, IPad and Procreate app. Below, I have a painting that I feel could have gone a bit farther in creativity if I hadn’t ‘played it safe.’ (The painting is sold, so it is an easy one to experiment with – I know I won’t have to take it out of the frame and change it!)

Golden Shore ©Ruth Armitage, 2016 15x11" Acrylic on Paper

Golden Shore ©Ruth Armitage, 2016 15×11″ Acrylic on Paper (sold)

Finishing an abstract work can be particularly challenging. The artist often risks taking something good to a state that’s over-worked. That’s when digital experimentation can be extremely valuable. Without changing the actual work, the artist can try out different ideas. For instance, below I’ve added a blue with more temperature contrast, to see if I like the work better.

Digital experimentation with color temperature and direction

Digital experimentation with cropping, color temperature and direction

You can learn how to be more fearless in your painting. Join us for Painting with Digital Exploration at Creative Arts Community at Menucha: 

August 12-18, 2018

at Menucha Retreat Center, Corbett, Oregon

This special place is the ultimate art retreat. Small class sizes and up to 7 workshops filled with creative people fill the camp with energy. Delicious meals are provided, so all you have to do is paint and enjoy each others’ company and the inspiring setting.

See what I mean in the photos on Menucha’s site, and sign up before it’s too late! Many of my workshops fill quickly.

The View from Menucha

The View of the Columbia River from Menucha

Inside Historic Wright Hall

Inside Historic Wright Hall

Happy Artists

Happy Artists Return Year after Year

pool at menucha

Relaxing Outdoors

"Menucha" means Tranquility

“Menucha” means Tranquility

Communal Meals

Communal Meals

FAQ’s

  1. If I already have an IPad, will it work with ProCreate? – Yes. You will need the newest version or an IPad Pro to use the Apple Pencil, but a regular stylus and an older IPad will also work.
  2. Is there a program that will work with my Windows based tablet or computer? You may find a similar app or program, but this workshop will focus on using ProCreate for ios. I think it is one of the best out there!
  3. Will we be printing our finished digital creations? No. We’ll be learning to use the tool as a way to sketch out ideas and applying these ideas to works in progress. The class will divide its time between learning the tool and painting on paper or canvas in water based media.
  4. Is this class suitable for artists working in landscape, portrait, still life, abstraction, etc? Yes! Whatever you’re interested in painting, this process will help you to make braver, more creative decisions.

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