Bring Spring Inside with an Abstracted Floral

Bring Spring Inside with an Abstracted Floral

Abstracted Floral "Wild Daffodil" Watercolor on Paper ©Ruth Armitage 22"x30" $1950

Abstracted Floral “Wild Daffodil” Watercolor on Paper ©Ruth Armitage 22″x30″ $1950

Yesterday was “Groundhog Day” in the United States, and those who are enduring a long harsh winter may be wanting to get a jump on Spring. There’s not a finer way to do that than to experiment with an Abstracted Floral!

My painting above “Wild Daffodil” was inspired by fields of daffodils that dot the countryside in Oregon. You can see where abandoned home sites were by scanning the beautiful green fields for waves of bright yellow, naturalized daffodils. The cheerful yellow always seems at odds with the fact that a home once stood there and now is gone.

I love the flowers that come from the fields – they are often tattered by weather, and many have grown away from their cultivated lineage to be wild, multi-petaled and blowzy. This painting would brighten up a bedroom, office, library, dining or living room. I love the drama that the dark background adds.

I used an app called IArtView to show how this work would look in a couple of different settings. A wonderful feature is you can also upload a photo of your wall and visualize how it would look in your home! Try it out!

Inspiration for Abstract Floral Paintings

If you’re looking for other floral inspiration, check out my Pinterest board. You’ll find interesting abstractions by some of the following 6 talented artists:

Jimmy Wright: This artist emphasizes the fluidity and motion of petals, and comes up with some pretty unusual and subtle color emphasis too.

Winifred Nicholson: I love the unified color in this simplified still life. You can almost smell the lily of the valley.

Jake Muirhead: Converting a colorful Iris to black and white, Jake also adds drama and personality using line and simplifying the setting.

Scott Conary: Scott’s textural paint application and emphasis on pure vs. subdued color make me want to touch his work. They also touch me!

Ophelia Pang uses bold and repeated shapes to create entertaining and playful abstractions.

Sandrine Pelissier creates fantastic patterns and flattened shapes from her imagination.

If you’re an artist you can try some of the following methods:

  • emphasize one part of the flower, like Jimmy Wright
  • use a monochromatic palette, like Winifred Nicholson
  • add texture with brushwork, like Scott Conory
  • create patterns and funky shapes like Ophelia Pang, Sandrine Pelissier or me!

Where should I go next?

Finally, I’m taking a poll: help me decide the next travel workshop I should offer! Vote for your favorite locale below:

What are your top 2 destinations for an art workshop?

View Results

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Are You Saying All New Things?

Are You Saying All New Things?

When I teach repeat students, I’m often asked if I’m saying all new things from previous workshops. Often I’m repeating something that I’ve said earlier, but the student did not internalize the information. It’s always surprising how we don’t hear advice until we are ready to implement it. We often don’t even take our own advice! I think this proves the value of repeating classes or workshops. As we grow in our artwork, we become more ready to absorb information or put it into practice.

“Listening is a positive act: you have to put yourself out to do it.”

– David Hockney

"Summerfall" ©Ruth Armitage, Watercolor on Paper, 30"x22"

“Summerfall” ©Ruth Armitage, Watercolor on Paper, 30″x22″


I filmed a time-lapse of my process for “Summerfall.” I didn’t talk during the filming. My inspiration for the painting was the farming term Summerfall. It means to plant in late spring in preparation for a late fall harvest. Planting this way is unusual and farmers sometimes resort to it because a fall planting failed. As I worked, I thought about colors for summer like blues & violets and colors for fall like reds and golds. If you’re receiving this post via email, click over to the website to view the video here!


The early parts of the video show the painting with the top on the right, to better fit the video format. I tried to lay in the layers in a sort of x-shaped movement, falling from the high horizon line. You can see this in the earlier parts of the video best. As sometimes happens, I felt that mid-way through the process my values got a bit too dark. My solution in this case was to add metallic silver and opaque blue and yellows to lighten up areas of the work.

My repeated Mantra

One thing students who are listening hear me say over and over is to paint your own personal experience. I must say this multiple times in each workshop. It’s always amazing to me how much inspiration I can still find in this series about my rural upbringing and the farm.

I hope you’ll enjoy watching this peek into my process. There was so much idle time toward the end stages of the process while I agonized over what to do. Those finishing touches require so much courage and contemplation that I don’t think I could do them while worrying about a camera!

In other news, I’m preparing for upcoming workshops.  My good friend, Ruth Ellen Hoag, will be here teaching at the beginning of February. I always enjoy painting with her and learning how her mind works! After that, we are expecting new lambs here on the farm. Then I’m headed south to Santa Barbara to study with Skip Lawrence and to teach a workshop of my own. It’s going to be a busy spring when you throw in all the shows I’m doing… I hope you can join me!

If you enjoyed this post, please share on your favorite social media or email!

Central Hearth – Abstract Oil and Wax Artwork

Central Hearth – Abstract Oil and Wax Artwork

One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul and yet no one ever came to sit by it. Passers-by see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney and continue on their way.

-Vincent VanGogh

"Central Hearth" ©Ruth Armitage, Oil & Wax on Panel 12"x12"

“Central Hearth” ©Ruth Armitage, Oil & Wax on Panel 12″x12″

A new image in Oil & Wax… this one was inspired by the old oil heater that we used to have on the farm. It sat below the floor boards and the heat came up through a metal grate. I have memories of standing over it with warm rumbling oil-scented air filling the skirt of my flannel nightgown.

Years after the old beast was removed and replaced with an electric heat pump, I repeatedly found myself leaning against the doorway in an useless attempt to warm or comfort myself. Can you see the faint outline of a nightgown in the detail shot?

I love the Van Gogh quote… and I’m finding it especially poignant because I’ve just enjoyed a visit with my good friend and neighbor Judy Wise.

It was so encouraging to talk art and share works in process with her! I’ve been finishing quite a few smaller pieces for two upcoming shows, so mark your calendars! I think these shows function as a kind of hearth to warm ourselves in the early chill of autumn. The camaraderie and excitement are contagious.

1. Local 14 Art Show & Sale

September 28 – October 1, 2017 – At the Left Bank Annex, Portland, Oregon – Directions and more information here.

2. Portland Open Studios

October 14 & 15, 21 & 22, 2017 from 10am – 5pm each day

This is a self-guided tour. Over 100 artists welcome the public during the tour dates. You can download a mobile app, or buy a tour guide at the following retailers. New this year: a ‘teaching artist’ section, listing participating artists who offer classes and workshops!

I have 2 tour guides left to sell… let me know if you want one! Or pick one up at these locations:

New Seasons, Dick Blick, Artists and Craftsman Warehouse, Portland Art Museum, Madrona Hill Cafe, Guardino Gallery, Bullseye Glass, Copy Pilot

You can also get in on some local ‘action’ by signing up for PDX-CSA. Click to read about the projects from myself and 5 other curated artists. The pre-sales generated between now and September 17th will fun the creation of a limited number of artworks specially made for this project.

It’s like Patreon and your favorite Organic Farm had a love-child. You choose the artist or artist pair that you like, and follow the progress of the work from concept through completion. If you choose a pairing, you’ll receive a discount on the artwork. I’m paired with the fantastic Kirista Trask. I think our paintings will look magical together!

The artworks made for these projects are only available through PDX-CSA. Mine will incorporate found objects with abstract paintings in Oil & Cold Wax medium. They are designed to be affordable and collectible! Click here to get in while you can! I love receiving your comments and I’m honored when you share my posts with friends. Thanks!


Ice Crystal Painting for Texture

Ice Crystal Painting for Texture

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.

Lessons Learned:

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

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!

more detail

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.

ice crystal painting with acrylic

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


Mist and Moss – A Blessing From the Northwest

Mist and Moss – A Blessing From the Northwest

Mist and Moss: new work from the studio

"Mist and Moss" Watermedia on Paper, 30x22"

“Mist and Moss” Watermedia on Paper, 30×22″

One of the things I loved about growing up on the farm was that nature was always there to explore. Although I know it is hard to believe now, I was a quiet child. When I was struggling with something, my favorite way to cope was to walk in the forest or sit by a small stream or ditch and observe nature.

Some of my favorite poetry evokes this calming spirit:


My most recent painting was an attempt to recreate the feeling of soft fog, mist and moss, without actually rendering a pond, a stream or a fallen log. I wanted the feeling of many interconnected organisms breathing life into a forest. The water, the trees, the animals, the fungi as one breathing unit. Because I wanted the feeling of flowing water, I chose to use a high horizon line as my design.

I hope you will enjoy this peek into my process. I’m using watercolor to begin, and then adding gouache (opaque watercolor) and a bit of Golden High Flow Acrylic. I also mixed in a bit of iridescent pigment by Jacquard. I love the subtle sparkle!

I’d be interested in your feedback on this video. Do you find it valuable? I wish that my setup would allow me to film in the orientation that I imagined the painting, but it was much easier to work horizontally on my table. I decided not to attach music to the video, as I couldn’t find a piece that expressed what I wanted to say with the painting.

If you find it interesting, leave me a comment or a question! Or share this with a friend or on your favorite social media outlet.

Couldn’t everyone use a little balm of Mist and Moss during this chaotic season?

“Mist and Moss” Abstract Watercolor Process with Ruth Armitage from Ruth Armitage on Vimeo.

Petrichor: The Smell of Earth After Rain

Petrichor: The Smell of Earth After Rain

The hot weather we are expecting makes me long for Petrichor: the smell of earth after rain. The title of this painting evolved as I worked. I knew I wanted to contrast the delicate, shimmery texture of the pastel areas with something dark and heavy. The brilliant orange accents also provide contrast to these areas.

I loved the pastel areas so much, it was difficult to cover them. But, I also am enjoying the drama of the large dark shape. Let me know your thoughts.

I wanted to make the dark and grey areas represent the rain and the chill.  In contrast, the light and warm areas represent the smells of the earth. Whenever I sense this fragrance, it conjures a vivid memory from childhood of walking barefoot, across a dusty gravel driveway.

I remember it as the first time I noticed the smell of rain on the dry earth. My sisters and I often had the job of waking up the farm hand that stayed in the bunk house on our farm. Smells seem more powerful in the morning, and in childhood. As adults, I think we often don’t take the time to notice.

"Petrichor" ©Ruth Armitage 21x29" Watercolor on Paper

“Petrichor” ©Ruth Armitage 21×29″ Watercolor on Paper

In Other News…

There is still time to enter my giveaway… You may be the lucky winner! Click here to enter to win an original oil & wax painting.

Also, in case you missed it, I have new workshops listed! You can paint with me this November in Portland, or next November in Maui! Check out all the details on my workshops page.

Somehow, the realistic paintings of tropical islands never really seem to capture the wonder, beauty, smells and sounds of the paradise that is Hawaii. I’m hoping to inspire you to express the things that make a trip to Hawaii wonderful: relaxation, sweet fruit, warm sunshine, gentle breezes… you get the idea.

In case you’re wondering how my artwork looks installed, here are a couple of photos! Last night I helped hang several pieces in the Barrel House Tasting Room of Tumwater at Pete’s Mountain: the site of the 2016 Street of Dreams PDX. The event opens July 30th. The homes are beautiful and I love getting decor ideas. My paintings will also be in Quintessence on Lot 5. What a great home to showcase contemporary style. I hope you’ll get a chance to see the show, through August 28th, 2016.Ruth Armitage Abstract

Ruth Armitage at Barrel House Tasting Room

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