The New Year’s Potential – Setting Goals

The New Year’s Potential – Setting Goals

The New Year always gives me a feeling of great potential. I spend time going over the past year’s accomplishments and deficits and setting goals for the coming months. This weekend we woke to a blanket of white over everything. It makes the land look fresh, simplified, clean and bright.

File Jan 03, 7 41 46 PM

You don’t see the weeds, the pruning that needs to be done, the fallen limbs from wind storms… Just a simple, fresh slate.




“We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential.”

Ellen Goodman

In looking forward with my art this year, I’m hoping that instead of changes, I can keep many things the same with my artwork. I’d like to maintain the flow of ideas and practice that I had last year and the year before. The temptations and allure of change are great. There are always new techniques, rabbit trails and experiments  that seem more attractive and simpler than delving deep into one’s emotions, memories and psyche.

The challenge is to remain true to oneself, while still keeping open to fresh ideas. To hold onto the strengths and working habits that feed successful work.

So what did work last year?

Gelli-Print & Collage from Jane Davies workshop

Gelli-Print & Collage from Jane Davies workshop

Things that fed my creativity:

*I took 3 excellent classes – one online with Jane Davies, one in person with Ruth Ellen Hoag, and one in person with Sarah Swink. (Click on their names to visit their web pages)

* New animals on the farm. Why do they feed my creativity? I don’t know… Maybe it is their playfulness. Whatever it is, they make me happy.


*Teaching: I taught 4 workshops and almost weekly classes at Oregon Society of Artists. The creativity of my students never ceases to energize me and inspire.

*Showing my work: I exhibited in 18 different venues last year, both in-state and out.

-North Valley Art League in Redding, Rocky Mountain National in Golden, CO, Louisiana Watercolor Society, Northwest Watercolor Society in Seattle, California Watercolor Association in the Bay Area, and National Watercolor Society in the LA area. I showed in two Watercolor Society of Oregon exhibitions, the Lake Oswego Reads show, the Sitka Invitational, the Attic Gallery, Mary Lou Zeek’s Blink pop-up, the Lake Oswego Festival, The Portland Art Museum’s Rental Sales Gallery shows (x2) and Portland Open Studios. My work earned 6 awards, 3 of them in National shows. Whew!

*New work – I made over 35 new paintings

*Blogging- I published 29 new blog posts, including one of my most popular posts ever: “7 Compliments Guaranteed to Make Any Artist Swoon” This post has daily views… and has already reached 3,417 readers. During the year, my blog reached 11,144 readers who viewed my site 23,440 times and left 140 comments. I love seeing that steady growth! I’m hoping that next year, I’ll have even more repeat visitors, and more comments.

Click the titles below to check out a few of the other posts that were most popular:

“Rejected Again, Hooray!”

“Abstract Painting Evolution”

“Mixing Contemporary Art in Traditional Rooms”

“5 Hints for Artists and Gardeners”

If you enjoy reading about my work and other art thoughts, share the love and pass it along to a friend!

Stay tuned or subscribe to receive new posts via email – My next post will get down to nitty-gritty details of how setting goals helps me financially. What are your goals for 2016?

Dust Devils – New Work for Sitka Invitational

Dust Devils – New Work for Sitka Invitational


"Dust Devils" Oil & Wax on Panel 36x48" ©Ruth Armitage 2015

“Dust Devils” Oil & Wax on Panel 36×48″ ©Ruth Armitage 2015

I’m proud to unveil this new painting, inspired by summer winds kicking up dust & chaff in the fields during harvest. I’ll also be teaching a class for Sitka this weekend at Hoyt Arboretum – Oil & Cold Wax. I’m looking forward to sharing this yummy process.

Join me to view this work and two more of mine in person – they’re always better in person! The quality of this show always overwhelms me, with over 400 works in a variety of media from more than 140 Northwest artists.  You’ll find sculpture, ceramics, paintings, metalwork, glass, fiber arts, book arts and prints to delight your senses and add culture and style to your home or office.

This weekend – join me for the 22nd Annual Sitka Art Invitational.

This public Exhibit and Sale benefits artists and artists residencies at the Sitka Center for Art & Ecology on the Oregon Coast.

Attend free lectures and artist talks and learn what makes Northwest art unique. Find a list of participating artists here.

Saturday & Sunday, November 7 & 8th, 2015, 10-4

Miller Hall, World Forestry Center – Portland, Oregon

Party with the Artists, Friday, November 6, 5-10 pm

Tickets and more information available here

The Sitka Art Invitational celebrates artwork inspired by the natural world and complements the learning and art making that happens at Sitka during workshop and residency programs. The exhibit piques the interests of all types of art enthusiasts: makers, students, buyers and devotees. The show happens annually in Portland to help reach a larger audience than is possible on the coast. This event is an opportunity to connect with the Sitka community and build awareness for workshop and residency programs.

Most (but not all) of the Invitational artists have a connection to Sitka, as past Artists-in-Residence, teachers or students. Sitka shares art sales 50/50 in partnership with the artists. Because artists share in the proceeds, they bring their best work, making this exhibit an exceptional collection of high quality art pieces.

Sitka’s 2014 payments to artists:

  • $37,831 from the Sitka Art Invitational artist commissions
  • $69,657 paid to instructors in summer Workshop tuition
  • $23,750 in stipends for artists through special programs like the Jordan Schnitzer Printmaking Residency, the Recorder Residency, and the Ford Family Foundation Golden Spot stipends for visual artists.

Please come see the ‘Dust Devils’ in the show and bring a friend, or two!

Farm to Fork – Art of the Harvest

Farm to Fork – Art of the Harvest

I’ve been going through work for an upcoming show: Farm to Fork – Art of the Harvest. I’ve always loved this painting and will be including it in the show, which runs September 1-27 at Columbia Center for the Arts in Hood River, Oregon. Join me for the First Friday Opening Reception: September 4, 6-8 p.m.

"Going to Town" ©Ruth Armitage, 22x30" Acrylic

“Going to Town” ©Ruth Armitage, 22×30″ Acrylic

Farm to Fork will feature seventeen artists from Oregon and Washington, presenting artwork in a variety of media that depicts all aspects of harvest: from illustrations of local farming behind the scenes to interpretations of the harvest to finely crafted implements for the dining table. Plan now to attend!

5 Hints for Artists and Gardeners

5 Hints for Artists and Gardeners

"Abstract Hillside" ©Ruth Armitage 2015, Acrylic on Paper 15"x11"

“Abstract Hillside” ©Ruth Armitage 2015, Acrylic on Paper 15″x11″

Gardening has taught me so much about painting. Here are a few kernels of advice for all you budding (get it?) artists and gardeners.

You know how it is when you come home after 10 days away and some of the little things have changed drastically? Yeah, that happened! I was in Newport for the Watercolor Society of Oregon‘s Spring Exhibition and Convention, then stayed for the workshop with Gale Webb. The image above is a painting that resulted from that class.

I’m thrilled to share that my painting “Coming Through the Rye” received an award… honored to be among one of the artists chosen from this stunning show. The 20 Award-Winning paintings will travel the state for the next six months. Check out my Events Page for more information!

I came home from my time away to an explosion of growth in the garden… Tree peonies and dogwood in bloom and WEEDS! 🙁 I also came home to try to carve out some time in the studio. With deadlines approaching and commissions on the table, that is essential. But I also need to get out in the garden while the weather is good and the weeds are small!

5 Things I’ve Learned About Art and Gardening

  • 1) Devotion: To have a beautiful garden or art practice, you MUST devote time. My art practice thrives when I put in the time. My garden, right now, needs a bit more time.  It is full of weeds, needs pruning and is getting away from me.
  • 2) Pruning: pruning judiciously leaves more room for light, more time for art. Do you struggle with overcrowding? My garden is facing that issue right now, as is my life! Too many commitments have broken into the sacred time I usually reserve for my art. It is time for a little pruning of my schedule AND my garden!


  • 3) Seeds or ideas: Both must be carefully managed so they don’t scatter. Keeping my ideas in a sketchbook or journal is like keeping a file for seeds. It pays to review what I’ve done in the studio (and the garden) what produced well and what I can learn from it. Which idea or plant is best suited for the resources I have available? What do I need to balance out my inventory? Making a plan and sticking to it is easier said than done, but it pays to keep my eye on the prize and focus my efforts.


  • 4) Watering and Fertilizing: just like seeds in the garden, my art ideas need resources to grow and thrive. The ‘water’ of my art practice is viewing other art, exploring new materials and reading. I ‘fertilize’ my imagination with reading poetry, non-fiction (currently a book on butterflies), journals and fiction.


  • 5) Being Present: When I’m in the garden, I’m happy… happy to be weeding or planting, planning or just enjoying the fresh air. When I go into the studio, my focus shifts to creating. I try not to waste time in either place, wishing I were elsewhere. I capitalize on the rainy days by spending them in the studio and enjoy the sunshine in the garden when it arrives. It takes both rain and sun to make a garden. Similarly, it takes both joy and sweat to make a painting.


Just like walking through a beautiful, mature garden, art viewers often see the end result when a finished work of art is presented. It is difficult to imagine the sweat, persistence, concentration and hard-won time that went into creating that painting, just like one does not always consider the battle with weeds, elements and failure that led to the creation of a beautiful garden. Persistence in the face of frustration is often the key in both art and gardening!

You can be sure that gardening and painting both reap lasting rewards, though. Both teach us about beauty, stamina, flexibility, appreciation and joy. Both allow us to share with the world our own unique aesthetic. Gardening and Painting both constantly surprise me with unexpected gifts – a volunteer plant, an unusual blending of color…. What similarities do you see between gardening and painting?

Leave me a comment! I love hearing from you. Let me know what’s happening in your art life or your garden. As always, I appreciate your sharing my words and work with friends and family!

My favorite tree peony "Gaughin"

My favorite tree peony “Gauguin”





Spring has sprung here in Oregon. We have new lambs on the farm, a new puppy in the house and the flowers are bursting out all over! It has been a crazy couple of weeks with late nights checking in the barn for lambs, teaching, and organizing for the upcoming WSO Convention in Newport, “Making Waves.”

My co-chair & I, Barb Sulek, have been emailing madly, monitoring registrations and putting out last minute fires in an attempt to make sure that all 200+ participants enjoy the breakout sessions, lectures and exhibit to the fullest. Today, I will finally have a minute to frame my painting for the exhibit.

If you’re near the Central Oregon Coast, I hope you’ll make time to see the exhibit: 80 Watermedia Paintings from artists across Oregon. The show opens April 11th, 2015 in the Runyon Gallery of the Newport Visual Arts Center and runs through May 3rd, 2015. Stop in & see us: 777 NW Beach Drive, Newport, Oregon.

I’ve still been keeping busy with my class at Oregon Society of Artists too. Here is this week’s demonstration painting. Our class talked about using rhythm in our work. I wanted to paint something reminiscent of a field of camas flowers under an oak grove. Let me know what you think.

"Camassia" ©Ruth Armitage 2015, Mixed Watermedia 11"x15"

“Camassia” ©Ruth Armitage 2015, Mixed Watermedia 11″x15″


Socrates Vs. Julia Child

Socrates Vs. Julia Child

“In every one of us there are two ruling and directing principles, whose guidance we follow wherever they may lead; the one being an innate desire of pleasure; the other, an acquired judgment which aspires after excellence.”  (Socrates)

Don Gray's Studio

Don Gray’s Studio

Last week I was invited to a gathering of art friends at the home of Don Gray. We had some great conversation about making art and collecting art, and specifically about realism and abstraction. In listening to others describe their process and in describing my own, it struck me again how the two impulses described in the Socrates quote above are relevant to us all.

Each of us gathered were competent artists, and yet each was extremely curious about the process of creation for the others. It seems we all vacillate between seeking to please ourselves and seeking to please others. Our art-making quest is a combination of play (like Julia Child) and serious aspiration to succeed (like Socrates.)

I left feeling validated and inspired by the diversity of Don’s work. I enjoyed meeting artists whose work I’ve admired, and also simply being with those who understand the schizophrenic back & forth of the creative process.

One of the things I learned in teaching my recent workshop for Contemporary Watercolorists of Arizona is how an artist I admire (Stan Kurth) and I differ in our approach to teaching. I often emphasize dominance in workshops. I find a focused approach often leads to a more unified painting, and that it is easier to add variety in the later stages than to pull chaos together.

Stan, on the other hand, emphasizes variety. This surprised me, because I find his paintings so unified, but it also made sense when he explained that he teaches that if you’re using color, use a variety of color… if you’re using line, use a variety of line, etc. And he likes to see some contrasts in each of the elements: value, shape, line, color & texture/pattern.

This makes sense too! I’ve been asked to write about my process of abstraction, so here’s the best summary I can give. Before I paint, I start with a specific memory, emotion or idea. This series is loosely based on memories of growing up on our family farm, between Albany & Corvallis, Oregon. I try to get as specific as possible with the idea… not just thinking about a general topic, like the farm, but narrowing it down to ‘havest’ and often more specifically ‘driving a combine at night.’ (See painting “Night Havest.“)

I almost always decide in advance whether the painting will be mostly warm or mostly cool, and whether I will emphasize color, shape, texture etc. The rest of the process is simply an exploration of ‘what if’s.’ I start somewhere, and improvise from that point. I like to compare the process to improvisation in jazz, rather than reading sheet music.

The knowledge of art forms and techniques is in your back pocket in case you get lost, just like music theory backs up a jazz musician. But creating the painting is not about combining that knowledge. It is, rather, a matter of expression and choices. Each choice I make relates to the narrative I have chosen for that painting.

Whether the viewer understands the narrative I’ve chosen is not really important to me, though I believe that people respond to my work because of the deeply personal content that drives the work.  Understanding a work of abstraction is not really necessary to appreciate it.

“Do you ever know what the birds are singing? You don’t. But you listen to them anyway. So Sometimes with art, it is important just to look.” – Picasso

“You can’t dig for truth in every area. Must there be an answer? You take a flower, and you take every petal, and you won’t have a flower. Keep the flower.” – Louise Nevelson

New work this week:

First, the demonstration painting from my workshop at CWA last month. I’ve worked more on it… added more layers etc. Here is what it looked like at the end of the demonstration:

In process

In process

And now…

"Mother Apple" ©Ruth Armitage 2015 Mixed Media on Paper 30x22"

“Mother Apple” ©Ruth Armitage 2015 Mixed Media on Paper 30×22″

And here is my demonstration painting from last week’s class at OSA. Click the following link to read more about it in my newsletter. If you’re not already subscribing, you can do that here!

"Telephone" ©Ruth Armitage 2015 Watercolor & Gouache on paper 22x15"

“Telephone” ©Ruth Armitage 2015 Watercolor & Gouache on paper 22×15″

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