“Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.”
-Percy Bysshe Shelley
Objects and Their Influence on my Work
I have been thinking of all the flood victims in Texas this week. I am trying to imagine the devastation they must be feeling and the loss. While our homes contain so many meaningful objects; the familiarity and meaning that they carry can’t be replaced. So, in an effort to make a small difference in the recovery from Hurricane Harvey, I’m donating 50% of any sales through my website from now through Labor Day weekend.
Help for Texas
If you’ve had your eye on a painting, now is a great time to add one to your collection, because your purchase will help relief efforts for those in Texas.
Speaking of water: an oxbow in our river bottom that was cut off from the stream inspired me to create the new painting below. As a kid I loved to explore the woods at the edge of the river. This small pond was a sure place to see ducks, turtles and other natives like frogs and salamanders. Those early years of solo exploration seem to be important to my development as an artist. I would spend hours looking at ferns and moss, small ponds, polliwogs, and wildflowers. Traveling there in my memory gives me peaceful relaxation.
“Horseshoe Lake” ©Ruth Armitage, Oil & Wax on Panel 12″x12″
I hope the colors in this painting suggest the quiet forest and reflection of the water surrounded by ferns, moss and wildflowers.
Another reason I’ve been thinking of objects recently is that I’m preparing for my project for PDX-CSA.
PDX-CSA Season 4 sales are open and project summaries are on the website for your perusal. Pre-sales fund the creation of new artwork and you gain access to the creative process as ideas become reality.
The variety of projects and the quality of the artists are certainly terrific! But, don’t take our word for it – see the project details for yourself. Or better yet, talk to the artists and see examples of their artwork in person at our Meet the Artists party.
Meet the Artists
If you’re curious about the other artists participation, please join us! Each of us will be bringing a small piece of work similar to what we will be doing for our Community Supported Art project! Learn more here: PDX-CSA
Meet the Artists
Wednesday, September 6th, 6-8pm
Wagner Studio, 1522 N Humboldt St,
Portland, OR, 97217
Which objects speak to you?
I’ve been going through some of the rich materials I’ve collected for assemblage to identify the objects that would work as additions to my Oil & Wax paintings. Each one tells its own story and suggests its own color palette. I’m thinking about what kind of colors I might want to use, and whether the objects should be fairly consistent or varied. I’d love to hear your suggestions!
Here are a few objects that have been calling to me:
Do you prefer the shells or the driftwood? Should one of my pieces have that little metal tray or the brush? What about that 45 record? Leave me a comment and let me know… or, even better, sign up to become a collector through PDX-CSA! Click here to get your name on the list.
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.
“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.
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!
A Thousand Things ©Ruth Armitage, Acrylic on Paper 22″x15″
Summer seems to hold a thousand things. Vacations, family, visitors from out-of-town, gardening, art shows, memories, smells, food, beach trips, river trips, concerts, each day is crammed full! If you’re not careful, there is no time left for painting. Thank goodness for art classes. I’m getting ready to teach a week long class at Menucha – a fabulous retreat in the Columbia River Gorge. Two spots just opened up if you’re free next week!
From Lines to Finished Work
This painting began in a workshop as a demonstration of using different types of line. At one point it was even more chaotic. I settled quite a bit of it by covering some of the marks with the dark turquoise at the bottom and the mint green in the top 2/3.
A good title can often be the impetus of a painting, and this one is no exception. I keep lists of titles in various places… sketchbooks, phone notes, post-its in the studio, etc. Often when looking back at old sketchbooks I’ll find one that I still want to paint. Sometimes the inspiration comes from reading, listening to the radio, a movie or a quote. But most often it comes from really concentrating on what I want to say about a subject.
Why A Thousand Things?
In this case, it was an attempt to convey how full my heart and mind are with images and memories of my parents’ farm. Although I’ll sometimes try to distill my painting into just one element of the feeling or memory, here I wanted to imply deep layers. I wanted to pile up some of the emotion memory and soul that the place conjures for me.
Our sense of place can be portrayed in so many ways: smells, sounds, words or music often take us back. I love looking at aerial photos of farmland. That is how this whole series started. Expressing this place in my own hand, my indecipherable script, feels satisfying.
Finally, if you’re not reading this post on my website, click on over… I have a new random quote generator on the sidebar that is a lot of fun!
My new painting, Breath of Spring, began as an experiment with line in my workshop at Sitka Center for Art and Ecology. One can’t help being influenced by the landscape there. However, in keeping with my series, this work was inspired by memories of the landscape on the farm. Spring breezes always brought out scents of the season…. Mud, blossoms, fresh grass and a chilly breeze are things that I thought of as I worked on this painting.
Breath of Spring, Acrylic on Paper 15″x22″ ©Ruth Armitage SOLD
The gold colors of the background remind me of bare winter branches covered with lichen and moss. Linear elements refer to tree branches and wetlands.
A New Discovery
One of the things I love about teaching is that because I am not trying to make a finished painting, I often take more risks than I would normally take. In this particular painting, I had borrowed a ‘coke bottle’ pen from fellow instructor Rebecca Wild and I tried using it with sumi ink. That wild experiment was so chaotic that I used a brayer to roll the light gold color over most of it, allowing only hints of it to peek through. The resulting texture was so attractive to me. Another discovery occurred during one of the line exercises I set in class. The small, staccato-like white marks grew out of that exercise.
Give it a Try
If you enjoy painting, you might like to try the same exercise.
- Assemble as many mark-making tools as you can find: brushes, pens, pencils, sticks, pastels, crayons, graphite, charcoal, black and white paint, etc.
- Begin by making marks that vary from thick to thin.
- Experiment with clustering the lines together, and then letting a few stand alone.
- Vary the direction of your lines.
- Use some broken lines and some continuous.
- Try for a wide variety.
- As you work, you might consider veiling or obliterating some of the lines that stand out too much.
- Restate some of the lines with a different media.
- Change medias frequently.
- Listen to music as you make lines inspired by the rhythm.
- Make lines that imitate letter forms, but are not legible.
- Use your non-dominant hand to draw several lines.
- Make a few lines to convey anger, calm, confusion, movement, etc.
- After about 15 minutes of work, step back.
- Decide which lines felt most comfortable to you, and which ones are new to your vocabulary.
This exercise is adapted from Steven Aimone’s Book “Expressive Drawing.” I seem to have misplaced my copy 🙁 If you have seen it, please let me know!
Finally, last call to submit images for the reader’s gallery! I appreciate your time and readership.
Missing in Action! Reward for its return!
Art Isn’t Paint
Teaching students what art IS often involves me teaching them what Art Isn’t. One of the reasons I share my process through demonstrations is to make it clear that my decision making process is driven by the ideas behind the art. Students start to see that I’m not thinking about what the right way to express something might be. Instead, I’m considering how I feel about the paint and the story behind the art.
I love this quote by artist Phillip Hicken. Perhaps he and I think along the same lines because we both might be considered colorists. Phillip Hicken (1910-1985) was a painter and printmaker from Nantucket. He worked as a printmaker in Boston and for the WPA. His work shows subtle color nuances inspired by the Nantucket area. You can see several examples of his prints and paintings on my Pinterest Board on Color.
Although I had a clear idea for the painting below, I’m trying to decide on the best title. I’m considering both “Where There’s Smoke” and “Conflagration.” Please leave a comment below to vote for your favorite title!
One of my jobs in summer on the farm was to ride on the tailgate of the pickup holding a lighter. I used a drip torch of diesel fuel, lighting the dried straw as the field was burned to rid it of pests, diseases and straw. It was a dangerous but thrilling job, and I’ve tried to express the chaos and movement that I witnessed as the flames raced toward each other in the center of the field.
There were also accidental fires in the fields, which were even more frightening. Having been this close to the power of fire that is out of control, I have been a keen and somber witness to the London conflagration this past week. I cannot imagine the agony that those who died there endured. It is even more dismaying considering the economic status of the victims. We can only pray for change as a result of the tragedy. I rarely get on a ‘soapbox’ here, but it is not a coincidence that fire has been on my mind in the studio.
Reader Appreciation Gallery
Finally, don’t forget to send me images of your work or work you’ve collected for the reader appreciation gallery coming toward the end of this month. Email images to: Artist Ruth5405 @ (gmail.com) – removing spaces and parenthesis. I’m excited to see work by many artists and friends. Your comments and responses keep me engaged in this forum and I appreciate you!
Portland Open Studios: Save the Date!
The Portland Open Studios board has been hard at work and Guides are available now! New this year is a section about artists who teach – a great resource. Mark your calendar now for two consecutive weekends: October 14-15 and 21-22, 2017, 10-5 pm. I’m excited to participate again this year and hope you’ll stop by to see what’s new in the studio.
“Conflagration” Acrylic on Paper, 30×22″ ©Ruth Armitage
“Slow Growth” Acrylic and Collage on Paper, 22×15″ ©Ruth Armitage
Though it may not seem like it to others, my work has been undergoing Slow Growth in the past year. This is a bit like seeing people’s kids once every six months and marveling at how they’ve changed. Only the parents know the infinitesimal daily changes that have added up to one big growth spurt. Because I pick and choose what to show on my website, one might think that these changes happen easily, or overnight. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I found myself mentioning to recent workshop students that one reason I teach is to force myself to become more comfortable with not KNOWING how a painting will turn out. I practice not KNOWING whether a decision is the correct one as I make it. Demonstrating for my classes forces me to pretend to be brave, and to make brave decisions. I have to stick to the plan as a good example for my ‘kids.’
About this painting
This piece grew out of a blind contour drawing that I used to create abstract shapes. Perhaps you can see the more geometric shapes near the bottom that were inspired by a building on the Sitka property. Maybe you can also see some of the foliage and limb shapes that move upward. This is not a realistic painting though, so it is ok with me if you don’t!
I rarely leave the white of the paper in my work, so this painting is unusual. I loved using some of the more spontaneous marks scratched into the wet paint, and the beautiful textures in some of the collage papers. Cutting out some of the strong black shapes from paper was more challenging, but I like the strength of those shapes in contrast to the more nebulous texture and color.
Sometimes I think we don’t even realize our own growth in art. We get wrapped up in the immediacy of the current work. It is difficult to see our current work in perspective. I think it is also difficult for students to see our work in perspective. They don’t often see the failures that led us to the point of a lesson, how we have struggled or where we’ve been influenced. As always, I appreciate those who add to the conversation by leaving a comment!
Send Me your Images
Don’t forget to send me your images of art you own or art you’ve made for the Reader’s Gallery blog celebration! I need them by June 25th please. Include your name, media, title and size. You can email them to me at ArtistRuth5405 (@) gmail (remove the parenthesis and spaces and add .com at the end.) You might even include a sentence about change and growth!