Breath of Spring: New Work and a Drawing Exercise

Breath of Spring: New Work and a Drawing Exercise

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

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!

Limited Palette – Randomly Selected

Limited Palette – Randomly Selected

We’ve been working with color in my class at Oregon Society of Artists these last few weeks, and a couple of weeks ago, I demonstrated using a limited palette, randomly selected.

The idea for this lesson came from a facebook post by fellow artist Aimee Erickson called the #randomtubechallenge. If you click on the # link it will show you what some other artists have done with this concept. I asked students to select the limited palette of three colors randomly: they blindly chose Raw Umber, Vermillion and Quinacridone Violet. These plus black and white would be my palette for this work.

This is opposite of the way I usually work: I normally choose colors appropriate for expressing the mood or idea I have in mind. The exercise began with me having nothing in mind – a sure recipe for trouble!

As I worked with the color though, it started to remind me of autumn tilling of the fields. So that gave me a foothold to begin to help shape the painting.

You can see here, that though quinacridone violet is much cooler than the umber and red, I’ve pushed it to be a warmer dark by mixing it with the other colors. This makes the painting more about value relationships. I’ve also got a lot of line work, already, so that is another reason I chose not to push the color in this painting.

limited palette in progress

as the work looked at the end of class

I worked a bit more at home, first adding some black for more contrast:

Limited palette with the addition of black

Limited palette with the addition of black

Finally I decided to add a bit of white to up the contrast even more. Using High Flow  Acrylic with the dip pen, I was able to add some fine line and mark-making. I hope you can see the attempt at an ‘S’ shaped design, and the way my darks and lights lead you through the painting.

Final image: "Autumn Tilling" mixed watermedia ©Ruth Armitage 22x15"

Final image: “Autumn Tilling” mixed watermedia ©Ruth Armitage 22×15″

Comments are welcome!  I first wrote about this painting in my newsletter. You can subscribe here!

Next month marks my 8 year anniversary for Art Is Truth! I’m celebrating by sharing my artwork with readers: Click this link to access a free desktop calendar for June! Thanks for being a loyal reader!  

 

Necessary Exile

Necessary Exile

Necessary Exile – New Abstract Water-media Painting

©Ruth Armitage 2016, Watercolor and Acrylic on Paper, 30x22"

©Ruth Armitage 2016, Watercolor and Acrylic on Paper, 30×22″

 

I have a new abstract work, fresh from the studio, to share. It was a long process to birth this painting, over a month and a half. I attribute that to the difficulty of re-entering the studio after a break for the holidays.

The painting began with experimenting with some new colors provided to me by Qor Watercolors. These paints are made by Golden and are very intensely pigmented. I wanted to test how the colors performed alongside some of my favorites on the palette. I am happy to say that they are a joy to work with! As I continued with the painting, though, the subject began to occupy all my thoughts.

The idea behind the painting had been brewing for a long time… I wanted to make a painting based on the idea of being forced to leave a place one considers home. My reasons for choosing this subject relate to both my personal struggles and to the conditions of so many refugees in the world today.

“We learn, grow and become compassionate and generous as much through exile as homecoming, as much through loss as gain, as much through giving things away as in receiving what we believe to be our due.”

David Whyte

Near the end of the process, I decided to subdue much of the far left side and a large shape across the center with white acrylic spray paint by Liquitex. I love how it softly veils the shapes beneath it and subdues the colors.

I’m interested to hear how you ‘read’ the painting. Leave me a comment!

Believe in Your Work – 10 Keys to Choosing What to Enter

Believe in Your Work – 10 Keys to Choosing What to Enter

Do you believe in your work?

 

I’ve been asked to write about “Night Walk”, a painting that recently made the cut into the American Watercolor Society’s International Exhibition in New York City.

“Night Walk” ©Ruth Armitage 2014, Watercolor on paper 30″x22″

A bit of background for the un-initiated: in an international, juried show like AWS, one sends a digital image, plus an entry fee, and a panel of 5 judges review thousands of entries to select a show of between 100-150 paintings from all over the world. Once the show has been through preliminary selections, the original works are shipped to the venue, and awards are selected, in this case by a different panel of judges.

GIANT DISCLAIMER: My hunch is that my friend asked me to write this post so she could glean my ‘secret’ to success. The secret is: there is no secret. The only way to success is through repeated ‘failures’ or rejections. I’m currently reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s  Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
So far, my favorite Chapter is titled “Persistence.” If there is one key to succeeding here, that would be it!

Gilbert writes about “The patron goddess of creativity” and how she “can make really weird decisions about who gets her money.” “In short, she may show up for you, or she may not. Probably best, then, if you don’t count on her, or attach your definition of personal happiness to her whims.” This is how I look at it, and how I was able to write “Rejected Again, Hooray.”

I’ve been working to gain entry to this show for about 15 years. It is a tough nut to crack, and I’m not sure I have a lot of light to shed on how to do it. I think a lot of it is luck… Of course luck often finds me hard at work! But for what it is worth, here are my observations.

  1. Believe in your work – this particular painting was rejected from the AWS show last year… I still thought it was among my best work and decided to submit it again… This time it was accepted!
  2. Gain exposure by entering other high visibility shows – if the panel of judges have seen your work before and been suitably impressed, they are more likely to recognize your piece. This piece had been in a national show and won an award.
  3. Save your best work for the most competitive venues.
  4. Strong contrasts and Unity are big selling points – This painting has both.
  5. Thoughtful design choices – this painting utilizes a z shaped design, and shape repetition.
  6. Look for areas of complexity and areas of simplicity – this painting has both.
  7. Listen to what peers say when they view your work. In this case, a respected friend said she couldn’t stop thinking about the painting, couldn’t get it out of her head. Another friend identified it as a quantum leap in my work.
  8. I think there is something to be said for letting the ‘Hand of the Artist’ show… The gestural line work in this piece definitely qualifies, and contrasts with the more regular, geometric patterns.
  9. I can’t stress enough that belief in oneself is the key- even when this piece was “Rejected Again” I still liked it and believed in it. Be persistent.
  10. Go with your gut!

Another reason to believe in your work is that the perfect buyer for a painting might not surface immediately. Often it takes years for an artwork to find its forever home. In the meantime, it is easy for us as creators to feel doubt and insecurity creep in, regardless of the quality of the work, or how we viewed it when we first completed it.

This can be one of the most difficult parts of being an artist: being an objective viewer of one’s own work. Where does it fit within the body of work? Which opinions or critiques does one listen to? Ultimately, the artist must listen to their own instincts most strongly.

I’ll leave you with the words of Honore’ de Balzac:
“All happiness depends on courage and work.”

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.

IMG_3849

*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?

Own the Art You Wish For

Own the Art You Wish For

What is the Art you Wish For?

During Portland Open Studios I had a chance to observe viewers as they considered purchasing art. While many people wanted to take artwork home with them, only a few did.  One viewer expressly said to me, ‘I wish I could buy one of your pieces.’

My reply was half serious: “Anyone can buy one of my paintings.” Really, this is true. I’ve seen everyone from Corporate Giants to Housekeepers purchase my work: those with lots of money, and those with little money.

What makes them all commit to buying art? Each purchase is a choice. It may mean deciding that the vacation must wait, the car gets a little older, etc.  Read here about Herb and Dorothy Vogel, who amassed a world-class art collection on a modest budget.

Falling in love with an artwork and finding the perfect spot in your home to view it each day is a pleasure that you share with family and friends and a legacy to your heirs. But it is also a gift to the artist who created the work. It tells that artist that what they made is worthwhile, that it speaks to you on a meaningful level. It encourages that artist to make more work. Your purchase makes the world more beautiful.

If you have other ideas about ways to acquire original art, affordably, leave me a comment! If you see a piece of art you wish for, let me know!

 

"Rope Swing" ©Ruth Armitage, 2015 Acrylic on Paper 22x15"

“Rope Swing” ©Ruth Armitage, 2015

Acrylic on Paper, 22x15″

Six Ways to Own the Art You Wish For, Affordably!

1. Work with the artist or gallery to set a payment plan. Most artists are happy to accept monthly or quarterly payments for works that are out of your monthly budget range. This makes everyone happy – it saves you the interest you’d pay on a credit card, and helps the artist or gallery make the sale.

2. Consider Barter. I’ve traded artwork for Orthodonture, Vacation Rentals, Massage, Hand-Knit Sweaters, House-cleaning and more.

3. Start Small. Smaller works are often more affordable. Accumulating a group of smaller works and hanging them together can make an impressive and eclectic display.

4. Rent to Own. The painting above and others of similar quality are available at the Portland Art Museum’s Rental Sales Gallery. If you’re not sure about how long you’ll be in your place, renting a work is a good solution. When it is time to return the work, you may apply the rental fee to your purchase if you decide to keep it. Many communities have similar galleries.

5. Shop Antique, Thrift and Consignment Stores. My sister has scored some fabulous art at amazing prices by using her keen eye to discover work by well-known artists. One of my favorite family pieces was an estate sale purchase by my mother and grandmother. It always reminds me of my grandmother’s house. Who knows, you could even score a masterpiece like Teri Horton did!

6. Give your spouse or partner a hint. Sometimes it is hard to treat yourself to what you really want. Let someone else treat you! Some of my favorite sales have happened during holidays or birthdays when someone surprises their significant other (or kid) with the gift of original art. I’ve even delivered on Christmas Eve! I’m great at keeping secrets, so if you have something in mind, let’s talk!

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