“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.
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!
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.
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
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 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 – New Abstract Water-media Painting
©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.”
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!
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.
- 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!
- 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.
- Save your best work for the most competitive venues.
- Strong contrasts and Unity are big selling points – This painting has both.
- Thoughtful design choices – this painting utilizes a z shaped design, and shape repetition.
- Look for areas of complexity and areas of simplicity – this painting has both.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”