Top 12 Titles for Creatives

Top 12 Titles for Creatives

My Top 12 Titles for Creatives – Thought Provoking work on Creativity

I find myself sharing many of the gems of wisdom found within these books with students, and thought that having a reading list resource for creatives would be a good addition to my blog. I hope you enjoy! The links are affiliate links: If you order, I receive a tiny credit from Amazon. I have listed them in no particular order….

But first: new work from my week at Menucha:

"Night by the Sea" ©Ruth Armitage, Watercolor on paper 15x22"

“Night by the Sea” ©Ruth Armitage, Watercolor on paper 15×22″

Some of my Favorite Reads:

First: A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech – This is a look at some of the psychological processes that happen during creativity. If I had to pick just one of these books for students to read, this might be the one!

 A Kick in the Seat of the Pants by Roger von Oech – More wisdom and creativity exercises from the author of A Whack on the Side of the Head. 

Another Great:

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield – This is a quick read, and a very motivational look at what holds us back from creating. I would probably rate this book as the 2nd most important on the list!

The Art Spirit by Robert Henri – a true classic.

Robert Genn Letters Vol. 1 & 2 – Short essays on creativity, painting, art, galleries and life. Genn attracted a cult following by writing ‘letters’ to his blog followers each week.

Bird by Bird by Anne LaMott – This book is about writing, but everything LaMott describes about creative writing also applies to painting and other creative pursuits. I love her sense of humor and self-deprecating wit. I can honestly say, this book helped me solidify my identity as an artist.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert – Gilbert somehow gets the nitty gritty of the mystical parts of the creative process. A very enjoyable read, and a new way to think about the ego.

Strictly for inspiration

Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver – Mary Oliver always inspires. She is a true creative genius.

Art and Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland – a great read about the psychology of creativity.

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp – Though Tharp describes her creative process as a choreographer and dancer, there are pearls of wisdom for all creatives in this fascinating peek into her world.

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon – A quick read with lots of food for thought.

For the Practical Minded:

I’d Rather Be in the Studio by Alyson B. Stanfield – This is a classic manual for how to create a business from your art. Artists don’t always think of themselves as business people. Alyson helps turn that thinking around with practical guidance to take you from hobbyist to professional.

Finally, The Creative Curve by Allen Gannett – I’ll admit, I haven’t read this one yet, but it will be next on my list. Gannett, founder and CEO of the marketing analytics firm TrackMaven examines the science behind whether ideas sink or swim in this fast-paced environment.

Do you have any favorite books on creativity or art? If I’ve missed your favorite, please share in the comments below!

Painting and Golf – 3 Similarities – New Workshop Announcements

Painting and Golf – 3 Similarities – New Workshop Announcements

In last week’s plein air workshop I kept thinking about the similarities between Painting and Golf. I like to make analogies when I teach, to help students keep perspective on the creative process. By comparing painting to other activities like music or golf, the students can step back from their frustrations a bit, and see things in perspective.

“Achievement is largely the product of steadily raising one’s level of aspiration and expectation.”  – Jack Nicklaus

3 Similarities:

  1. Both Painting and Golf are extremely challenging. In both painting and golf, the success rate is low, even for professionals. Tiger Woods does not expect to hit a hole in one on every hole, or even every game. Similarly, professional artists do not expect every painting to succeed the first time. Artists make preliminary sketches and studies, just as golfers take practice swings and practice putting and driving. Both Golf and Painting attract hobbyists and professionals alike.
  2. Practice is required for both Golf and Painting. Driving and putting are not the same as playing the game of golf against opponents. By the same token, class exercises and sketches are not the same as making a painting. Practice must be focused on improvement, not repeating the same mistakes over and over. Directed practice in golf might focus on correcting a swing. Similarly, directed practice in painting might focus on improving a value pattern or color scheme.
  3. Golfers and Painters must both focus on a good Mental Game. Keeping a positive mental outlook boosts confidence in both fields. Focus and attention are important to help overcome the difficulties of each pursuit. Success in golf or painting can often breed a kind of obsession, too. Both Golfers and Painters become passionate about their pursuit. The variety of golf courses, just like the variety of painting subjects, can entertain enthusiasts for a lifetime.

What other similarities can you think of between Painting and Golf?

***A quick reminder, for former students, I’m celebrating 10 years of Art is Truth the Blog by creating a new forum for interaction: Art is Truth Cadets Facebook Group!

If you’re a former student and you’d like to join – click the link above and request to join. We share work, opportunities and feedback here. I hope you’ll participate… it won’t be the same without YOU!

Here are a few select snapshots from my plein air workshop with Vistas and Vineyards! Click the thumbnails for the full image.

New Workshop Announcements

ABC’s of Abstraction – International Society of Experimental Artists: September 24 – 28, 2018 – Newport Oregon

We will cover both the elements of design and the ‘mental game’ in art-making.

Using acrylic and collage, students will explore shape, line, color and texture to craft vibrant paintings that stir the emotions.

You will learn organizing principles, painting tips and techniques for overcoming self-doubt and indecision. Still a few spots left – Register Here

ABC’s of Abstraction – All Media Santa Clarita Artist’s Association: November 9 – 11, 2018

Contact Jeanne Iler for more information.

ABC’s of Abstraction – Acrylic: Tubac School of Fine Art, Tubac, AZ: January 11, 12 & 13, 2019.

More information Click here  

I hope you can join me!

"Whistling" Watercolor on paper, 10"x11" ©Ruth Armitage $295 unframed

“Whistling” Watercolor on paper, 10″x11″ ©Ruth Armitage $295 unframed

A Beginning – Abstract Painting

A Beginning – Abstract Painting

Happy New Year!

The mad dash of the Holiday season is over and today is a time for recalling some of the successes of 2014 and looking forward to 2015. My posting here has been as thin as my new paintings, though I did finish a gift for my son in time for Christmas (below.)

"Buck for Tim" Watercolor on Paper 15x22" ©Ruth Armitage 2014

“Buck for Tim” Watercolor on Paper 15×22″ ©Ruth Armitage 2014

The past year has brought success. I achieved many of my goals, including exhibiting in National Exhibitions, teaching workshops out of state, and increasing my income. Most recently, two of my paintings (“Learning to Fly” and “Turnover“) were accepted in the North Valley Art League’s National Painting Show by juror Vinita Pappas. The show will run from January 29 – February 28, 2015 at the North Valley Art League, 48 Quartz Hill Dr., Redding, CA.

My blog and website have been a big part of that success, so thank you for reading! I always think it is interesting to see the patterns of what viewers respond to most. My most popular post of the year was last January “Socratic Art Evaluation.” It had 245 views in one day, thanks to the Brush Buzz Newsletter from Fine Art Studios Online. Total views of the blog and website for the year were 21,000!

I wrote 46 new blog posts, bringing the total archive to 372. You can view more interesting stats in my annual report from jetpack:

Each year I set goals, and this year is no exception. My goal is less specific than in previous years, and is inspired by a blog post I read this week by Rebecca Crowell. In it she talks about the balance between Intention and Intuition, and how both are important to the creative process. Read the entire post here: This balance is something I talk about in my classes.

My favorite analogy is to compare the painting process to a journey, one where you don’t have any reservations to stay or a specific itinerary in mind. You’re just taking a road trip, say to San Francisco. Along the way you might enjoy exploring a museum, an estate sale and a beach, all unplanned. You might never make it all the way to San Francisco, but at least you know you are going to head south, toward the Bay area.

Golf is another of my favorite analogies. Golfers know that they are aiming for the current hole. They may not be able to visualize every step needed to get there, because each stroke depends on the previous. Similarly, each painting step depends on the previous. And no golfer, no matter their skill level, expects to hit a hole in one with every game.

This year I hope to find a more true balance between Intention and Intuition. It is a quest that will likely take more than a year!

I’ll leave you with a beginning… the first layers of a new abstract painting. This piece is planned to be a companion to “Crossover.”

Work in Progress - Abstract Beginning

Work in Progress – Abstract Beginning – Oil & Wax

And, a part of a poem for inspiration. I always think of the Holidays as a sort of Sabbatical from the rest of the year.

“Ten Sighs from a Sabbatical” by Rodney Jones


Let loose. Lists into ashes. Tasks into stones.

In lethargy I revise myself. I loiter in the lily’s canal.

Time to mood-walk among obsolete resolutions.

To drain rhetoric to all that does not speak and cannot listen.

Hello thistle. What do horses hear?

A nap cleans me like a tooth. Mere duty rocks the hours.

The brain’s self-whispering brushes the conscious event.

The face of a good friend is a breast.

A call comes in on the switchboard of the birds.

I swivel and skitter, a potato thrown through a warehouse.

I am injected with dream questions.

Instruct me, heavenly recipe for the worms.

How long must I be buried before I am done?

Rub me right, rule me, sweet other.

I’m old wood and new string.

I can only be an animal through this violin.

Read More on Google Books

R & R

R & R

My husband & I had a weekend away from the farm last weekend. We went to a remote cabin between Granite and Ukiah, Oregon, in the Blue Mountains. It is an annual trip for my husband, but I’ve never done it before. What a beautiful area! We spent time fishing, driving around the various back roads, visiting local friends and spending time with family.

I made a plein air painting of the meadow on our first day, but I gave it as a gift to our hostess for dinner one night and forgot to get a photo of it.

My son, his best friend and my nephew hiked in to Crawfish Lake to spend a couple of nights and fish. We had great luck fishing, including the whoppers pictured, and quite a few small ones… both brook trout and rainbow.

When we returned, I hosted a college roommate and her husband for a fabulous trout dinner. I’m including a link to the recipe I used, mostly because I don’t want to lose track of it. It was THAT good! The sauce was excellent and I think the recipe would be good for any kind of fish. I altered it to make it gluten free, using GF flour and also removed the skin from the trout and coated both sides of the fillets with pecans. YUM!

Now I’m back to the studio routine. Enjoying my painting time and getting things framed for the shows I have coming up. I hope to see you at one of my events! Still room in my October workshop… your space is waiting!



"Spring Forest" ©Ruth Armitage 2013, Oil on Panel 11"x9"

“Spring Forest” ©Ruth Armitage 2013, Oil on Panel 11″x9″

This is another plein air sketch from Boskey Dell Nursery last month. Our weather here has rapidly progressed to summer, and I’m missing the crispness of spring! Getting out and painting with friends is one of my favorite ways to spend a day. This quotation sums it up for me:

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. -Albert Schweitzer

My ‘Spark Session’ last weekend was just that… a rekindling of spirit, for myself and my students! We enjoyed painting together, looking at great art, and even snuck in some time sharing the nearby labyrinth. I’ve walked them alone before, but this was my first time sharing the experience with others. What a joy!


Judy and Shawn on the Labyrinth

The other Judy, working!

The other Judy, working!

Our instigator, Jennifer

Our instigator, Jennifer


The other friends I’ve been spending time with lately are books. My book club has recently chosen some new reads, and I am eating them up like candy. Here we are at our 20th anniversary meeting! These women have become some of my closest friends, and I look forward to our gathering each month for a wonderful meal and meaningful discussions.

First Tuesday Literary Society

First Tuesday Literary Society

Here are some links to my recent reads. I’m warning you though, they are addictive! I think I read each of them in 48 hours or less! Happy reading. The first and second are moving portraits of friendship. Click on the book images to go to the page for each book, or check them out from your local library.



Things that Are vs. Miracles

Things that Are vs. Miracles

"Lichen and Blackberries" 5"x7" Oil on panel ©Ruth Armitage

“Lichen and Blackberries” 5″x7″ Oil on panel ©Ruth Armitage SOLD

Reading blogs this morning, I came across this question on Grace Carol Bomer’s blog: “Are you a person that prefers to believe in things that always make sense/things that you can see? Or are you a person that prefers to believe in miracles/take things on faith? There are no right or wrong answers–just an opportunity for introspection.” . The question was inspired by the movie “Life of Pi.”

This got me to thinking about recent changes and questions in my artwork. In all of my paintings, the story or narrative is the spark. Recently I’ve been experimenting with stories of imagination, miracles, things unseen. I still return to paint things that make sense, things as I see them. I’ve felt a bit schizophrenic in my productivity, but moving back and forth between realism and abstraction has felt as natural to me as sampling both fiction and non-fiction. I normally prefer fiction. How about you?

"Minto Brown Wetland" 11"x13" Oil on Canvas ©Ruth Armitage

“Minto Brown Wetland” 11″x13″ Oil on Canvas ©Ruth Armitage SOLD

Last night I finished reading Wild, Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of her solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. It was a story of faith, courage and spirit, told with humor and honesty. One of the many things that touched me upon finishing the book was the Acknowledgements section at the end. When we finish a painting, artists don’t have a card below that painting thanking the many people who helped in small ways to bring that painting into being. I think my next post may focus on Acknowledging some of those people!

Here are a couple of shots from a Plein Air outing yesterday at Minto-Brown park. I met some folks whose work I have followed online, and other new painters. It was a great way to get out of the studio and make new art friends! Thanks to Randall Tipton for organizing the outing. The location was beautiful, wild and mossy, and it was one of our few mild days, no wind and the rain held off till we were finished painting. Temperatures in the upper 50’s made it possible to get the two paintings above nearly finished. Let me know what you think…

brown minton-1533 brown minton-1620

Thanks to Celeste Bergin and Dave for documenting some of the day!

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