Petrichor: The Smell of Earth After Rain

Petrichor: The Smell of Earth After Rain

The hot weather we are expecting makes me long for Petrichor: the smell of earth after rain. The title of this painting evolved as I worked. I knew I wanted to contrast the delicate, shimmery texture of the pastel areas with something dark and heavy. The brilliant orange accents also provide contrast to these areas.

I loved the pastel areas so much, it was difficult to cover them. But, I also am enjoying the drama of the large dark shape. Let me know your thoughts.

I wanted to make the dark and grey areas represent the rain and the chill.  In contrast, the light and warm areas represent the smells of the earth. Whenever I sense this fragrance, it conjures a vivid memory from childhood of walking barefoot, across a dusty gravel driveway.

I remember it as the first time I noticed the smell of rain on the dry earth. My sisters and I often had the job of waking up the farm hand that stayed in the bunk house on our farm. Smells seem more powerful in the morning, and in childhood. As adults, I think we often don’t take the time to notice.

"Petrichor" ©Ruth Armitage 21x29" Watercolor on Paper

“Petrichor” ©Ruth Armitage 21×29″ Watercolor on Paper

In Other News…

There is still time to enter my giveaway… You may be the lucky winner! Click here to enter to win an original oil & wax painting.

Also, in case you missed it, I have new workshops listed! You can paint with me this November in Portland, or next November in Maui! Check out all the details on my workshops page.

Somehow, the realistic paintings of tropical islands never really seem to capture the wonder, beauty, smells and sounds of the paradise that is Hawaii. I’m hoping to inspire you to express the things that make a trip to Hawaii wonderful: relaxation, sweet fruit, warm sunshine, gentle breezes… you get the idea.

In case you’re wondering how my artwork looks installed, here are a couple of photos! Last night I helped hang several pieces in the Barrel House Tasting Room of Tumwater at Pete’s Mountain: the site of the 2016 Street of Dreams PDX. The event opens July 30th. The homes are beautiful and I love getting decor ideas. My paintings will also be in Quintessence on Lot 5. What a great home to showcase contemporary style. I hope you’ll get a chance to see the show, through August 28th, 2016.Ruth Armitage Abstract

Ruth Armitage at Barrel House Tasting Room

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!

New Abstract in Cold Wax & Oil

New Abstract in Cold Wax & Oil

"Winds of Change" ©Ruth Armitage Cold Wax & Oil on Panel 30"x40"

“Winds of Change” ©Ruth Armitage Cold Wax & Oil on Panel 30″x40″ SOLD

I have not posted artwork recently, but I have been painting! This painting will be part of my June exhibit at Riversea Gallery “Down on the Farm.” Titling this painting Winds of Change is very appropriate, since it went through so many changes in the course of painting.

Talking to a friend about using cold wax this morning helped me to verbalize why I enjoy this medium so much. Some painting days you are ‘on’ and others you aren’t. This medium allows me to stay loose and to experiment without judgement for a longer period of time than watercolor. It allows me to tolerate the chaos of the beginning stages for longer, knowing that they only add to the overall patina and depth of the final work.

One of the reasons for painting my “Down on the Farm” series is to document my memories and feelings about my parent’s farm. Though each painting begins with the a similar basic layout of roads, fences, house, barn and yard, every one of them has ended up with its own unique specific theme and colors.

As I painted this, spring storms blew through Oregon, new growth burst forth and, simultaneously, our family grappled with questions about aging and independence, about what is best for the farm and the folks. Generations of my family have tilled the land, and my hope is that my children will have an opportunity to live that lifestyle.

As I painted this work, another family farm was sold to be subdivided near my home. I don’t think I realized how much I missed the open space of a farm until I returned to living in the country. I so enjoy being able to see the growth cycle of my lambs, the wind in the trees, the clouds coming over the horizon or sun breaking through. It doesn’t come without hard work and sacrifice… longer drives to the city, mucking out stalls, worry over weeds and weather. But it is the life for me.

Here is one more in Oil & Wax, this one will be included in Mary Lou Zeek’s “Pulse” show, a Pop-Up Gallery set for May 9-16, 2014, benefitting the Medical Foundation of Marion and Polk Counties. I hope you can join us! Opening reception May 9, 5-8 p.m., Silent Auction May 10-16 11 .m. – 5 p.m., See me at “The Artist is In” May 13 from 11-3.

"See" ©Ruth Armitage, Oil & Wax on Panel 12"x12

“See” ©Ruth Armitage, Oil, Wax, and Collage on Panel 12″x12 SOLD



"Swath" ©Ruth Armitage 2013, Oil on Canvas 18"x24"

“Swath” ©Ruth Armitage 2013, Oil on Canvas 18″x24″

In farm lingo, a swath is a row of cut grain or grass left by a scythe. Swathe can also mean to bind, wrap, envelope or swaddle. I’ve also heard it used as a term for cutting a path, which is what I had to do to get started in my studio today.

When I returned from Utah, I quickly unpacked, leaving everything on the tables. I got my painting for Watercolor West framed and shipped, packed for the Rogue River, and took off again. Then I returned for the second time in less than a week, and dumped everything on the tables again. That left not a single surface in the studio uncluttered.

One of the wonderful things about having a dedicated studio space is being able to make a mess of it, and not having the rest of your house look a wreck. But getting inspired to work in a messy situation is difficult. I’m also trying to get everything organized for my October Columbus Day workshop!

I looked up images of messy studios online, and mine didn’t really come close to some of the clutter-fests that I saw there, but here are the before & afters of my clean-up session today.

Stacks of paintings, ready for Open Studio

Stacks of paintings, ready for Open Studio



Cleaning all afternoon makes Red-dog tired!

Cleaning all afternoon makes Red-dog tired!





Finally Clean!

I’m hoping each of the bare tables you see here are filled with creative and inspired students come October. If you’d like to join me, you can find out more on my Workshops page. If you have a great messy studio photo to share, you can email it to me at ruth (at) I’ll show a few of the best on this page.

Learning from the Masters – How directed practice creates results

Learning from the Masters – How directed practice creates results

Plein Air at Morrison's Lodge, Merlin, Oregon

Plein Air at Morrison’s Lodge, Merlin, Oregon

My husband and I just spent a wonderful weekend with friends at Morrison’s Lodge, on the Rogue River near Merlin, OR. I devoted one day to plein air painting in this beautiful spot… It was a fun way to interact with all ages, from kids to adult. They really enjoyed seeing the two paintings that I completed coming together, and changing radically from one hour to the next.

One of the analogies I made when talking to them about my art was that just like any other art form, painting takes practice. Kids can really relate to practicing piano, violin or guitar. I was able to tell them that I have been practicing my art for over 25 years, just as someone who plays in a symphony would practice. I have taken intensive classes, and solicited criticism of my work too.

Learning to paint has been a result of studying from the Masters of my craft and choosing to do directed practice. Two articles I read this morning really emphasize this idea of focusing your efforts:

Lisa Call, a highly successful textile artist, talks about how we use our 10,000 hours of practice on her blog. I would encourage you to read the entire article!

One of the keys to improvement and conscious practice is getting critical feedback. Lisa says:

  • “Get critical and immediate feedback on your artwork. Better yet – learn to give yourself valuable critical feedback. Surgeons get better over time because they get immediate feedback to their work. Interestingly radiologists reading mammograms do not get better over time because they do no receive any sort of immediate critical feedback on their work. It can take years before their mistakes are discovered. This idea of critical and immediate feedback seems to be key in improving our skills.”

Donna Zagotta, one of my most influential art mentors, has produced an entire series of blog posts on Deliberate Practice. Her article “Heading in the Right Direction” points out some ways to direct your practice:

“There are 4 major components to a Deliberate Practice Program:

  1. Know precisely where you want to go
  2. Make a list of small and specific actions for getting there
  3. Work one step at a time
  4. Feedback and evaluation”

Donna keeps a list of artists whose work she admires so that she can study what ways she might improve her own work. She continues her series on today’s blog post: That Time of Year.

One of my goals for this year has been to improve my use of expressive line and mark-making. Interestingly, this goal came about because a painting received a compliment from an instructor! He said that my mark-making in an experimental painting was expressive. I actually felt that this element was the least successful part of the painting, and decided to try to focus more effort on making marks that were pleasing to me. In order to do that, I read books on the subject, including Steven Aimone’s book: Expressive Drawing: A Practical Guide to Freeing the Artist Within .

I also decided to do some experimenting with different materials for drawing and mark-making. Because I was open to experimenting, I found some new, more pleasing, techniques that worked for me. I also figured out which methods felt less natural for me. Zentangle was one style that immediately felt natural to me. I enjoy the meditative process and have incorporated several elements from this art form into my watercolor paintings. Look at my Down on the Farm series and see if you can spot some areas influenced by Zentangle. What works for you? I’d be interested to hear your comments.

If you are looking for some feedback or direction in your own work, you might want to look at signing up for one of my upcoming classes. Former students have some great things to say. October and November are great months to spend time in the studio with other like-minded artists! I hope you can join me.




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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