"Abstract Hillside" ©Ruth Armitage 2015, Acrylic on Paper 15"x11"

“Abstract Hillside” ©Ruth Armitage 2015, Acrylic on Paper 15″x11″

Gardening has taught me so much about painting. Here are a few kernels of advice for all you budding (get it?) artists and gardeners.

You know how it is when you come home after 10 days away and some of the little things have changed drastically? Yeah, that happened! I was in Newport for the Watercolor Society of Oregon‘s Spring Exhibition and Convention, then stayed for the workshop with Gale Webb. The image above is a painting that resulted from that class.

I’m thrilled to share that my painting “Coming Through the Rye” received an award… honored to be among one of the artists chosen from this stunning show. The 20 Award-Winning paintings will travel the state for the next six months. Check out my Events Page for more information!

I came home from my time away to an explosion of growth in the garden… Tree peonies and dogwood in bloom and WEEDS! 🙁 I also came home to try to carve out some time in the studio. With deadlines approaching and commissions on the table, that is essential. But I also need to get out in the garden while the weather is good and the weeds are small!

5 Things I’ve Learned About Art and Gardening

  • 1) Devotion: To have a beautiful garden or art practice, you MUST devote time. My art practice thrives when I put in the time. My garden, right now, needs a bit more time.  It is full of weeds, needs pruning and is getting away from me.
  • 2) Pruning: pruning judiciously leaves more room for light, more time for art. Do you struggle with overcrowding? My garden is facing that issue right now, as is my life! Too many commitments have broken into the sacred time I usually reserve for my art. It is time for a little pruning of my schedule AND my garden!


  • 3) Seeds or ideas: Both must be carefully managed so they don’t scatter. Keeping my ideas in a sketchbook or journal is like keeping a file for seeds. It pays to review what I’ve done in the studio (and the garden) what produced well and what I can learn from it. Which idea or plant is best suited for the resources I have available? What do I need to balance out my inventory? Making a plan and sticking to it is easier said than done, but it pays to keep my eye on the prize and focus my efforts.


  • 4) Watering and Fertilizing: just like seeds in the garden, my art ideas need resources to grow and thrive. The ‘water’ of my art practice is viewing other art, exploring new materials and reading. I ‘fertilize’ my imagination with reading poetry, non-fiction (currently a book on butterflies), journals and fiction.


  • 5) Being Present: When I’m in the garden, I’m happy… happy to be weeding or planting, planning or just enjoying the fresh air. When I go into the studio, my focus shifts to creating. I try not to waste time in either place, wishing I were elsewhere. I capitalize on the rainy days by spending them in the studio and enjoy the sunshine in the garden when it arrives. It takes both rain and sun to make a garden. Similarly, it takes both joy and sweat to make a painting.


Just like walking through a beautiful, mature garden, art viewers often see the end result when a finished work of art is presented. It is difficult to imagine the sweat, persistence, concentration and hard-won time that went into creating that painting, just like one does not always consider the battle with weeds, elements and failure that led to the creation of a beautiful garden. Persistence in the face of frustration is often the key in both art and gardening!

You can be sure that gardening and painting both reap lasting rewards, though. Both teach us about beauty, stamina, flexibility, appreciation and joy. Both allow us to share with the world our own unique aesthetic. Gardening and Painting both constantly surprise me with unexpected gifts – a volunteer plant, an unusual blending of color…. What similarities do you see between gardening and painting?

Leave me a comment! I love hearing from you. Let me know what’s happening in your art life or your garden. As always, I appreciate your sharing my words and work with friends and family!

My favorite tree peony "Gaughin"

My favorite tree peony “Gauguin”


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