Slow Time: Landscape and Stills
at Shift through Sept. 27
Artist’s talk Sept 19, 7 p.m.
A fertile friendship, a willingness to jump fences and many shared cups of tea have furthered Ruthie V’s painting career.
Her new Shift show “Slow Time: Landscapes and Stills” features the subtle and quiet paintings spawned from her regular Friday afternoons either wandering the landscape of Skagit Valley or meeting for inspirational visits with her Whatcom County painter friend Mary Froderberg.
The landscapes are something new for me… I felt that was a weak spot and I tend to go straight at anything that’s a limitation or even a fear.”
Known recently for her random-person portrait project, which she continues as an adjunct to this show, Ruthie has also turned her attention to landscape–both plein air and in-studio recreations—to round out her practice of portraiture, murals, stills and domestic scenes.
“The landscapes are something new for me,” she said. I felt that was a weak spot and I tend to go straight at anything that’s a limitation or even a fear.”
For Ruthie, that meant making time to spend with landscape painter Mary, whom she’d met in a painting class in 2008. Together they’d go on exploratory walks past “no trespassing” signs and over “thistle covered hills and through windy valleys,” Ruthie said. “Eventually we’d settle on a place. While Mary set up to paint en plein air, I’d usually wander off to collect more composition ideas. A few of my paintings were painted en plein air with her (Hill and Cloud and Little Bonsai Studies) but most were painted at home.”
Their mellow afternoons were not without their surprises. “We’d meet new people—as it’s easy to meet someone when painting in their backyard,” Ruthie said. “We were only threatened with police action once.” Other times, they’d hole up in a café in Edison or in Mary’s cottage on Chuckanut Drive to talk about life and art. Favorite topics included the Fauvists, the Northwest School and the late Bellingham painter John Cole, who preceded Ruthie as Mary’s plein air painting companion.
Mary’s the only person who’s ever said to me, ‘Do what you want to do.’ … ‘What do you want to do?’ is a simple question, but one that’s also deeply profound and vital.”
Ruthie credits with Mary with having a big impact on her approach to painting, which says a lot, since Ruthie fills that role herself for her grateful students as the principal painting instructor at Pratt Fine Arts Center.
“I’m mostly an angsty painter—nervous and tense,” Ruthie explained. “Mary’s the only person who’s ever said to me, ‘Do what you want to do.’” Ruthie said she realizes that “What do you want to do?” is a simple question, but one that’s also deeply profound and vital.
“It’s amazing how difficult it is to answer that question sometimes,” she said. “There are so many influences and pressures—from doing things faster or slower to trying to figure out what your voice is,” she said. “It’s so complicated, but asking that question to myself over and over has led me down a very sincere path.”
Ruthie slowed herself way down to paint the show’s landscapes in oil her way, which she describes as “ugly beautiful—not too pretty or too polished” in their effect of dry brush on linen, employing her “trick” of stopping just short of doneness to impart a certain mood, an edge or a sparseness.
Previously, Ruthie said she’d ruminate for long stretches of time and then, about a month before a show she’d “explode” into a painting marathon. No longer.
This time, Ruthie took her own time to create a body of work that she’s pleased to say is “stress-free, free of angst and full of patience and joy.”