Joanne Beaule Ruggles

For A New Year, Try Something New

The new year is beginning. It is a perfect time to try something new in your art practice. Are there some new things you would like to explore? If that is too broad of a question, ask yourself what assumptions you are making that might not be true? Could you work in a different way by challenging them?

“Do I need to apply gesso to my paper before painting?” Depends on the effect you want, depends on the paper, depends on the thickness of the paint…

“Should I always start with the head when I draw the figure?” Not always. Though that can work in some instances, it often leads to significant proportional errors from head to foot.

“Is it better to start light and gradually get darker as I work?” Not necessarily. Perhaps you just need to “cut to the chase” and apply the black areas immediately.

A couple months ago, I had an artist earnestly ask me what she could do to loosen up her figure drawings. I watched her draw briefly and she was carefully using a #2 pencil. I asked why she chose that particular tool and she said she was used to it. I asked what she did as her career? She said she was an engineer, and suddenly her tight approach made sense.

I told her she needed to change tools to loosen up. She looked at me, horrified. I could tell from her face that she would never do it, unless forced. So I walked over to another artist standing nearby and asked if the engineer could have a small stick of their charcoal in order to experiment. Generously, the second artist agreed, and passed over some charcoal.  As I walked back to my work, I said  “try it…what do you have to lose?” At the end of our drawing session the engineer triumphantly brought me her drawing pad, saying “look what I did!”

Change is good, refreshing, invigoration…and yes – it can be frightening. If you want to grow, change is required. If you always start on a white sheet, try black. If you prefer a rectangular format, try a square or circle. If you work with loads of color, try minimal color. If you have never worked with charcoal, try it. If you have never painted a landscape, try one. It is 2019 – time to try something new.

“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got!”  – Albert Einstein

The Last Breath, © 2015, Joanne Beaule Ruggles, Acrylic, collage, and charcoal on raw (no gesso) unstretched canvas, approx 44 x 48″ (irregular in shape, unfinished edges).