Joanne Beaule Ruggles

Turning your Attention to New Subjects

Every summer for the last 45 years, our family has gone to spend time at a remote cabin in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. While my art practice has primarily focused on the human form as my subject, in the summer I turn my attention to what is available in this remote setting. On Grand Mesa, my attention has shifted to the study of the wildlife and plant forms that populate that high elevation.

Studying something foreign makes me take more time, look more carefully, and reconsider assumptions. While I can shut my eyes and effortlessly picture the human skeletal structure, I do not inherently know the structure of a feeding chipmunk or the strident posture of a stellar jay defending his turf. When portraying regionally-specific wildflowers, I must pay attention to their varied shapes, colors and presentations in order to get the essence of those plants on my page.

In these mountains I am sometimes limited in the materials I have at hand, but generally my work process remains constant. When I am observationally sketching, I work with pen because that choice forces me to work quickly – no looking back. When I am planning a more complex artwork, I am inclined to construct an “environment” – a field of chaos on my page. Capturing the rawness of the landscape or the recklessness of the wildflowers is extremely compatible with this approach that begins with abstract play.