March Feature: Ruth Morton
"A few years into motherhood, after a gut-wrenching journey through infertility, I found myself frustrated and desperate, surrounded by my adorable twin toddlers and feeling lost. So, I dusted off my paint brushes, grabbed a kiddie stool to sit on, and painted flowers on the door of the main floor powder room. It was cathartic and was the beginning of the re-ignition of my creative self, having been silenced and buried under family and work obligations since leaving university a decade before.
Although I would work on various creative projects after that, I picked up my paint brush again in earnest just before the pandemic after dreaming of retiring and painting all day and deciding I didn’t want to wait. What’s wonderful about starting anew later in life is that I have more focus and awareness off what my goals are, and I can take a critical look at the rules I was taught as an art student and throw away the ones that I don’t care to follow.
The process of making art gives me immense satisfaction, and I aim to create work that both excites me and delights the eye of the viewer. Years of working in technology has honed the logical side of my brain which shows in my work through the complex layers underlying a simple playfulness.
I work mainly with acrylic paints on wood surfaces and love to paint layer after layer, allowing those first layers to peek through on the final work. Bold colours and linework are a staple in my paintings."
Q: Tell me about what kind of work you are currently making?
"My most recent work is quite different from what’s currently up on my website and I hope to publish this new series soon. I’ve taken the different techniques and styles I’ve developed over the past few years and pulled them together to create layered, playful images. I start with an intuitive abstract underpainting, paint out the negative spaces and add in line work (or doodles, really, developed from my sketchbook work). The under painting shows through transparent layers on top, adding interest and nuance.
I’ve done some faces, focusing on emotions rather than realism, however, I am continually drawn back to nature and floral work. For me, it’s important that what I create is something I’d like to see in my own home and that my work can be shared and enjoyed by many."
Q: What is a day like in the studio for you?
"Oh, I wish I could spend a whole day in my studio! I work full time outside of my art practice, so my time to paint is in the evenings and on weekends, in between family and other commitments. However, I do have a space dedicated to my practice and I work there when I can for as long or as little as I have available. I try to make creating a priority and regularly carry a sketchpad with me. Even when I’m not painting, I work on my iPad using the Procreate app, working through compositions and ideas, so that when it comes time to paint, my time is well spent."
Q: Who are your most prominent influences on your art practice?
"Being able to experience the work of other artists through social media has had a huge impact on the direction my practice has taken, not only in the creation of art but also in understanding what it takes to be a working artist and the different avenues available. Connecting with the journeys of these artists has accelerated my personal creative journey.
A few of the artists that have influenced my work and practice include Lisa Congdon, a brilliant art illustrator and author in the US, Cherie Altea, a painter of magical female figures in Singapore, Sara Purves a Torontonian who creates bold beautiful abstracts, florals and landscapes, Deb Weiers, a Canadian mixed media artist and creator of wonky people and critters, and Alai Ganuza, an artist from Spain who paints the ordinary in amazing colours.
As I was writing this, I realized that all the artists that have had the most profound influence on me are women. I do admire and follow many male artists such as Jim Musil, Robbie Craig and Adam Young however it’s the stories and work shared by other female artists that have inspired me the most. The majority of art taught in school and experienced in museums and art galleries is created by men. Exposure to these women and their art and their journeys gave me the confidence and understanding to develop and understand the value of my art and my perspective."
Q: What are your preferred mediums to work with and why?
"Although I create digital work regularly and sometimes dabble in watercolour, it’s painting with acrylics that feeds my soul. I prefer to work on a hard, smooth wood surface, although I will sometimes grab a canvas just to mix it up. I like how there is no give to a wood surface and how I can create texture or keep it smooth. Sometimes, I’ll sand down parts of a painting as part of my process.
Quick drying acrylic paints allow me to create layers. I’m not a very patient person, so the quicker I can lay the paint down the better. It keeps me in my intuitive place without having to break to wait for drying. Even then, I’ve started to work on multiple pieces at the same time so that I can keep working rather than stop for the few minutes it takes for a layer to dry!"
Q: What major themes, concepts or methods are rooted in your practice?
"In my day job in the tech industry, one of the things that excites me the most is working through a complex process or data set and pulling out the pattern, creating a picture or being able to tell a story that makes it make sense. I see that in my art process as well. What captivates me is starting with complexity and mess and creating something simple, playful, and delightful. Life is chaotic, people are complex, nature is all interconnected. This is the challenge – can I create works that are both chaotic and organized? Can my work be simple enough to delight the viewer’s eye at a glance, but captivating enough to make them stop for a second look? Having bits of unexpected colour peek through but having that also contribute to an overall cohesive painting, gives me immense satisfaction and pleasure.
Throughout my creative journey, I’m continually inspired by nature, which I realize is clichéd (I mean, who isn’t inspired by nature?), but it’s just true. I look forward to getting out in my garden every spring and love taking pictures of the flowers and plants that grow in it, which in turn informs and inspires my art."
Q: Where can we find more of your work?
"My original works are sold through my website at www.ruthlindamorton.com, along with some printed items such as pencil cases and notebooks.
You can also find me on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok where I show the latest paintings I’m working on and my sketchbook art and share bits of my process and journey."