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Part #3 in my A to Z - I, J, K L, M & N

First published Monday, 24 September 2018

I is for Inspiration (and for Improving)

Obviously I am inspired to paint by horses, but I am inspired to paint and draw BETTER by the work of artists throughout art history. I’m not talking here about the wonderful mentors and co-mentors I am lucky enough to know or have known, though they certainly play their part, but the ones in the books on my studio shelves. I remember exactly where I first saw their work. The artists that have inspired me the most work in different mediums, different styles and with different subjects (interestingly very rarely horses) but all have a quality of light capture, brushwork, mood and atmosphere, economy of mark or something intangible that speaks to me. Looking at their work has helped me out of many a painting quandary and many a painter’s block. So (among many and in no particular order) here is my list of go-tos:

Edgar Degas, Franz Marc, Marc Chagall, John Singer Sargent, Horst Janssen, Katsushika Hokusai, Käthe Kollwitz, Ralph Steadman, Frank Auerbach, Egon Schiele, Felicien Rops, Joseph Zbukvic, Günter Grass.

Which artists inspire you?

J is for Just A Card.

Designer Sarah Hamilton’s 'Just A Card' campaign started when she saw a quote from a recently closed Gallery’s owner saying that if everyone who had complimented the gallery had bought just a card they would not have had to close down. I can’t remember how many times I have said similar at a show! So if you like a gallery or artist and want to keep seeing their work then make a purchase at their shop, a show, or from their website to support them. Even small purchases add up so . . . If you want to see or purchase my published work, you can at

or for more information about the campaign:

K is For Kismet. ‘Kismet’ is my best selling print. The original (sold long ago) is a pastel study that I completed in 1995(!) using my friend’s mare Kizzy as a model. At the time I had not seen a painting or photograph that focused exclusively on the eye, but have seen many, many since.

This does not stop me working on eye paintings and studies, but just makes me want to look for a different way of looking at the subject.

The focus on the eye in 'Kismet' was not really deliberate on my part - I ran out of paper! You can buy the print at

L is for Life drawing. . .

I think anyone that knows me would know that in my world L is for Life Drawing (working from a nude human model). Anyone who thinks there is anything sexual or embarassing in that only needs to attend one class - they will very quickly get over themselves. Good Life Models are very skilled at what they do, often have an interest in art and usually have quite an Art Collection of gifted drawings by (often famous) artists. if you think it is easy, then try sitting still and holding a pose with energy and interest for 10 minutes. Some Life models can do that for over an hour. I have a passion for drawing and Life Drawing is THE BEST DISCIPLINE. From three minute, two minute or one minute warm up sketches and gestural drawings (see the top line of drawings) to 2 hour poses, it teaches proportion, mark making and helps to find a natural style. Life drawing, especially quick pose gestural work is very good practise for drawing animals, who have a tendency to not keep still, however much you ask them to. It helps to be able to find a good weekly class and I am lucky to have Andres Jaroslavsky @yorkcornerstudio nearby. Andres helped restore my confidence and has become a friend as well as a great tutor/mentor, knowing exactly when and how far he can push me to do better or go 'Faster Ruth, Faster!" (say in an Argentinian accent for the true effect). Life Drawing is my meditation, my mindfulness, my playtime, and my experiment zone . . . And we get chocolate with our cup of tea at halftime.

M is for Muse.

I have several muses for my art. In fact, of the nine muses in mythology, there is not a painting, or even an Art, muse - that role was down to a god(ess). For reference, the nine muses and their roles are:

Calliope - epic poetry Clio - history Erato - love poetry Euterpe - music Melpomene - tragedy Polyhymnia - sacred poetry Terpsichore - dance. Thalia - comedy Urania - astronomy

Mythologically speaking (at least in greek mythlogy) I work under the auspices of the goddess Athena, but am comforted that she was one of the most venerated of the Greek deities. Athena represented intelligence, creativity, enlightenment, and 'the arts', among many others that also included law and justice, strategic warfare and mathematics. The latter two I would say definitely feature in being an artist. Hephaestus, who was the Greek god of artisans and sculptors, did not see fit to include painting in his portfolio, though he did work as Blacksmith for Olympus. So us painters have to struggle on under a general 'the arts' goddess, However, I can probably claim Euterpe as a muse because I listen to music almost always when I paint or draw. My favourite band to paint to is . . . Muse (see what I did there?!). I do have pretty eclectic taste though, and a range of artists and musical genres feature in my itunes library. I have playlists for different stages of a painting: for bold, expressive brush-work; for smaller marks for detail work; to just get me going in the first place! Tapping into the music helps me to tap into the ‘zone’, where thought and feel work on a more instinctual level and the medium takes a larger role in the conversation between me and the paint. I have had people suggest that I have some synesthesia, which is the ability to see colour triggered by sounds. I am not sure I am that special, but I know that my best painting happens when I can over-ride the logical part of my brain and get into 'the zone' - see: Strategic Warfare.

N is for Narrative.

Some of my paintings and series are straightforward observational pieces but some have levels of narrative. This is planned out in great detail in my sketchbooks and preliminary work.

I like books, films, music and artworks that work on different levels. In my own work, because the story and motivations are very personal I don’t like to force them on the viewer. Also I like the viewer to have their own relationship with the painting.

The series ‘Innocence & Experience’ is a narrative series so let me show you a story . . . Just remember that Fairy Tales work on many levels!

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The contents of this article or blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article or blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article or blog. Ruth Buchanan disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article or blog.

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