Talking with Ruth Speer of septemberwildflowers

WORDS BY ANASHE BARTON / @ANASHEBARTON

"The story was there in my mind and it had to be made into something."

- Ruth Speer


One of our own, Anashe Barton, got the chance to chat with exceptional artist, Ruth Speer. Better known for her Instagram account @septemberwildflowers, Speer is an Oregon-based talent and a leader in the artistic community. Rising from her Tumblr account, she now has an Instagram amassing over 11k followers and her own Etsy shop. Read below to see us catch up with her.

WRITTEN CITIZEN: As far as your artwork goes, it's beautiful! How and when did you start?

RUTH SPEER: Thank you so much! You know, i've been asked this question a few times and, off the top of my head, I usually can't come up with anything other than "For...forever...I guess?" Because that feeling of wanting to use color and pencils and paper is a constant that I can't find the beginning of in my memory, really. But if I think about it, it probably started with a combination of watching my mother drawing and looking at the illustrations in my children's books. My mother studied graphic design, and when I was little my sisters and I would bring her big sheets of paper and black sharpies and she would draw scenes for us to color. They usually had people in them - dancing or walking in fancy outfits. I remember watching her fill them in with us and using colored pencils in all these beautiful combinations and thinking how much like magic that was! I also loved fairy tales growing up. I read so many of them, like the Blue, Violet and Red Fairy Books edited by Andrew Lang, and a beautifully illustrated volume by John Patience. My favorite book was The Twelve Dancing Princesses, illustrated by K.Y. Craft. Her paintings are just exquisite! I loved looking at all those jewels and flowers and gold crowns on her painted princesses, her intricate borders and deep blues and oranges. It's still one of my favorite books. So I would spend hours and hours drawing ladies in super detailed dresses and jewelry. I would draw dozens of whole royal families, but mostly princesses. So that's probably where my inclination to paint mostly female figures comes from!

WC: You're a bit of a pioneer in this recent blow up of local artists going global through social media...How did you first start sharing your work with the rest of the world? Was it through Instagram?

RS: Is there a blow up? That's wonderful! I first started sharing a very few drawings on a Tumblr blog a few years back, but I joined Instagram because its such a wonderful place to watch different artists at work, see their process and have glimpses inside their head. I think social media and Instagram especially works so well for art makers because they are often, though not always, quite private people; and wth this kind of outlet they (me) can talk about their art and the artistic process in a very backstage manner. It's one of my absolute favorite things to see other artists' works in process, and Insta is like a portal into secret worlds that we would otherwise rarely see.

WC: When did calligraphy enter the picture?

RS: I love painting and drawing, and I also love words and stories, and paintings and stories always go together, in my head - and typography and calligraphy are other forms of art. So putting the quotes and words I love together with art was a pretty natural step, I guess!

WC: What does your artwork bring and mean to you?

RS: Personally, I believe that I was created to create by a God who delights in color and beauty in every day - art making and creating, as well as seeing and recognizing art in little tiny bits of everyday life, is pretty suspiciously woven into who I am as a human. It's a visual need that I have, I think - to look at bright red flowers, to paint people with freckles, or blonde eyelashes - but its also tactile and auditory and gustatory and olfactory (involving tasting and smelling - don't be fooled, I just looked all those words up). My favorite art is multi-sensory. I love getting paint  all over my hands, playing with textures, listening to music or bird sounds, being surrounded by green plants, generally paying close attention to the things I touch. If I don't take the time to be still and look carefully at the world around me, I start to feel tired and insipid.

WC: From your Instagram, I can see that you are a big PNW (Pacific Northwest) person...How have you reacted to the entire Pacific Northwest frenzy on social media?

RS: Well, I love Oregon and this corner of the country, and I'm fond of being outside. I have a terrible fear of taking myself too seriously, which generally translates to taking the no-taking-myself-too-seriously too seriously, so I'll probably never venture forth to the wilds of the Gorge in a Pendleton blanket or post a picture of myself #livingauthentic and drinking #coffee - but then again, I might. If you like blankets and coffee and being outdoors, go crazy! More power to ya. It only gets silly if you actually hate blankets and coffee and being outdoors but according to Instagram, that's all you seem to do every day of your life. You're cooler than that.

WC: What do you think about art in our generation? Is our age in the midst of a "movement" per say?

RS: I hope so! I do think that, as I said before, social media makes it easier for people to engage in the art community. I'm biased, but I think the more people realize the beauty and power of art and creating, the better off they'll be. It's a colorful, lovely world.

WC: Do you do anything other than paint and calligraphy? Also, what do you enjoy doing in your free time apart from art?

RS: I'm really interested in mixed media and paper sculpture. But apart from traditional art, I'm trying to learn more about gardening, even though I have a tragic history of killing plants. I'm also trying to cook more, though I have dubious skills with that too. I love playing my piano, cuddling my dog and doing all of the above with my friends. Friends are so important. I am blessed with the best people in my life.

WC: What inspires you?:

RS: People, Jesus, flowers, colors, music, scents, sounds, words, stories, poetry, other artists, books, nature, experiences, food...the list could go on and on! Everything, anything, little things and big things. Experiences are an important one. Making art about experiences and stories that happen to you is cathartic in the moment and fascinating to look at later. I was 10 and living in Hawaii when the 2006 earthquake hit, and afterwards I made this real odd mixed media painting of squiggly lines, a chair, musical notes and a newspaper clipping about the earthquake. It's so interesting to look at now and wonder what I was thinking and feeling when I made that! I don't remember setting out and saying "I shall making a painting about this earthquake and running out of the apartment at  in the morning" - I just did it because the story was there in my mind and it had to be made into something.

WC: Where do you see yourself and your work in the future?

RS: If I could, I would find a little house in the forest somewhere, grow flowers and herbs and vegetables, paint all day and have a lot of dogs and cats and animal friends - I would be like Snow White, without the dwarves (or the evil stepmother). More practically, it would be wonderful to be represented by one or more galleries, and be able to paint whatever I fancy for a living. Someday I would like to illustrate children's books. But really, I hope for more is to be a loving, kind, and wise human being that makes the world a better place, no matter what I'm doing.

WC: If you could give the youth of this generation advice, what would it be?

RS: Read books, listen to music, listen to people, be present and be kind. Have a sense of humor. Be brave. Don't belittle people for what gives them joy r makes them sad. Eat more french fries. French fries are the best.

WC: Where, if anywhere, can people look into purchasing your work (since it is so darn beautiful!)

RS: Thank you so much! You can find prints and occasional originals on Etsy (etsy.com/shop/septemberwildflowers) or send me an email at septemberwildflowers@gmail.com!

1 comment:

  1. I think that just re inspired me to twirl in a garden.

    ReplyDelete