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  • Writer's pictureRuth-Anne Siegel

Uproot + Reorient: How To Radically Change An Art Practice

Starting on June 14, I not only uprooted my life, but also I committed to reorienting my painting practice. Well, not just my painting practice — I am engaged in a radical change to all I create. Period.

Art is all I have ever done whether as a graphic designer for the last 30 years or my entire childhood where my elementary school classmates would ooh and aah at what I drew. Now with my youngest child off to college, I am ready to fulfill a lifelong dream and get my MFA at SAIC.


My painting practice is my professional practice. I am a full-time professional painter. I sell my work and I take producing paintings seriously. It is not a hobby and I am not a dabbler. The creation of a personal work of art is time-consuming, unique, and emotionally intense. Creating a piece of fine art cannot be done on an assembly line with interchangeable parts.


Like doctors or lawyers, artists have a practice. Although we do not have clients who can get sued and lose their assets nor does someone’s life depend on whether the sculpture is erected or a ceramic vase is glazed in the right shade of blue, we are still serious and take deep pride and profound satisfaction in our work.


Before March 19, 2020, my practice consisted of going into my studio 4 days a week and painting for a minimum of 2 hours a day. I produced work that sold well whether in a brick and mortar gallery or an online gallery. Although financially rewarding, the work didn’t scratch that itch. Once we were in lockdown, I took to working in my sketchbook while I furiously listened to NPR or watched then-unique dance performances and other programming on Zoom. Working in my sketchbook, a rarely-used tool, became my salvation during that terrible time especially when going outside during California’s fire season meant irritated lungs and coughing fits while an orange sky loomed overhead.


That intense practice led me to unearth a long-ago memory. I took that work from my sketchbook and created a series of acrylic paintings on large canvases with vibrant colors.


The consistent work catalyzed in the crucible of lockdown became a practice. I loved filling the Strathmore mixed media books and I also participated in the Brooklyn Sketchbook project and filled 3 books for their collection. The most fun of all was using watercolor, water-soluble pastels, and Ink-tense pencils and blocks. Intense flowing color and no risk was my joy! My work is lighter and more fluid. Unfortunately, I did not continue that practice beyond a couple of years.


Although a sketchbook practice is serious, professional practice, I felt I needed to do the work in my studio with larger panels and acrylic paint and mixed media. That word PROFESSIONAL creeps in and I need to create larger pieces to sell.


During the residency section of this immersion in the beginning of grad school, I am adding to my practice mightily. And I do mean practice because I definitely am no expert. I want to add writing to my practice and will start daily journal writing to add layers and depth to my painting. I hope this writing will become an integral part of my projects while in Chicago.


Starting new methods and modes of art making keeps my art practice exciting and ever-changing.

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