Featured Artist: Ruth Goodman
Ruth Goodman specialises in animal art. Our afternoon chat in her studio in Welwyn Garden City was the liveliest of interviews; I especially relished the wonderful greeting I received from her three friendly and boisterous little dogs, Rico, Paddy and Ozzie. I gave them lots of fuss and cuddles before Ruth and I sat down to talk about her work.
The first question I wanted to ask Ruth was when did her flair for painting animals emerge? 'I started sketching my childhood pets; rabbits, dogs and cats and my passion for the subject grew; I just kept on painting animals throughout my life. My father was an architect and he taught me about vanishing points and the importance of precision.' A visit to the RA Summer Exhibition four years ago was the catalyst to launch a professional career as an artist. Ruth explained: 'A friend and I go to the RA exhibition every year and on this particular visit I saw a work by Angela Lizon called “Cowboy Joe from Mexico”. I was immediately captivated by the work and the very realistic eyes of the cat. They are a key component in portraying a lifelike image of an animal. I thought, that’s what I love. That’s what I want to do.'
We went up to Ruth’s studio where I saw a painting called ‘Three Cats’ (see detail of images below). I absolutely loved the portrayal of the different characters. Ruth has a wonderful knack in being able to capture those minute facial details which make up the differing feline personalities. With sinuous whiskers and stunning fur, their gleaming eyes throw their gaze your way; I smiled and felt I could reach out and stroke them.
Ruth grew up in Bushey and attended local schools including Rosary Priory. She took her A Levels at Cassio College Watford, in Art and the History of Art. 'I did my BEd at University of Hertfordshire at Wall Hall Campus in Aldenham and graduated in 1988. Art was my main subject alongside learning to teach at Primary level.' Ruth continued to study art through attending courses in ceramics, photography, life drawing, wood carving and painting. Something else Ruth always had an interest in was interior design, and she has a diploma in the subject; 'When I was a child I liked to regularly rearrange the furniture in my bedroom. Mum was always asking what the scraping of on the floor was.'
She taught for twenty years and then, seven years ago, took the post of Teaching and Learning Adviser at 'Herts for Learning' where she currently works. Ruth says: 'In February I trained to be an Arts Award Adviser for young people doing Bronze and Silver awards.' To read more about Arts Award see the link below.
The paintings Ruth creates are enchanting due in no small part to her innate perception of her animal subjects. Ruth talks about her methods: 'I use box canvases and paint in acrylic, as I am a fast painter the medium is a good one for me because it dries quickly. I work from photographs and I use my ipad to enlarge images in order to achieve the detail. Sometimes I take pictures of animals to paint for myself and some are for commissions. I really enjoy visiting people to photograph their animals and they are always quite emotional when they get their painting, which I think is lovely.'
Wild life parks are a regular haunt of Ruth as she likes to take shots of more unusual animals, and these three works attracted my attention. I think they are all very beautiful and they show the breadth of Ruth’s talent for painting any animal. The works are: the stunning "Jaguar" (of which she says, 'I took the photo at the Paradise Wildlife Park
just as she was growling at a school trip of children'), the graffiti "Gorilla"and the impressive "Eagle", who was part of a display team of birds at the County Fair.
I am drawn to Ruth’s paintings of the canine variety; I find "Double Trouble", with two beguiling little dogs; a brown mongrel and a Boston Terrier, so appealing. Their soulful eyes shine with intelligence and their alert expressions seem to be waiting for orders. "I photographed them at the county show and the work is hanging in PS Arts Gallery in Datchworth"
I saw a piece of work depicting two British Bulldogs called "Basil and Barclay". These great patriotic characters were painted in the London Olympic year and are portrayed against a backdrop of the Union flag and symbols of London life.
Another piece, called "Dachshund", is set across two canvases and has the addition of a new medium Ruth is using. She explains; "I’ve started to use leaf and foils in my paintings as I think they give a real depth and when the light shines on them they really do shimmer." The work is hanging in Copper Beech Gallery in Hitchin.
I would describe Ruth as a dynamo, with energy and ideas aplenty. She works at dog and cat shows, craft fairs and events like the Hertfordshire County Show, as well as having many commissions from clients. The gorgeous 'Herky' was painted as a birthday present for a young man who was about to start university.
Ruth also told me that she found a photograph of Larry the Downing Street cat and decided she would like to paint him. "I sent the painting to Samantha Cameron at No 10, I received a lovely letter from her office thanking me very much and saying; “It is a very beautiful painting and a good likeness of Larry”. I really couldn’t resist his charms."
While in her studio I came across Ruth’s latest work in progress; "I saw this beautiful owl one night as I was driving along Cold Christmas Lane in Bishops Stortford. He swooped in front of me with a mouse in his mouth and tried to lift off as I was driving by and I thought what a beautiful painting he would make in the moonlight. I am intrigued by the moon and want to capture its glistening qualities using leaf and foils". Ruth’s son made a video of her whilst she was working on the painting at PS Arts. You can see it on her website and on YouTube.
As well as original canvases Ruth has produced prints and cards of her work. In addition to this she makes lovely wooden hanging decorations and key rings on which she has hand-painted animals. "I can also personalise the decorations with any silhouette a client may like".
In 2012 Ruth joined the WGC Photographic Society and Herts Visual Arts where she holds the role of Schools Liaison and has taken part in our Open Studios. In the same year she was selected by a panel to join The Association of Animal Artists.
Our interview finished with some unexpected laughter as I went to say goodbye to the dogs. Ruth noticed something in their basket. "Is this yours by any chance?" Ruth asks. Artists in their own right, they had ‘rearranged’ my diary so beautifully I think I may have to frame it.
If you would like contact Ruth, her details are:
Telephone: 01707 376651
Mobile: 07506 744658
E Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Arts Award: www.artsaward.org.uk
By CLARE KENDAL BATE