Over on Instagram there is a trend amongst the creatives called #MarchMeetTheMaker created by Joanne Hawker. At the beginning of the month, I posted a brief introduction to myself over on my own page but I am just not nearly organised enough to do the daily prompt posts. So, I thought that this month's blog post would be the perfect opportunity to, using some of the prompts provided, give you a wee insight into the person who holds the pencil over here: who is this Ruth Gibson Artwork and where did she come from?
In 2017, after about 4 years of not touching my art supplies, I was inspired to pick up my pencils again. I was working with horses and one horse was just so pretty I found myself longing to draw her. After people back at home saw it on Facebook I was soon receiving a lot of messages asking if I would be taking commissions. Shortly after this spur-of-the-moment portrait, I moved back to my home town, bought some new supplies, took on some commissions and Ruth Gibson Artwork was born. I am just 23 and living on the West Coast of Scotland with 3 dogs and a big hairy pony. I come from a very arty and creative family so, though I was put off from art after a less than supportive teacher at school, it was fairly natural I should be drawn back to that talent and passion.
My style is influenced by many different factors. Whilst I was at school, I got the chance to explore a few different medias, but I always went back to colour pencil as I just love the vibrancy of colour and the control it gives for incredible micro-detail which I just feel you cannot achieve in any other media (unless its a massive oil painting perhaps). It is the ability to create fine details which has led me to lean towards a more realism-based portrayal of the animals I draw. I have always had a big and vivid imagination which has led me to believe in the soul of animals and to always see their character and individual personality. I like that with pencils and the sharp details they enable me to create, it gives me the opportunity to really bring that soul and character of an animal out in my work. Having spent my whole life with animals and having had so many pets in my life I know how important it is to those commissioning me that I capture their individual pet and find that soul.
Now, on the subject of what is important to me I have to make a nod to my other passion in life. This being protecting the environment and being as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible. As nature and animals are my biggest love and inspiration in life it is only natural that I should want to protect them too! This is why all of my packaging is totally plastic-free and either biodegradable or recyclable! I'm so thrilled about this as it really so important to me to do my bit. On this line I also have been brainstorming a lot recently about how I want to use my art for raising awareness of endangered species and the climate crisis... So stay tuned to see what I come up with!
Now, to bring this onto what I am and have been working on recently I would love to show you some of the beautiful commissions I have had on my board this month and last! It has been such a pleasure to have a few equines back on my commission list! As much as I love getting to get to know and draw so many different animals, horses were what I drew on every surface all of the time growing up (sorry Mum) and so every time I get a booking of a horse portrait the little horse girl in me gets very excited. First I had the sweetest little Shetland pony to do, his name was Boo and, as he was a personal portrait rather than a gift, it was nice to have the freedom to share most of the progress over on my socials. Happily, this also means I have plenty to show here for the next few #MarchMeetTheMaker prompts!
So, here are a few of my more recent pieces, and a wee word about each!
First off, the adorable Boo.
As I said, I was excited when I was sent the reference photos of this adorable wee guy. However I also stepped into this commission with a touch of apprehension due to all of the varying textures of this composition. It was important to Boo's owner that the head collar was included in the piece so this was the first thing I worked on in order to establish where the different shading and tones would naturally lie on the pony's face when I moved onto that. As an artist I find that I have to take some time to work out the anatomy of the animal I am drawing first and where, how and why certain tones and shading are the way they are in the reference photo. This is what leads to a more accurate depiction of the animals and brings that life out in the artwork. Next comes the texture and then building up those delicious colours. It is really quite incredible how many different colours are in just one inch of one of my portraits and it is something I really enjoy experimenting with. The paper I use is always Clairefontaine Pastelmat which is a delightful thick paper with a very textured surface. It works wonderfully for both pastel and colour pencil as it allows the artist to layer and build so much depth to a portrait. Due to this, it also means I can easily create different textures as you see in this portrait of the fluffy noseband, chord strapping and silver fastenings before even looking at the different textures of the pony himself!
The most commented on part of this portrait was THAT MANE! This is where I get to go on and on about the most wonderful and important tools in my supply kit: The Slice Ceramic Knives. I have three of these delightful little tools, two are the same sort of size (I just got excited when I was buying and they have different handles) and one is much larger. I used the two different sizes on Boo's mane. This is what has created that beautiful texture and depth in this portrait. Firstly I layered on the colours (in these detail shots you can see just how many were used) to capture the base of shadows and tones, then I was able to go back over with varying degrees of pressure with the Slice knives to create both bright highlights and to just lightly scrape away the dark to bring through the blonde and pink undertones that ran through his 'fro. I have so much to thank those amazing little knives for but Boo's portrait definitely is a showcase for just how effective they can be! (They're also fab for opening parcels.)
Watch the creation process here:
With that little mention of how many colours are used in a portrait and to show this process of layering, I would like to introduce you next to Dio.
So here is the line up of all the pencils used on this lovely little face! Dio's portrait was completed in Pastels. When I first discovered the existence of pastel pencils my whole world changed. I had experimented with chalk pan pastels a little in the past and loved the smudgy messy colourful expressiveness of them, but it wasn't until I discovered they are available as pencils I realised they could be used for more than a colourful blur. I just adore using them, especially in conjunction with Pastelmat as the vibrancy and strength of shadow and highlight is just breathtaking. The soft fluffy textures you can portray with them also mean that they are just perfect for animal portraits.
Black dogs have quickly become a favourite subject of mine due to the amazing colours that come out in their coat when the light hits them. As you can see here, little Dio is not a black dog! He is a blue, pink, purple, green, yellow and brown dog! The ability to layer pastels on Pastelmat mean that I can set this base of the different colours and layer onto them as I progress creating a whole new depth to the portrait and really bringing to life that glossy, velvety-soft coat that Dachshund puppies have.
Now, the final project I worked on these past two months was another gorgeous equine. Unfortunately, I have no final copy of her to show you as yet as she is going to be a gift in the coming weeks and I'm not spoiling surprises for anyone. I will show a wee sneaky peak though.
The most important part of every portrait is the eyes. The eye is where the animal suddenly comes to life. The layering process and that wonderful Slice tool is key here - capturing the highlight and reflections in a shining eye is the magic spell.
I look forward to sharing this beauty soon!
So, time to fill in some of the last of the prompts now - the perfect excuse to dig through the archives and have a chat about some of the work I have done in the past!
As I mentioned earlier when talking about the portrait of Dio, discovering pastel pencils was a real game-changer for me when I was starting out on my artistic journey. This portrait of Paws here was the first I completed in them and also it was the first time I used Pastelmat. My mind was blown and I haven't looked back. Saying that, I do have a Bristol Board sketchpad lying awaiting my bravery in a drawer here which I have yet to experiment on... perhaps it will be the start of a new love affair...?? Anyway, here is that life-changing portrait of little Paws:
It is always funny to look back on my older pieces and see how much my art has matured and evolved. I was really blown away by the ease I could layer light-on-dark with this paper and the ease of control of the pastel pencils. I remember when I first purchased the paper and first set of pencils I had a meeting with the customer behind this portrait later that week and I excitedly told them about these new tools I had and asked if they would be willing to be the first to receive this portrait completed using them. Both the customers and I were so thrilled with the result of it. Like I say, I never would use any other paper and have only grown more in love with these pencils as time has gone on!
In fact, when I am thinking about prompt no.26 "Favourite" I am drawn to another pastel portrait which I completed towards the end of last year of the Grey Seal. It's so hard to choose a true favourite as each and every portrait I have completed has taught me something new. Whether is be a new technique, something new about a specific animal and their anatomy or simply, patience (*cough* The Pheasant *cough*). An aspect of this job as a self-employed Maker which I adore is that I never ever stop learning, and I LOVE learning. It makes this job continually interesting and inspiring. The Grey Seal portrait is another pastel portrait, but it also incorporates charcoal and pan pastels as well as the pencils. I am drawn to it being a favourite as, compositionally it is so different, and I was also able to veer off from my usual rigid realism focus with the background. I was able get a bit messy again, let go of my anxiety around perfection and be a little more expressive. I loved the process and I am still so thrilled with the final piece. So much so, I decided it is one I simply cannot sell, and is one I will keep as my own personal piece.
So, finally, with all this learning and experience in mind, what is to come next for Ruth Gibson Artwork?
Well, the most imminent next thing is an exciting new exhibition I have been chosen to display in! This is an artist-led event taking place down in Wakefield in England titled The Art Exchange. It's the first exhibition of its kind in this space and I'm honoured that my work was chosen. I will be exhibiting some of my original pieces from The Garden's Glory collection I completed last year and I am so pleased my mini beauties will finally get to hang up for the public to view! The exhibition will be held in the Ridings Shopping Centre, Wakefield, and will run from the 16th of April for 6 weeks. I will be writing a piece solely on this next month and will introduce some of the other very talented artists I am going to be exhibiting alongside!
Beyond this, I have some really exciting commissions in my books for the next few months that I am looking forward to working on and sharing with you all! My hopes are also that this year sees more opportunity for exhibitions to go ahead after all of the cancellations last year! With this in mind I plan on finishing off my coast inspired collection over the next couple of months in time for these events taking place! After that.. well.. I have my ideas...Keep an eye out!
So with all this in mind, I thank you for taking the time to read through my journey and for getting to know me and my business a little better! I can't wait to see what the rest of this year brings and what more I create and I hope that you, too, are looking forward to seeing what I get up to!
I'll sign off now with a little gallery of some of my past works. Each piece has a story, each piece taught me so much.