Wings Artist Highlight: Ruth Lais
We are happy to announce that Ruth Lais is our July Artist of the Month! Specializing in mosaic and collage, Ruth is a part of our Wings Program. Her work is always colorful and whimsical – and is bound to bring a smile to your face. We had the opportunity to recently interview Ruth, where we discussed her creative process and the influences behind her work.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be so many things, but one of the oddest was when I was 10 years old – I wanted to be a 4th of July firework.
Was being an artist always a part of your plan?
Though I have enjoyed creating art since my earliest memories, I did not think of myself as an artist until I was about 35 years old. This is when I started to see other people selling their art online, and I thought “I can do that too!” And so I started to teach myself how to paint and have been painting ever since. Before I painted, I did illustration exclusively.
Describe your art in one word.
Tell me more about your choice of medium.
Aside from painting, I create what I call paper mosaics. I take my paintings that I don’t particularly like and cut them up into small pieces. Then I paste them on primed and painted wood panels to create an all together different image.
What is the best and worst thing about creating art?
The best thing is that it exhilarates me. The worst thing is that it can be a lonely process.
Can you describe your creative process?
Yes, I have two different approaches. One is from an almost childlike place inside of me where I am motivated by color and texture. I have no plan but rather just go with whatever happens. The other is much more deliberate and planned. I find both approaches to be a total blast. To me art is fun! It’s playtime for me.
What is an average day like in the studio?
Depending on what I am working on I am either experimenting with art materials and exploring. At other times, I am very focused and determined. I have worked while the floor beneath me is littered with thousands of scraps of cut-up paintings as I build these paper mosaics. I am not sure if I have many clothes that don’t have paint on them.
You are a part of our program, Wings. How has Wings influenced you as an artist?
I love that I know and work with some of the other artists in the Wings program. I was surprised when you asked me to be Art Force’s “Artist of the Month!” Yet, the beautiful thing about art is that it doesn’t matter what challenges or deficits one has; we all have a chance to shine.
Art Force’s Wings program has given me a real boost of confidence. They have always treated me as a professional artist and nothing less. The art world can be a competitive scary place sometimes. I have done most of my work at Spectrum Artworks. It is a program for artists who so happen to manage a mental health diagnosis. Art Force has made the transition from the shelter of Spectrum Artworks to presenting work in the wider art world so smooth and easy that it gave me a lot of confidence, hope, and belief in my artwork and in myself too. It makes me want to keep going and try to achieve even more. That’s a real gift.
What themes, ideas, and motifs do you tend to pursue in your work?
That’s a hard question to answer. First and foremost I look to feel happy with the colors I choose. Many people say my artwork is cheerful, whimsical, etc. Even though I often struggle with severe depression, this upbeat art comes out anyway. It even surprises me sometimes.
Is there any cohesive narrative between your bodies of workers? Or does each piece stand individually?
The only cohesiveness I see between the different pieces I have created is a similar color scheme. Otherwise they are individual.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised on the East side of St. Paul Minnesota and up in Northern Minnesota in Pequot Lakes.
How do you think that has influenced your creative growth?
I was able to play in the woods in Northern MN as a child I have always felt at home outside, and I often use this to inspire my work.
On what are you currently working?
Right now, I am building my resume by answering as many local art calls as I can. Also, I am focusing less on painting and more on the paper mosaics.
A fun fact or two to share?
In my paper mosaics, I often put a hidden image within the larger image. For example, I just finished a large 4×5 foot mosaic that looks like a giant swirl, but in that mosaic you can see a little white dog. On another, the branches of a tree formed the heads of birds.
If you are interested in the work of Ruth, or any artist in our Wings program, do not hesitate to contact us.