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Paintings not about water

I promised to show the 5 paintings I’ve been working on for most of the summer at The Art Students League. They’ve taken a long time because they each have many layers of acrylic wash and 4 of the 5 used masking fluid. All of them were based on my memories and some photos I took of the water churning next to our boat on a New Zealand lake the beginning of the year. But although water is the inspiration, the paintings are not about water.  They’re about space and depth and mystery.  At the end I’ll include one of the photos.

So in no particular order, here are the 5 paintings.

First is Passage, the only one that didn’t use masking fluid.  Many many washes of ultramarine blue, phthalo blue, teal and titanium white.  Only a very little bit of this image comes from the photo, although that’s how it started.


          Passage        16×12        $850        2017

Second is Jacob’s Ladder, which started as a very pale blue wash with masking fluid on top. I made the “mistake” of standing the paper up before the masking fluid was dry, so it ran down the paper in several places. Once I got over my horror, I ended up liking the “ladder” effect, and then building on it. This reminds me of the hymn I sang as a child, “We are climbing Jacob’s Ladder.” I certainly don’t remember all the words, but I do remember the feeling of awe and the mystery of climbing to heaven.

Jacobs Ladder

          Jacob’s Ladder        16×12        $850       2017

Third is Celebration. As with the paintings, Passage and Jacob’s Ladder, this started with the color patterns in the churning water next to our boat in New Zealand. And the colors and painting process used are the same as in Passage.

But what a difference. This painting is playful, joyous, dancing. It’s a quiet celebration of life in all its complexity and wonder. Somehow this painting insists on being happy.


          Celebration        15×11        $750        2017

Fourth is Beyond Beyond. Of the five paintings based on the churning water next to the boat in New Zealand, this is the one that looks the most like water (though not at all like the water seen from the deck of the boat).

The painting process was the same as with Passage and Celebration; even the red and blue colors are the same. But in this painting I feel like I am swimming underwater. Everything is vague and fluid, gently moving. You think you see where you are going, but you could swim forever and never get there.

Beyond Beyond

          Beyond Beyond        16×12        $850        2017

And finally, Almost There.  I’m aboard the Enterprise, heading to an unknown nebula.

Almost There

          Almost There        24×18        $1400        2017

And, here is the photo …

NZ Water

What can I say?  I can’t really explain how one photo and my memories yielded five such different paintings. Although superficially similar (color, pale washes, masking fluid), each painting has a completely different feel to it. As Frank O’Cain (my instructor at the League) says: “The painting tells you what it needs.”



Posted by ruthhurd on August 24, 2017
2 Comments Post a comment
  1. 08/25/2017
    Mary Helms

    Ruth, one of these wants to be with me. My adventure with ALS is taking me to some unexpected creative spaces in poetry. We are each on a journey of the spirit. Are all of this series still available or have some been sold already? Mary

    Sent from my iPad

  2. 08/28/2017

    Mary, Bless you. You have so much of your own to worry about, I’d be thrilled if one of my paintings helped in any way. They are all still available.


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