On a 1968 drive from California to McChord AFB in Washington,
Ann Ruttan saw daffodils on the roadside and fluffy white clouds
in the sky. That's when she and her husband fell in love with Oregon.
So a year later, when his stint in Korea was done, they moved to
Portland. Ann now resides in Lake Oswego, and paints in her sixth-floor
walk-up studio in Northwest Portland.
Sky's the limit
The inspiration for Ann Ruttan's paintings is as big as the great
of Sun Before the Storm"
"I make a point of traveling throughout the seasons to sketch
and photograph scenes in differing light and color," she said.
"I then combine bits and pieces of several views into an imagined
This year Ann's been practicing something new plein air
painting. That's French for painting on location.
"It's fun and interesting to do," she said, "because
you stand and look at a scene for three hours and really connect
with your surroundings.
"I'm not very good at plein air yet, but I like it."
Many artists also inspire Ann, but for technical inspiration, she
relies on the impressionists.
"I've made a commitment to myself to visit someplace once
a year where I can view great art," she said. "There's
just so much wonderful art out there to see; it's a way for me to
get inspired and learn."
Ann's favorites are the French and American impressionists.
"Of course, there's nobody like Vincent Van Gogh," she
said. "He's so inspiring because you can see the progress in
his work; he continued to change and grow and evolve.
"I love looking at artists who were pretty good and then got
really good. That's also a great inspiration to me."
Good as gold
Ann began exhibiting her artwork in 1987, at the Lawrence Gallery
in Portland. She still shows there on a regular basis, and has a
yearly show at the Sunriver Lodge Upper Gallery in Sunriver, Ore.
Her next exhibit is in April at Portland's First Avenue Gallery.
Ann's paintings appear in several noted collections, including
Nordstrom and U.S. Bancorp, along with the public collections of
the City of Salem and Emmanuel Hospital in Portland.
"When you're an artist you have a résumé of
sorts, like the collections you're in," she said. "So
if somebody who's supposed to be 'in the know' buys your work
that's a good thing."
Ann has won three festival poster contests: the Lake Oswego Festival
of the Arts twice, and the Sunriver Music Festival.
"I guess you could call it an award," she said. "The
award is when they make your painting into a poster it's
not a gold medal or plaque."
Coming from a family of artistic people, Ann was exposed to art
at an early age.
"My mother was a teacher and a painter," she said. "She
was really good about encouraging me. When I was in first grade,
I drew a person with toes pointing down because I didn't know about
perspective. Mom taught me how to make the feet look flat
with the view from the front.
"I have a big bunch of cousins, and when we were little kids,
my mother and aunt would take us out sketching in the summer. I
thought it was because it was such a neat thing to do, but actually
we were really poor and it was their way of keeping seven kids busy.
"We'd all get a new drawing pad, pencil and eraser, then off
we'd go to some historic spot to draw pictures. I thought it was
great. These things have always been a part of my life."
Ann attended California State University in Chico, intending to
major in English, but also studied art under Ken Morrow. After coming
to Portland she went to Pacific Northwest College of Art, where
she studied under Jack Portland.
Tending to a muse
Ann does not hold down a typical nine-to-five job, but with her
self-imposed schedule ends up putting in more than a 40-hour workweek
at her studio.
"One of the things I've learned," she said, "is
if you wait for the muse or the motivation, you don't gain many
skills. So I try to show up every day and see what happens. Many
times, once I begin painting, I find that the muse is there after
all. I don't think it's the same for everybody, but that kind of
structure works pretty well for me."
Because oil paint is slow to dry, Ann has several paintings going
at once in various stages of "finished."
"I use the drying time to really look at the paintings and
think about what I'm trying to do," she said. "Sometimes
it's hard to know when a painting is actually done. The down-time
forces me to step away so I don't overwork them."
Living the dream
Though Ann has done art in one form or another since she was young,
she never assumed that she could make a living with it.
"I think if I had been preparing for a career in art in the
era I grew up in, I probably would have been an illustrator or graphic
designer, which is really different than this," she said. "Instead,
I did art on the side for years and years when I was married and
didn't have to support myself."
"But as fate would have it, now I can support myself doing
what I love."