Thank you so much, Jennifer, for taking the time to share your experiences with us! Can you start by telling us a little bit about your personal history - where you grew up and how did that place or landscape affect your life as an artist?
My childhood was unusual, but I didn’t realize it at the time. My mother was an artist and my father a pioneer in underwater film and photography. We spent summers camping on beaches and living on what we gathered from the sea. Running up and down the beaches of San Diego and Mexico, I spent a lot of time as a child both in the water and inspecting the curious creatures residing in the tide pools. Growing up in this environment, I developed a great love of nature and respect for the ocean and its creatures.
What art training did you receive or are you self taught?
I was one very active child with four other siblings, so for my mother, keeping us all interested, busy, and connected was key to my upbringing. Art was central to our activities, and in San Diego there were a number of art opportunities. From a young age I was drawing or painting the life surrounding me and entering art contests. I was always in a creative mode. Near downtown San Diego was a large park where the famous Zoo is located. Also here was a large art community and museums. Here I attended art classes but found I was more fascinated in watching the artists paint and draw who set up studios. I would have to say my art background was submerged in both, self-taught and lessons from artists.
What experiences in your travels around the world have affected your art the most?
I had the opportunity to live in Europe for six years. During this time, I visited the homes and studios of a number of artists, past and present, such as Fuchs, Klimt, Hundertwasser, and Monet. I also researched different art colonies, movements and techniques. I took a summer to study fresco painting, illuminated writing and gold leaf application in Italy. The symbolism in the art we studied attracted my attention. The experiences in Italy has greatly influenced the direction of my Art. More recently I traveled to the outback of Australia where the highlight of the trip was hiking to see the rock and cave art of Aboriginal tribes.
In your art training, were you ever taught about art supplies safety - How to protect yourself from toxic supplies and/or which supplies were toxic?
In my art training, safety with art materials wasn't mentioned much or in discussions around the supplies we were using to make art. Safety or toxicity of painting materials just did not ever enter into the thought or discussion.
What types of paint and supplies did/do you primarily use and what were/are your safety precautions (if any)?
After being introduced to powdered pigments in Italy, I figured it would be impossible for me to continue to use these back in the USA due to availability. So I bought tubes of oil paints. I had switched while living in Vienna, Austria to using walnut oil to paint with as I did not care for the odors of the oils and mediums offered. I also sought out odorless thinners, but a concern began to haunt me about the effects of painting products thrown into the garbage. After returning to the USA I began to seek alternatives to toxic products.
Did you have any adverse health issues from using these supplies? Did you have concerns about safe disposal of toxic supplies?
In Europe it seemed that everything was being recycled, reused or methods were in place to take care of toxic wastes. So this experience brought to the surface a greater awareness of what I was using to paint and use in my studio. I definitely wanted to change, but I wasn't sure how. It was trying different ideas and seeing what worked best.
Are you transitioning to a "non-toxic studio"? If so, how did this process start and what have you been doing as part of this transition?
Yes, I have been transitioning over to a non-toxic studio for several years now. It has taken some time because I research what I can do and what products or ideas are practical. I would say that I am pretty close to a fully non-toxic environment in my studio. I enjoy the process of letting go of the toxic elements and refreshing the atmosphere with organic and natural materials. I feel a greater sense of connectivity to my art and to respecting the presence of my surroundings.
How do you incorporate Natural Earth Paint products into your practice?
Natural Earth Paint products have been a wonderful development in my life as an artist. From surface preparations to the mixing and application of the paints, I love every moment of this process. I feel the art and the sense of my-self as an artist are one. I experiment with minerals I find hiking, grinding them, sifting them, and preparing them to paint. But with the earth paints I am able to have a larger variety of colors for my palette I want to work with in my paintings. I love the plant based glue as well as the gesso available to mix and prepare for surfaces. I use mixed media of papers, handmade or recycled, along with fabrics (natural fabrics) to add texture and interest to the wood panel surfaces of my paintings.
Do you have any tips for artists who also want to de-toxify their studio? Were there any challenges? What made the process easier? What have the benefits been?
Given my own development, I encourage fellow artists to detoxify their studios. I give workshops on using mineral paints and include the process of changing a studio to an earth-friendly and people friendly environment…particularly how it eases the mind or any concern to how I am contributing or not to creating a healthful living atmosphere and experience. I began the process by replacing each product I wanted to use with something that was non-toxic or organic. I did this over a couple of years, taking time to gather information, try different products, and experiment in my artwork. I also look at the containers each product has. I want to be sure that I can recycle or reuse the container and it isn't contributing in a toxic way to the environment. I also try to avoid items in plastic bottles.
*I have a studio cat. She lives, plays, and breathes in my studio. Sometimes I think she even paints when I am not around. I want a safe place for her as well as for myself and those who visit.
Why do you think it's important to detoxify your studio?
The future comes out of what we do now. It is important to become aware that artists can detoxify their studios now, today. We can use earth friendly products to help repair the current environment and leave a beautiful tomorrow for those to come. Education of the simplicity of change without the sacrifice is doable. I love breathing, working, and existing in a safe and health-advocating studio which spills over into creating this environment in your home, community, and work place.
Which artists throughout time inspire you the most?
First and foremost, the artists that inspire me the most are the cave painters from 45,000 to 10,000 years ago. We are too quick to forget the incredible works created with natural minerals, using handmade lanterns to see, and natural elements from the world surrounding these artists. They were highly intelligent and motivated beings from which our ancestral roots come. They tried different mixtures to see what worked best for the paintings they felt compelled to make on the canvases of rock walls and surfaces.
What is the main inspiration for your work?
I have always been fascinated by Nature. I live in the woods and my studio overlooks the trees. Each morning I hike with my dog along the spring near our home taking in the sounds of the birds, the lingering deer, and the tracks left by the animals from the night before. I enjoy just listening, breathing and feeling the presence of Nature's elements around me.
How do you find balance and stay connected to the natural world in the typically disconnected, busy-ness of today's world?
To find balance and connection is setting regular times I am working in my studio and setting times to rest and refresh by doing something different, like going to the lake to picnic and have a swim. I purposely make a point to not feel pushed or hurried to do something. I begin several paintings at once and I work on them as I feel motivated. Sometimes it can be months before a painting is completed. I have even taken a painting from a show and reworked it after seeing it up…I just saw something else that needed to be done. Life is a process and I enjoy time in that process.
How would you describe your artistic style?
My artistic style reflects the influence of the cave artists and how the evidence being unearthed today about their intelligence and ways of life are changing history. My degree in College was in Art and Languages. I particularly enjoy searching the roots of historical languages, such as the ancient Hebrew pictographs, Egyptian hieroglyphs and early Phoenician writings along with petroglyphs formed by early peoples of the Americas.
Next to or near the art in caves are signs that have been found. I am intrigued by these because some signs are similar or the same as pictographs in other ancient writings I have studied. Often, I am moved to include them in my art, leaving messages that intrigue and inspire others.
Tell us about your upcoming shows or workshops and how can we see more of your art?
In July I had a one woman show at the Nevada City Winery. The show was well received and generated a lot of interest and activity. Half my inventory of paintings sold during this one month show.
In Santa Fe, New Mexico, at Hat Ranch Gallery there will be an Opening Reception for my Art works on September 29, 2019, 2 - 5 pm.
Two workshops are being offered through the Hat Ranch Gallery on Mineral painting and Gold leaf application, September 26 and 27. www.hatranchgallery.org Upcoming events
October 12 & 13, 19 & 20 is the Center for the Arts Studio Tour, 10 -5 pm in Grass Valley and Nevada City.
November 1, 2, & 3 are the Nisenan Heritage Days: Art Opening at the Nevada City Winery Nov. 1. (I provided a workshop for a group of Nisenan women on the use of Natural earth paints and their paintings will be displayed in this show.
Also, the Nisenan tribe commissioned me to produce a piece for the show that will be a symbol for the tribe to help promote their recognition.
My website: jenniferrugge.com