Lewis-based artist, Ruth Odell, was certain about one thing: she was going to paint.
Perhaps that was unsurprising, when you consider that her father was the art teacher at her school – but Ruth’s desire to paint went beyond her father’s encouragement.
Ever since she was a teenager, she spent hours sketching outside or painting in her bedroom.
After completing her A levels at school, Ruth took an art foundation course in Maidstone, Kent – but failed to get on a degree course.
Ruth decided to take a year out and went on to learn printmaking from artist Fred Cuming, RA – as well as taking a series of life drawing classes.
Ruth later got a place in the Winchester School of Art in Hampshire, where she went on to meet fellow-artist and future partner, David Greenall.
Ruth graduated with an Honours Degree in 1986 and worked with David in a studio in Sandgate, Kent.
After the birth of their first child, the couple moved to the Isle of Lewis in 1991 and went on to have a second daughter. Although Ruth’s art took a back seat, she continued drawing – capturing her daughters in quick sketches – before coming back to her work full-time.
When Ruth isn’t sketching or painting, she can often be found walking, cycling or wild swimming. Ruth loves to share her passion for art with others and is part of a trio of arts workers at local art centre, An Lanntair.
Ruth and David now live and work in South Dell where they capture life on the Isle of Lewis with sensitivity, colour and charm.
“I process out loud things I need to deal with.”
The tough times in Ruth’s life, the big changes she has faced, the ups and downs – her art has helped her to make sense of life’s difficult moments and capture them in a spirit of hope.
“Art changes as you change,” Ruth says. “When I was younger, it was all about the energy of the work – I needed to get it down immediately while it excited my eyes. Now, I’m older and it feels more about the process itself. It’s more internal – with the ideas coming from inside.”
Ruth’s style is sensitive, colourful and evocative – often capturing her own cocktail of emotions on paper. Butterflies are a common theme in her work – symbolising change and rebirth, as well as depicting fragility and resilience.
Her sketchpad is a visual diary of life on Lewis, featuring crofting villages, spring birds, bright nights in the summer, machair flowers or still life paintings.