Ruth Oosterman is a Canadian artist currently residing in Toronto where she works out of her downtown studio. As a self-taught artist, Ruth Oosterman began exploring her creative side at a young age and now her work can be found at numerous exhibitions and private collections throughout the world. Ruth’s work represents the inner workings and chaos of the mind that has spilled over into the creative process. She claims that there are two sides of her mind that are in a constant battle. One side holds tightly to realism and it’s need for structured order, while the other is constantly nagging to be let go and to run free. The most recent series from Ruth Oosterman, “Collaborations with my Toddler” has heavily influenced and inspired her artistic direction after it reached international fame in 2014, showing her how to truly let go. Please enjoy my interview with the very talented Ruth Oosterman.
How do you describe your occupation?
Jane of all Trades in reality but on paper I would say Freelance Artist and Stay at Home Mom.
Prior to motherhood, I would spend endless hours in the studio yet never truly valued or utilized the time I had. Of course, after children you realise how precious every free second is which now dictates how my typical day goes. First thing in the morning I find myself being pulled out of bed by two lovable monsters who demand to be fed, bring the oldest to school then join the youngest on daily adventures until naptime. It is during his nap that I pour myself into creating and if I’m on a roll he will just join me when he wakes, which is chaos as one would assume but sparks our imaginations working together. I spend my days carefully balancing motherhood, maintaining my artist life, running a business and blog and on the rare day, I actually pull it all off.
What are you reading at the moment and what made you want to read it?
Right now I am finishing up Visual Intelligence by Amy E. Herman. I began reading it because the series, “Collaborations with my Toddler,” is mentioned in it and I thought I would check it out. I am so glad I did because I honestly haven’t been able to put it down. Best book ever.
Can you remember the first book you read by yourself?
I have no idea how but my mom had all four of her kids reading by the age of 3 or 4, books were our life. If I can remember correctly the first book was something about seeing a cat run; one of those first reader books.
Are you a page folder or a bookmarker?
Neither, I am a flip through until I find the page… I really should look into getting some bookmarks.
Age 16: The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman – A relationship book at 16 might sound pretty strange but the concept that everyone feels loved in different ways is a tidbit of knowledge I could have used from the get go. I feel as if most relationship problems, whether romantic, workplace or friends and family, would disappear with a bit of empathy and understanding. Knowing what makes people feel special in their own “language” would have saved me a lot of time and energy. You can show love through actions all you want but if the way you show it doesn’t speak to the person it is pointless to all parties and leads to unnecessary resentment.
Age 25: Visual Intelligence by Amy E. Herman –I feel as if the knowledge gained through this book has made me see the world in a whole new light and would have loved to read this at 25 to gain the perspective I have now. The book teaches you how to use the study and observation of artistic details to hone your ability to be more effective in all areas of life. It improves your level of empathy, ability to recognize threats, expands your perspective to find opportunities you would have never seen, honestly it is such a great read!
Did you demonstrate an affinity with art as a child?
Creating was everything to me as a child and still is. It was the tool I used to explore who I was and the world around me, it was my safe place and still is.
If you could invite 5 authors (dead or alive) to a dinner party – who would they be and why?
This is a tough one.
Leonardo Da Vinci, because the opportunity to peek into his genius of a mind would be epic, his inventions and ideas were way beyond his time.
George Orwell, his grasp on humanity was deeper than most and a conversation with him would be fascinating.
C.S Lewis, he has always been one of my favourite authors.
Jane Austen, growing up I devoured her books and admired the female characters’ strength and determination during an era where woman’s rights were next to none. I would love to know where her inspirations came from and am sure any dinner party would be quite lively with the addition of her biting irony and quick wit.
Corrie Ten Boom, her ability to see the good in people despite all of the hardships she experienced is incredibly inspiring to me; I would love to soak in all of her wisdom.
What was the last book you purchased, and why did you buy it?
I bought a copy of, A Goblin’s Mind by J.D Dresner, I am a huge fan of Fantasy books and this author in particular. The story revolves around Dr. Harlow, a therapist, whose patients consist of a narcissistic wizard, a half woman half unicorn kleptomaniac, a schizophrenic goblin and a royal couple dealing with marital issues. The awkward hilarity of this doctor dealing with each situation isn’t even why I love this book but rather that the ending is completely unexpected. I remember closing the book and just sitting there trying to wrap my head around what just happened; it is one of those books you have to reread to catch everything you missed.
What is your favourite thing about reading?
The ability to escape into other dimensions without ever leaving your reading nook; I have always been in love with reading because you get to choose and direct the imagery according to another’s literary creations. It is the ultimate collaboration where you follow a narration but get to create the images and scenery using your own imagination, in a world full of moving images and technology the opportunities to imagine are slim to none.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
I recently reread Unfinished by Jason Smithers. Jason and I crossed paths a few years ago and when he asked me to do the cover art for his upcoming book I jumped at the opportunity to work with him. Unfinished is one of those books that I read every few months and would recommend every creative soul to give it a go. One of my greatest struggles is having a ton of ideas but lacking the motivation, drive or knowledge to move forward, often these potential projects get shoved into my drawer out of fear or self doubt. Unfinished is an entertaining yet quick read full of tools on how to accomplish your goals, pretty much every time I need a good kick in the rear to get motivated I reread the book.
If you could insert yourself into any book, which would you pick and why?
One of my favourite series as a child was the Narnia books by C. S Lewis, what I wouldn’t give to live through the adventures of his works. Talking animals, new world’s beginning, magic, cross dimensions, I mean is there anything missing? A close second would be the fantasy series The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind. Although I am drawn to all genres, Sci-fi and fantasy novels have always been at the top of the list.
Who would you say are the three artists that continue to inspire you?
Colin Davidson, an Irish artist whose ability to capture personalities and the very essence of a person in his portraits is like no other artist I have ever seen.
Agnes Cecile, I have watched her evolve and followed her work for years now and it was through her time-lapse videos that I learned a lot of new techniques with watercolor. As a self taught artist you have to learn however you can and studying other artist’s styles is a huge part of how I do that. When you begin to feel comfortable with a style find a new one to learn!
My daughter Eve. She is my muse and has been from the day she was born. Watching her create and witness her artistic evolution and endless imagination is a gift in itself, a gift that has pushed me to evolve as an artist. There is no other artist or person in this world that has changed my life as much as she has. She reminds me on the daily that to be an artist you must be true to yourself, paint without doubt or fear and accept your mistakes. See your mistakes as opportunities and use them to mold your work, giving it a deeper meaning by exposing your soul.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life? What impact did it have?
I think the only answer to this question for me would have to be the Bible. My faith in God is a huge part of my life, not only has it defined my life thus far but impacts my day to day choices, the Bible to me holds the meaning to life, love.
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring artist?
Do not ever give up. There will be days, weeks and even months where you are stuck in a rut and hate everything you create. You will be discouraged as you see your peers excel and create with ease, but these dark periods is what will define you as an artist. Your ability to push through will strengthen you and push you to be better.
Second, your only competition is and should only ever be yourself. No one is like you. You are unique, molded by your experiences and the time period to which you were born, you are here for a reason and shouldn’t waste your time by following artistic trends or styles. Create with your soul and do not hold back, the only person you need to compete with is yourself. When you conquer a style or medium try something else, never stop growing and pushing your own boundaries.
Do you think there is a relationship between books and art?
100%. They go hand in hand, one is a visual interpretation of imagination and the other uses writing. Art allows the audience to create the story whereas books allow their readers to create the imagery, it is a beautiful partnership that fulfills the other.