Signed, Sealed, Delivered - Envelope Art | An Interview with Ruth Chambers
Soon by Ruth Chambers
It's amazing when one medium is interpreted in a variety of unique ways. When we launched a drawing competition we were fascinated when viewing all the entries that came in for the Drawing Prize competition we did in partnership with London Drawing Group. Selecting 10 artists for this show was no easy task, but it was amazing to see it all come together in the 'OverDrawn' exhibition at Buster Mantis.
On the opening night, we announced that Dorry Spikes and Rosalind Barker were the two runners up for the Drawing Prize, and we were happy to select Ruth Chambers as our overall winner to win £200 worth of prizes including a gift from the London Graphic Centre, to help towards creating their work, and drawing classes by London Drawing Group. We were happy to get the chance to pick her brain about the uniquely patterned envelope drawings she submitted, and wanted to share her thoughts here with our readers.
What was your biggest inspiration when creating the pieces that we featured for this show?
Both the pieces were inspired by the idea that envelopes connect people through time and space. Envelopes act as a time capsules for messages. When we send a letter we change the future; when we open a letter we touch the past.
The larger piece, Soon, which is made up of 9 envelopes positioned in a grid formation, is a development of my previous envelope drawings. It uses a more complex pattern and method of application of marks, which grew out of the central fold of the envelopes. I am interested in colour theory and was fascinated with how the colours of the gel pens interact with one another as well as with the blue colour already on the envelopes’ patterned surface. The title refers to the delay we encounter when we send a letter; the anticipation of a response, the projection of hopes, expectations and desires into the future.
The other piece, Dear Anni, was inspired by the idea of reaching out to and communicating with another person through time and space. I was very inspired by Anni Albers’s use of geometric pattern and colour, and the repetition and parameters involved in the weaving process and how it has similarities to the way I draw. Again, I was interested in the way the colours of the gel pens, grey graphite and the blue envelope pattern interrelated.
What made you decide to enter your artwork for our Drawing Prize?
I am always excited when I see opportunities to enter drawing prizes, so when I saw this one online I really wanted to give it a go. I feel that entering open calls with a particular theme or genre are an opportunity to push your work forward and give yourself a deadline to complete a piece of work. I would definitely recommend entering group shows as a way to meet other artists and get your work seen by the judging panel. Being involved in OverDrawn was a really fun experience, great to meet London Drawing Group and you, Lauren, and discover the venue, Buster Mantis and all that is going on there
4 Dear Anni by Ruth Chambers
Can you tell us a bit about your process?
The process of making these works is very lengthy and depends to a greater or lesser degree on decisions I make at the beginning about how I will apply the marks and move across the surface of the envelopes. I have many ideas about how I could approach works, which I note down in my sketchbook through quick drawings – almost like taking notes – but the ones I choose to carry out are the ones where I cannot imagine how they will turn out. What keeps me going in the making is the excitement of seeing what it will look like in the end and how the marks and colours will interact in surprising ways that I cannot predict or plan.
Which part of your process takes the most time?
I work in several different ways. Some of my process involves working in sketchbooks that I keep close to hand, where I record ideas as and when they occur to me. I sometimes get my sketchbook out on the train on in the street as I’m walking if I feel compelled to write something down or make a quick sketch of an idea. Because time is limited, I have to be reasonably selective about which works I begin, as the process of mark making is so lengthy. Sometimes I work on a piece on and off for months, other times, I work very intensely at any spare moment to try and get a work finished. Float mounting the works in a grid formation before framing also takes a long time as I have to really think logically and be very precise.
How has your practice change over time?
Developing my work has been a long process with many stops and starts along the way. I think my practice has evolved in the sense that I have tried lots of different methods of mark-making and drawing and pursued what has felt right for me. in the past, I did a lot of observational drawing and life drawing, which I still very much enjoy. In recent years, my practice has been encompassing a more sculptural language and that is something I want to further explore.
Below: Scarlet Letter by Ruth Chambers (Left), Neopost by Ruth Chambers (Right)
Do you work from home or in a studio? How does this inform your art process?
I work from home in various places around the flat – I don’t have a studio. I think working in my domestic space very much informs my practice in terms of scale and materials I use. I have domestic objects always around me, which have formed part of my work. I also feel comfortable and ‘at home’, although it can feel quite isolated and I have had to work hard to begin to develop an artistic network. It has meant that I work mostly with drawing on paper, and in a way that can be dismantled and packed away (although I am not great at being tidy!). I would definitely like to have a studio in the future as I think it would open up new ways of working, allowing me to make larger work, not worry about making a mess, and work more spatially (which I would really like to do).
Working at home has also meant that I can work on impulse, anytime I choose. I like how it means I can squeeze in time here and there and don’t need to plan a studio session in. Making art is very much part of my daily routine and within my daily environment.
What is the biggest challenge you face professionally?
At the moment it is the constant balancing act between bringing in enough money and making my art. I have learnt that art practice seems to have ‘seasons’: there will be times when I will be ‘in the flow’, making a lot, other times when the ‘day job’ will take over and I will not able to spend long periods making art, other times when I am doing more art-admin, entering open calls and submissions, photographing my work or updating my website. I try to be patient in the times when I am not able to make as much work. At those times, I will try to fit in going to a gallery show, working in my sketchbook, or doing something creative that is not necessarily art related such as cooking.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
A tutor from art foundation used to say, ‘follow your bliss’. That is something that has always stuck with me. Sometimes our ideas of what we want can get confused and complicated by responsibilities, busyness, prestige, and ideas of what we ‘should’ do. I always try to come back to that phrase if I feel lost.
Life feels like it is moving so fast and social media can make it difficult to feel comfortable with moving at our own pace. A few years ago I became interested in mindfulness and meditation and from that I have learnt the importance of being kind to yourself and finding small ways to move forward each day, even if that’s just doing one small thing that will nurture you, something you know you will enjoy, that will bring you out of your head and into your body. Sometimes, just using my hands to cook, fold clothes, watering a pot plant, or having a bath can make me feel more grounded. As mark-making is realised through the body, drawing processes also have this effect for me.
I think there is a lot to be said for the slow and steady approach, the long game. Someone once said to me that if you do one drawing a day, it may not seem like much at the time, but by the end of the year you will have 365 drawings! I think that working in baby steps consistently really builds up and is doable; things start to snowball.
Keep going. Your brain will sometimes try to trick you into giving up because it wants the easy option. Don’t get disheartened if you don’t get selected for something or if something doesn’t seem to be working. This is inevitable and you are not alone. My sister says, ‘keep pushing at doors and eventually one will open’, which I think is great advice.
Please by Ruth Chambers
Where else can we find your art, online or in person?
I have had work selected for a few group shows this year (including the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize, ING Discerning Eye, and of course recently, the OverDrawn show organised by Dark Yellow Dot and London Drawing Group).
Another recent show was Warbling Collective’s group show, We Can Only Have Fun On Certain Days, which has been showing at Stour Space in Hackney Wick.
The best place to see what I am up to is on my Instagram feed (@ruthchambers_) where I post works in progress, forthcoming exhibitions, and things that inspire me. I really enjoy sharing work on Instagram and seeing what other artists are up to.
Ruth's work was part of our group exhibition OverDrawn from March 28 - April 25 at Buster Mantis which was curated partnership with London Drawing Group and featured artwork from 10 amazing artists that took part in the Drawing Prize exhibition. Read our interview with runners-up Dorry Spikes & Rosalind Barker.
Do you have art you'd like to share with us? We’re on a featuring frenzy over on Instagram! We feature new artists everyday on @DarkYellowDot, so give us a follow and tag your art posts with #darkyellowdot OR you can submit your art to be considered for our upcoming exhibitions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lauren was born in London, but grew up in Canada where she received her degrees with distinction in Fine Arts and Education. Now she's back, she continues her work in creative arts by making art and teaching it, while developing opportunities for early career artists as the founder of the online platform Dark Yellow Dot.