Monday, December 29, 2008



Finding a slightly different emphasis or viewpoint to get the best perspective, can make the subject more commanding than simply settling for a less than interesting first view.

If the subject is what inspired the work, and the artist is motivated to say something about that subject, how it is portrayed is vitally important.

But even if you do not have a great view of the subject to work with, it is still possible to rearrange or add to or subtract from the view you have to make a dramatic composition of the creation that results.

Still Life. Oil on Canvas by R. Wagy

Still Life: Draw, paint or photograph the various objects in a still life grouping. If possible move around to get the best view you can of the grouping. If you can’t move around, or rearrange the still life arrangement, draw the objects in different relationship with each other.

It isn't always required to present the subject realistically. One way to change the way you present the subject is to treat the objects with outline, filling in solid areas.

Lighting. Consider side lighting, back lighting or low point lighting to create an unusual view of your subject. At some times of the day, bright illumination creates interesting shadows. The photo at the top of this page illustrates the impact shadows can have at the end or beginning of the day.

Other times the even lighting of an overcast sky is better than unwanted shadows.

Distant or Intimate View?

Consider whether to present the subject from close up or from a distance away. If you are showing off a beautiful costume or capturing an especially interesting expression, probably an intimate view will serve you better.

Think about your choices and what you are trying to say. Choose to place the subject at one side (assymetrically) or centered (symetrically) of your picture plane. With animal or human subjects, do you prefer a direct gaze or averted gaze ? Either may say something about your subject, or this choice may express something about yourself. If your preference is strong, so that you repeatedly present subjects with an averted gaze or a direct gaze, it may be a trait that becomes part of your style.

Images and writing are the property of Ruth Zachary.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Photos for painting, Bicycle Cafe. Several photos were taken of the scene, with various possibilities for an interesting composition. My final choice would probably be the second one shown. (Click on the image to see three versions)


A dramatic or dynamic presentation of a subject in a composition is very important. The artist's point of view or perspective has a great impact on the final composition.

Some artists claim the composition is far more important than the subject. I have even heard this from teachers in a drawing or painting class, who said this in a classroom where many of the students did not have a very interesting view of the model, or of a grouping of several objects in still life. But there is no substitute for finding that best arrangement before beginning to work.

As can be seen when several pictures of the same subject are presented from different points of view, there is a difference. Preference has a lot to do with development of style, as well as learning to present a subject effectively.

The artist owes him/herself the extra time it takes to get the best possible point of view, whether photographing, drawing or painting the subject.

If a tree is the subject of a landscape, twelve different perspectives might result in several versions to get the very best one to convey its special quality. Hopefully, this in turn will capture the viewer and communicate the inspiration the artist experienced in the first place. Several exciting images could also result in a series.

Placement of the subject within the picture plane is also critically important. Composition and design attempt to present a subject in the best possible way, to convey the feeling, character, impact, or mood that inspired the artist in the first place.


This leads to the next group of blog posts, which will illustrate a variety of options for presenting a subject, or Subject Treatment.

Images and Writing are the exclusive Copyright of Ruth Zachary.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Faded Photo of the House on Norris Road

House on Norris Road. Computer Adjusted Photo
Colors were enhanced, contrast increased, and some
window details were created by copying parts of them
where details were absent.

The Country Doctor's Home. Watercolor.
The image was enlarged and painted from the adjusted
photo. Areas of watercolor were loosely splashed onto
the surface, before refining the desired details. Some areas
were left vague to encourage the viewer's eye to move
around within the picture plane.

Composition in Realism

Realism is sometimes thought to be only copying nature by abstract artists or artists working from imagination. But anyone who had worked in darkroom photography knows there is often an elaborate manipulation of light, dark, contrast, texture, emphasis, placement of elements through cropping, dodging and burning, and by employing other means before a photograph is finished. The result is far from the first impression of nature.

The artist who paints consciously to create a skillful composition has controlled the combination of elements within the picture plane, until it is no longer simply a “copy” of nature.Successful realistic painters do this as well, even those using photographs as a means of beginning.

Realistic artists also bring together disparate elements to create one painting, although the final version may appear to be completely realistic in presentation.

The above painting used both indirect impressionistic methods and selected areas of directly painted realistic detail to blend both into a completed composition.

Recommended Books: For two dimensional artists seeking fresh approaches for presenting realistic subjects, I recommend:

Creative Landscape Painting by Edward Betts. (Watson Guptill 1978) and
Concept and Composition by Fritz Henning, (North Light Publishers 1983)

Many of these approaches can be applied to still life, figurative work, and other subjects as well as landscape painting.

Images and Writing are the exclusive Copyright of Ruth Zachary.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008



In two-dimensional art, composition and design are defined by the elements within the picture plane. Composition employs certain principles to capture the viewer’s attention and keep it moving within the picture plane

The illusion of dimension is created by various means, such as perspective, diagonal lines, diminshing size and height of objects, faded and undetailed distant shapes, and a a tendency for distant forms to be more neutral in color and to have less contrast.

Certain principles and rules of nature lead the eye around the surface or through the implied space of the picture. By using these principles or purposely breaking the rules, attention can be directed to different parts of the picture plane at the artist’s will.

Design principles attempt an aesthetically pleasing or dramatically demanding effect which can be learned, practiced, and almost unconsciously integrated into the way an artist works. These principles are inherently part of the natural world, and often children have a natural sense of composition in their art expressions.

Basic elements of design or composition to be mastered include: Balance, Contrast, Movement, Rhythm, Repetition, Variety, Unity, Harmony, Simplicity, Complexity, Proportion, Principles of aesthetic picture plane division and more. Whole books have been devoted to the subject, and so not much pertaining to these principles will be included here.

Three books I would recommend are:
Art Fundamentals – Theory and Practice, by Ocvirk, Bone, Stinson and Wigg.
Composition in Art, by Henry Rankin Poore (Avenel Books)
Composition, by David Friend (Watson Guptill)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


The Direct Approach
People who work regularly often find they work more naturally if they approach the process in a particular way. Some artists start with an idea of what the finished piece will look like, with the arrangement of the elements in the picture plane at least generally pictured in their mind. This can include more or less detail. It may entail working with a photograph to work from while creating their rendering.

A direct approach can be used to begin a piece, with the compositional elements reduced to basic shapes and reinterpreted as textures, color areas or abstract relationships to result in totally unrecognizable shapes. A gradual completion of the imagery can evolve into something completely different than the original concept. Often the way the medium and the ways the images affect each other influence the artist to let the work emerge. This almost feels like the “painting that paints itself.”

This is an add-to approach, applying more detail to what is already there.

The Indirect Approach
In a sense, the process of letting a painting happen in the way described in the previous paragraph is an indirect approach, or a combination of both direct and indirect approaches.

This approach often begins by using a series of experimental media, methods and/ or techniques to create uncontrolled effects. Then the artist takes a direction for the work from what is suggested by the accidental results obtained, and develops it according to the suggestions or cues seen there.

One type of indirect approach is to take away media or imagery rather than to add it, much in the way of carving away clay or stone to bring the image out of the material.

Think about what is natural for you… do you work better by adding information to an image, or do you find taking away imagery is easier? Is your best work done by a combination of both approaches, adding something here, taking something else away, until you like what finally emerges?

The Designed Approach
Basic shapes are used to define the major elements of the picture plane. In two dimensional art the format is divided by geometric or organic shapes, or both, and the direction of the piece uses either planned or indirect imagery which is subordinated to the overall design.

Images and Writing are the exclusive Copyright of Ruth Zachary.

Sunday, November 30, 2008



Once I enrolled in a beginning photography art center class, taught by Gary Ciadella.
He sent us out to snap pictures of things, scenes, people, etc. which attracted us. When we returned with our newly developed black and whites, he projected our images on a screen.

I would never have dreamed beginners would display a group of pictures with distinctive characteristics different from every other person in the class, but that was what emerged! Every person displayed certain tendencies for certain types of composition, for either very dark or very high key scenes, and of course a preference for particular subject categories. Some compositions seemed to slide off the bottom of the format. Some were contained within tight boundaries. There were many more of these traits we all could identify and the differences between us were apparent .

I would define style as the unique combination of preferences, choices, or biases the artist employs during the creative process. This may include media, color choices, compositional preferences. Working within certain limitations may create a certain commonality in the work, interpreted as style. Subject matter, format shapes, intimate views, far away vistas, and more come into play. Much of this process is like hand-writing and is just as unique.

After that time, I never tried to “develop a unique style.” I was assured my style was already there, and that making every piece of art the best I could was a more important goal.

I am convinced that working diligently will ensure every artist will develop his or her own unique style. My advice to the beginner is to learn what you can from others, but to trust the result will still be your own original expression.

Work done in various media each may have the look of a different style. My own choice is to mix media and to choose the materials and tools which express in the best way I know the particular effect I am going for. It may appear sometimes as if I have no particular style, but that is a conscious choice. I can see direct relationships between one series and the next, and how what I have just learned is translated into the next body of work. I can articulate what those discoveries were.


Later in the class mentioned above, Gary Ciadella showed us a series of photographs by world-renouned photographers. He asked us what the artists were saying with their pictures. We began to comprehend many possible meanings in these images.

Every piece of artwork says something, even if it is only about an abstract arrangement of shapes and colors. Awareness of meanings conveyed through images is inescapable for me since that time. Symbolism through imagery is absorbed even when the viewer is not aware. Advertisers are aware of this and use it all the time. If you are aware, you can resist their efforts to make you buy.

Sometimes an artist is aware of the message or idea they are trying to express. Sometimes a piece will say something else to the viewer. When more than one person sees something in your work you did not see before, and several interpret this idea the same way, it offers an opportunity to learn about what you are subconsciously saying with your work.

These two classes in photography affected all the artwork I created from that time on. To see the work of my former teacher, Gary Ciadella, click the links below.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Pink Landscape. Collage on Stuffed Canvas.18 x 24"


Inspiration is usually the source of an artist’s motivation for wanting to depict a particular subject, method, color combination, or idea as a piece of art.

Usually there is an initial drive to want to capture “something.” Inspiration motivates the artist to complete the work, even during disappointments and failures. While filled with emotion, it is a good time to articulate just what is the intention or goal to be accomplished.

During the actual work, the process itself may suggest new ways of working. The goal may be lost. The artist need not become bound to the original goal, but if the original intention has been understood, or even written down, there is always the option to explore different versions of the same subject and to return to the first concept. Subject inspiration, response, and process are so interconnected, it is often impossible to separate them.

The artist’s direction may change while creating a piece, as it did for me when working on this collage. It started as a piece of satin, which I marbleized as an experiment. This was sewn, stuffed and stretched with its canvas backing over a frame. Later I collaged computer printed paper strips on the surface to create the feeling of a landscape, using acrylic medium.

Whether by conscious choice or intuition, this kind of change in direction reflects growth. The evolution of choices leads to a refinement of direction, which uniquely defines not just one piece, but eventually, a body of work.

Being able to define these goals and the concept behind a single piece or a group of works will help the artist while working. Awareness allows adjustment.. It is the simple repetition of correcting something that leads to improved skill.

The artist must dismiss that negative little voice that tells him or her that s/he is “not good enough” rather than accepting that the painting, the drawing, or the photograph is not good enough. The real task is to learn how to make it better, and eventually it will be better than just good enough.

I have found it is easier to let go of preconceptions by working on “throw-away paper,” or to just allow an experimental process or technique to take over. Sometimes a remarkable accident has a wonderful impact. This affords and opportunity to shift, and work in a new way, or direction. Thinking about what was learned helps to integrate the discovery into the range of choices to be made in the future.

I would describe an artist’s process as a series of discoveries of what does work as well as what doesn’t.

The materials, tools, and medium used are the physical manifestation of that process. They record the artist’s journey, energy and handwriting left behind in that process. Employing a particular technique expresses the artist’s style. But it is the artist’s vision which creates the final work, and not the medium, or the tools.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Draft Horses. Mixed Media

How do you Define Yourself ?

I believe if anyone practices an art form they are an artist. Doing it well may simply require finding the best means of expression for your unique set of abilities, and dedicating time to it.
There are too many preconceptions about art and artists. My advice, choose which ideas are valid for you and discard the rest.

Success can be measured in the joy derived from the process of doing. It may mean achieving short or long term goals.

It may require having a self sustaining income from creating art, but it would be a very deprived world if only those who made a living, made art for all the rest of us.Those who are artists by avocation, contribute a great deal to the world at large.

Talent is a combination of traits and abilities. No one is born with their potential fully developed and ready to be expressed in a given area.

Aptitudes of many kinds can translate into the ability to make aesthetically pleasing art;

Visual orientation
Appreciation for color
An ability to draw
Manual dexterity
Appreciation for beauty
A desire to learn
A drive to express
The ability to abstract
A direct and/or indirect working style.
A creative mind
Understanding of art
A love of materials
Mechanical ability
A hard worker and More.

Attitude. Even though different people have varying degrees of talent, it is possible for people with many different traits to prevail as artists because of attitudes including;

Passion for joyful creation
Desire to learn
Motivated to finish
Steadfast dedication
Sees “failures” as opportunities
Sees art as play or meaningful work
Belief in one’s ultimate success
Desire to please
Patience and More.

Experience Learning is accumulated through doing.
Skill is improved by practice.
Training may be obtained in a variety of venues. Formal training, private lessons, art center classes, specialized workshops, learning from books, working with a peer group, or just plain observation can hone ones abilities. Understanding is facilitated by a conscious effort to be aware, and to apply what has been learned one step at a time and over time.
Process evolves in the practice of making art. It includes the materials and techniques used, but it also includes inspiration, joy of doing, passion for expression of an idea, drive to achieve a goal, and it includes satisfaction in steps achieved well and determination to improve upon and learn from efforts which failed.

The Montage Workbook A-1. All rights reserved by Ruth Zachary.

Pages from the Montage Workbook will be lettered and numbered so they can be filed in logical sequence. Comments are welcomed.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Norris Road House. Watercolor, Computer Altered.


The motivation for writing this weblog came from many people who have seen my work, and who have asked how it was done. I want to share this knowledge.

My methods have evolved through years of experimentation with many media, as well as through exposure in various classes and workshops related to a variety of media. In attempting to classify what I have learned, it also appears the evolution of my own learning experiences provided a sequence which could be useful in any artist's aesthetic development and awareness. An explanation of a process for one piece could not apply to all. I have kept extensive notes over time, useful for reference, but also made easily available for organizing into a catalogue of materials, approaches and techniques.

There are a variety of approaches to designing a piece of artwork, which I will share. I plan to include basic principles of design and composition. I will attempt to increase awareness of the message(s) that is conveyed by an image to the viewer. I hope, as well, to address some of the creative issues artists encounter.

Sharing what I have learned about mixed media, approaches to composition, collage and montage is the focus of this blog. I hope others will be able to use this information.

Comments are welcomed.

Images and writing are the exclusive property and Copyright of Ruth Zachary.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I enjoyed the on line class, and am thrilled at all I learned. But suddenly I realized I had neglected a lot of other important things for two months .... like creating art!

I don't regret focusing on the class. That was my priority for that time. And look at all I accomplished! I added a second blog about writing, and another about my family history, Grandcestor Stories:

In addition I created two lenses on Squidoo, on Womens Heritage Art and Vintage Montage, and began creating sites on Hub Pages, Twitter, My Space, Facebook and Linkedin. All these locations need to be attended to on a regular basis, and this can be very demanding, especially if tries to do too much. It is important not to get so overwhelmed, the process is no longer joyful.

The priority for an artist is to get all the many demands of life organized and being addressed in balance, on time, and according his/her own priorities. I am learning to allow myself to do just a little on each site until it is up to the standard I hold for myself.

And since all of those sites are about what I love doing, and feel as if I was created to be doing both art and writing, I feel I am on track!

I think it is part of an artist's process to reassess periodically. It was one of those times, back in August that started me on this new journey. I realized marketing effectively on the internet was one thing I had not tried, and resolved to do something about it.

Hunting on the web led me to Julia Stege's webinar. This has led to a new direction, and a change in the way I will try to expose my art and writing in the future. The marketing and production plan I imagined two months ago is changing as I go. And that is great, too.

Writing and images are the sole property of Ruth Zachary.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Filling Her Shoes. Photo Montage. 9 x 12"

This piece reflects upon the relationship between the child and the grandmother, who in this case was the parent.

The montage images of the child and the grandmother were placed in a frame using layers in Photoshop. Portions were erased around the grandmother, to leave the child's photo dominant. The erase tool was used in paint mode, a large, #65, to create a blended edge on the cutout areas.

The background, the chest of drawers, pitcher and bowl, and the antique shoes came from a present day photo in an antique store, Lincoln Park Antiques, in Greeley. The frame was angled slightly, using the perspective tool to create the illusion of the photo turned to the left.

Color saturation of the modern photo was reduced using Image> Color adjustment tables. The antique photos were tinted slightly using a sepia color at about 20% value in color mode.

If anyone has additional questions about the Photoshop techniques used here, please ask. Also I would enjoy comments from you.

"Your photo montages are.... like someone's special dreams you're allowed to peer in on. I find them as rich and interesting as looking at my Grama's curious things, her button collections, from dresses I remember. Her fine leather boots - which seem so improbably matched to anything I ever remember her doing. Her crazy daisy little hats that were linked with had stories of her zany sisters..... I continue to think of them, and how they made me feel to see them at the gallery and your home; they certainly give tremendous mileage of thought, feeling and memory. The feelings they evoke still linger and ...are all tatted in now with the narrative threads of my own Grandmas and Aunts." Julia and Renee

Art images and writing are Copyrighted by Ruth Zachary.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Dreams Gone By Mixed Media.
Giclee Prints, 12 x 14"

Mixed Media; The Best of All Worlds (for complete expression of artistic vision.

This original mixed media montage was created using a variety of techniques, and was accomplished before the availability of Photoshop.

The photos were heat transfers of color xerox enlargements from old photographs, ironed onto the paper background so they would all be on one surface. (The back of the piece still has scorch marks from the iron.)

The images chosen to combine into one included childhood photos of my mother and father, an old house which had been their honeymoon home, the house they later bought and where I was born.The porch was reversed from the same photo used in a previous etching (The Homecoming) shown earlier on this blog.

The next step was the use of doilies, and living flowers and plants, laid directly over the transfers, to serve as stencils. Some of the photos were protected with paper to retain the photographic details. Green and brown spray paint were selectively painted on the stencils, through to the paper. After this was dry, and stencils removed, a checkerboard pattern was drawn selectively onto the paper, the squares filled with colored pencils, to suggest quilt blocks, and the country flavor of this nostalgic memory.

The use of the mixed media enabled more choices than only one would have afforded alone.

I have started a new blog, The new blog will be about writing, and so I will gradually be moving posts about writing, in this blog, over to that site.

Permission required for use of writing and images Copyrighted by Ruth Zachary.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Apron Strings. Copier images and chine colle.
Image size 17x22"

Strong emotional feelings about a subject is a great stimulus for creative expression. (This is true for writing as well as in creating images. At the point in life when this image was made, I was torn between the role as housewife and mother, and another desire to pursue a visual arts career. I had to work much harder, for longer hours, and still keep up with my housewifely chores in order to be an artist. In some ways working in an office and visiting homes was much less physically demanding. I traded it in for the personal satisfaction of being creative.

The shoes represented the two competing roles. The boot was worn in my print studio, while the low heeled shoes were worn at my previous job as a social worker. The two aprons represented the two different worlds, as well. I pretty much gave up the decorative apron for the practical printmaking apron.

As I worked, these symbols evolved in my mind and demanded to be pictured in a comment about my conflict. I saw that it was not my conflict alone, but one that was quite relevant for other women as well.

The piece was executed by using the copy machine as a camera, and then collaging the parts into a still-life sort of montage, which was re-copied in two parts on rice paper. The toner remained stable when the paper was dampened. The two halves were then placed face down on a blank zinc plate, flour paste applied to the back, and a damp print paper laid over that. The press rollers applied enough pressure to cause the rice paper to adhere and bond to the heavier print paper. (Chine Colle was described previously in The Homecoming.)

Images and Writing are the sole property of Ruth Zachary.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


All Adults Must Be Accompanied by a Child. 18 x 24"

This montage image was stimulated by the idea that all of us, no matter how old, carry elements of our childhood with us, and that people's personalities are at least in part, formed by our early preferences, abilities, and environment. It is in its depiction of various symbols, a metaphoric montage about life.

This particular montage departed somewhat from my Women's Heritage theme, because it relates to people in general, of different genders and cultural and ethnic backgrounds and not specifically about women. It has similarities with the earlier piece shown, The Homecoming, both because it deals with ideas about childhood, and in the way the images are presented, with an architectural structure forming the background for various associations.

Executing the ideas in this piece was a lot of fun, and I hope the humor is conveyed to the viewer by the suggestions about the people in it. Sometimes the humor is a little grim, I admit, and it slides over into the genre of social commentary. But overall, viewing the piece can be entertaining, and the final conclusions are totally up to the viewer.

I welcome comments and feedback about this piece, and especially how others respond to it.

Images and writing are the sole Copyright of Ruth Zachary, and may not be reproduced without permission.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


The Homecoming. Etching with Chine Colle. 15x18"

Creating this etching was a way to recover a memory of a time when I was seven. The house pictured was actually the house where I was born, a farm house in rural Michigan. My parents had moved away for several years, but then they returned with my sister and me.

Moving there was both scary and exciting and as we explored the empty rooms, there were actually things I remembered from the previous time. And later on, I also remembered the sweet smell of Black-eyed susans and St.Johnswort in the long prairie grass that grew everywhere. I made a reference to that fragrance by including flowers over the house. In the cement porch, I wrote a poem about the memory, (written in reverse to make a readable version) and it became the texture of the decaying cement.

Several printmaking techniques were used. Thin paper was rubbed with pencil over a lace texture to make the curtains. A copy machine was used to copy photos of myself as a baby, the candy bar wrapper, and flowers on rice paper. (the grey areas) These copied shapes were carefully cut out and interspersed with the etched portions of the plate using a method called chine colle, which glues the pieces to the print paper at the same time the inks on the plate are printed.

The backs of the small copied pieces were coated with flour and water paste, and carefully placed. The wet paper is laid over all, covered with press blankets and printed with much pressure. When all works properly, the rice paper copier images stick, and blend perfectly with the etched portions on the print, to give it a two color effect. This is an example of both montage and collage. It is also related to other pieces I have done in the Vintage Montage genre.

At this point I am offering these images as a smaller giclee print, separately numbered.

All images and writing are the sole property of Ruth Zachary.


Friday, October 24, 2008


The Release of Psyche. Etching. 6 x 9"

The depiction of a butterfly in a jar, and releasing it has been an idea which has compelled me more than once. In those instances picturing a child freeing the butterfly, as a Black child seemed appropriate, because our culture has imposed such harsh limitations, especially upon Black children.

Even though the myth about Psyche is thought to be Greek in origin, she supposedly was incarnated as a butterfly, which in many cultures represents metamorphoses.

In some stories, Psyche represents the soul, and the theme of freedom of spirit and the ability to transform and transcend bonds or limitations is a positive metaphor for difficult times.

It is also a wonderful symbol for an artist seeking freedom of expression. At this particular time, it also becomes perfect for me. For several years I felt my way of working had become disconnected from my Source... the images no longer expressed the joy I once felt while working, and I thought the art reflected what I was feeling. Rather than go on making stilted images that projected distortions, I turned to other media and techniques to stimulate a fresh approach to creating. It helped, but I still could not draw freely, as I once had.

This side trip took several years. I would furtively try to express an idea, only to find I was still too impaired to do it well. Last year I did a drawing of a powerful figure of a Native man I had once photographed as a news reporter. My freedom had partly returned, but it wasn't there yet.

Finally, recently when trying to draw the Phoenix, I felt as if I had been released from the old restraints that had bound my mind, and the drawing came easily, like a flood, almost as if a dam had burst. It has taken a decade, and I am glad I was able and willing to follow other directions in the meantime. I have learned a lot. I really believe one has to honor their own best process in the quest to the best work possible.

A California artist, Mary Beth Rapisardo speaks of the "Art of Allowing Art" for the artist wanting to enable his or her connection to Creative Source. Her beautiful paintings express Visions along this Sacred Journey. I recommend visiting her inspiring web site, at

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Medicine Woman. Etching image size 16 x 20."

Today I am very pleased to have found an etching completed several years ago, and which is completely sold out. My single remaining print has been in storage. This would be an image I would like to offer as another edition of giclee prints in a different size, about 12 x 15."

Medicine Woman was created to honor women who practice both traditional and non-traditional healing arts. Women, as food gatherers learned about the healing properties of various plants, and so began the practice. Many traditions developed over thousands of years, often including magical lore and rituals in the ways of applying their knowlege.

In the middle ages, men tried to wrest this knowlege and the powers of healing away from women, sometimes naming such wise women as witches, even persecuting and killing them if they persisted in practicing healing. Midwifery was one of the last of the healing arts permitted by women in that period. Male doctors began to be the only people left who had medical knowlege.

It was not until the 1800s that the medical establishment opened a medical school to a woman. Elizabeth Blackwell applied at 28 schools before being accepted at Geneva/Hobart College in New York in 1847, when she was sponsored by Dr. Joseph Warrington, who was highly esteemed, and probably because no one dared offend him.

Images and Writing are the exclusive Copyright of Ruth Zachary.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


October Raspberries. Photo

When thinking about what moves a person to create, sometimes it is nothing more/or less than being immersed in the out-of doors. I love my raspberries, which recall for me happy memories of picking them in the woods, as a child gathering gifts free from Nature. So often I am stimulated by visual cues, but this time I tried to reflect on other senses as well; the sense of touch, smell and taste. I find so often a new metaphor hides under the vines, both for writing and for creating visual imagery.

If an artist or writer can identify the conditions, situations, or rituals which contribute to his or her most creative work (play) then it is wise to make sure those conditions are in place when it is desirable to create. Not everyone sits down at the same time every day to write, or to paint or to......(name your creative favorite... compose?)

My best process means paying attention to my emotion as it connects to a situation, a place, a scene or idea. If I am unable to go to work just then, I at least write down a few words... the place, the feeling, words that come to me, metaphors, etc. I may take a picture, or sketch.

So many times I have gone back to those notes when I have enough time to devote to the idea, and have recaptured the concept and carried it out to completion. For me, my best process is not to simply produce, but to give myself and my process to the creative Source as soon as I am able.

Friday, October 3, 2008


And Who Shall Parent Our Children? Etching. Image about 9 x 12."

A Marbelizing technique was used in this etching. The method is the same as described in the previous post.

The idea was one I had pondered about for a long time. I had worked for a long while as a social worker with deprived families, and encountered more teen age mothers than I liked. So many young mothers love their children, and yet they are still children themselves. Often they have not had time to prepare to be responsible for themselves, let alone their small children.

My own sorrow for their problems cried out for some way to vent itself, and using images was an effective one for me. I did not judge them, but wanted to draw attention to the problem, so perhaps, someone viewing the image would try to intervene and one more young girl would not get pregnant.

Art, for me is not simply about aesthetics. The emotional feeling stimulated by a situation or idea empowers the making of art.

With poetry, this seems true as well. There may be a direct connection between emotion and being able to express an art form. When trying to write, having a strong emotion about the subject enables a connection with the intuitive side, so that words (and images) come into consciousness, and serve almost as a vocabulary for expression. Images seem to be the first language... the preverbal state of awareness.

I am very interested to know, do other kinds of stimuli inspire other artists to express themselves? What are the conditions under which your best art work or writing occur?

All images and writing are the sole property of Ruth Zachary.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Eirene, Guardian of Peace. Etching. 9x12" approx.

The Greek goddess of Peace was the topic of this piece. The
Romans called her Pax, and celebrated her with a procession once a year.

My interpretation shows her as an angel protecting the earth from a bird of prey, symbolizing war or chaos which disturbs peace for world inhabitants.

The marbelized texture on the earth and in the background was created by floating thinned asphaltum on water, and placing the dry un-etched plate carefully on the surface. The tarry substance stuck to the clean plate surface, but did not adhere to it where it was wet.

After the asphaltum was dry, the plate was spray painted, blocked out in areas intended to remain white, and etched in progressive stages. The successive blocking out and etching in stages allowed the acid to make different depths in the surface of the plate. Deeper areas held more ink, printing as darks in the resulting print.

I would be happy to answer any questions not answered, about this process.

All images and writing are the sole property of Ruth Zachary.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Changing Woman. Hand Colored Etching. Approx 6x10."

This etching was one of the Women's Heritage series. Changing Woman is a Native American Deity who, like the earth and the moon, become old and then young again. Humanity also, ages, but in so many ways is able to experience a return to youth. She holds a universal symbolism.

The Women's Heritage Series contains references from women's myths, history and spirituality. Often there are Earth - centered themes included. The images are presented in overlapping scenes and people and include many symbols from various multicultural Sources of Women's Origins. Although the etchings are not available, limited edition giclee prints are, printed on heavy archival paper with colorfast inks.

Surround yourself with symbols from your source.

Images and writing are the exclusive property of Ruth Zachary.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Cygnet. Etching. 9x12" approx.

This etching was inspired by my daughter, who, like so many teenagers felt inadequate and unnattractive even though they are anything but.
This was an image responding to the "ugly duckling" theme... the swan who will one day emerge as a beautiful creature.

The reversed image is a kind of reflection, a metaphor for both my daughter's and my own.

Technically the image was executed as a typical line drawing with a stylus through ground, etched, and then in a second stage, a spray-paint "aquatint" method was employed. This involves etching the plate, and painting out lighter areas successively with asphaltum, to achieve a series of gradations in tone. The longer the exposure to acid, the deeper the pores in the plate, which hold ink for printing.

In this print, two tones of intaglio ink were rubbed into the plate with tarlatan. A rainbow colored charged roller was rolled over the surface. The plate was then placed on the press bed, wet paper was placed over that, under blankets and all were rolled through the press under great pressure. This forced the wet paper to pick up the inks, both on the surface and in the crevasses. Pulling the print paper away, carefully, resulted in an intaglio print.

If anyone has questions about process, please use this blog to ask, and I will answer. I promise not to use any information left on my site for anything other than contacts about my own shows, new work, etc.

About 25 etchings were made, each with a different color combination. I am not able to use my press at present, but I do offer limited editions of giclee reproductions of my etchings for those who relate to the images. These are printed with archival inks on heavy matte paper made for
printing art.

All art images and writing are property of Ruth Zachary.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Somewhere They Are Smiling. Computer Montage.

Here is the final version of this series exploring the idea of a lineage descended through seven generations of sequential mothers. It is also the last of this series using Photoshop as a tool in creating montage.

This generation of women were placed in the foreground, while those of past generations were depicted as a reflection in an antique store window. The dress and bouquet on the youngest member of this matrilineage were also created using layers in Photoshop. The various faces shown were drawn from various stages in their lives, and the final version does not depict a single moment in time.

Each version of this series was carried through in the spirit of joyful play, with the ideas spurring me on, through multiple time-intensive steps. (Computer art is not less time consuming, nor is it easier, and no, the computer doesn't do the art work.) But for me, the use of Photoshop has become second nature, and is used like any tool using paint or pencil, minus paint fumes.

In spite of working with the computer, I frequently return to other traditional media, because those forms can do things the computer cannot. I use my hand-rendered images interactively with other media and photographs within Photoshop to create a final result. Computer art allows an artist to save each step, to be used in multiple new ways in new images later on.

I invite questions if I have not gone into enough detail. My aim here was not to overburden anyone with too much information, but to say enough so someone else working with a computer could explore some of these techniques. I would also love to learn what others have discovered in their artistic journey.

Images and writing are the exclusive property of Ruth Zachary.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


The White Dress. Computer Manipulated Photograph.

This image with the old fashioned white dress was one of two or three photos of a Halloween costume. In this case, none of the photos were suitable as they were. The hat was best in one, the dress better in another, and the face more clear in the third.

My task was to put the best together in one format. Each cut out portion was copied and imported into a Photoshop document in various layers.

An experimentally painted panel was scanned in to serve as the background. The same panel was reversed and used over the top of the figure. In the layers tableau the texture was made transparent. Areas planned for the face and clothing details were cut out of this layer and deleted. The layer was cut again into sections so that the desired amount of transparency could be retained in various parts of the composition.

In some cases the painted texture was more opaque and in others, less so. The blending draws the eye to the face, purposely left more vivid. The overall texture lends a uniformity to the whole.

This and the other images of this series was shown to illustrate some techniques that can be useful in Photoshop. The final version of this series will be added in another day or so.

All writing and images are property of Ruth Zachary.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Matrilineage. Computer Manipulated Photos

A copy of the first black and white multi-generational family portrait was colored using Photoshop.

Each of the five heads in the back row was outlined with the lasso tool, and filled with an orange tint, using the "color" mode, with a reduced percentage of transparency.

The three figures in the front were already in color and were added in additional layers. The foreground and the background layers were retained separately over a transparent background, to enable use of separately cut out groupings. Layers must be saved as a psd (Photoshop) document to preserve them, and take a lot of memory. The file size can be greatly reduced as a JPEG document, but layers are lost and the background becomes white.

All images and writing are the exclusive property of Ruth Zachary.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Computer Manipulated Photographs

I have learned a lot of techniques by experimenting with Photoshop for the last fifteen years. People have frequently asked about the methods used for achieving certain effects.

Although it is better to have a hands-on situation to see how these methods work in practice, this forum is certainly better than explaining detailed processes at a gallery opening!

I hope to encourage others to learn from accident and experimentation as I have. I hope that others will ask questions if they have them, and will share discoveries of their own, using this blog site as a place to exchange ideas.

The bottom image (made first) was created by bringing five photos into one document, each on a separate layer, and arranging them in a sequence representing five generations. Prior to moving the photos, the size of each document was adjusted so the figures would all be the same size. The background was created from a digital photograph of a crackled paint texture on an old door.

The top, and second image was an experiment on a copy of the first one. One of the great things about using the computer is that all the steps can be saved, so if you don't like the experiment, you can go back and try something different. The layers were merged, using the merge visible command under layers.

A new layer was created. ( menu) This was filled with white and then the transparency of that layer was reduced to about 50% in the layers tableau. The darker images beneath began to show through. Then the eraser tool in the palette was set at a fine size, and a Wacom pen and tablet were used in a sketching motion to remove the white layer and reveal the dark details
of the figures beneath.

I made several variations on this theme, which I will explain in coming installments. Look for other techniques to come!


The Foremothers. Manipulated Photograph.

People seeing my work on display often ask how
I created a particular effect. There are many
techniques I have learned over 15 years of working with Photoshop, and I am happy to share them.

I hope I may inspire someone else to let accidents teach them, and hopefully that person will share what was learned with me.

This image was created in layers, one for each of the faces. The background came from a digital photo of crackled paint on a door. The figures represent five generations.

Another experiment with the image was tried, after the figures were merged.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Damselflight. Etching. 12x12" approx.

Judith Angell Meyer asked a question about coloring an etching. For those who do not know
about etching, this is a brief description.

Most of the color in my etchings were created using intaglio inks. My etching images were made on zinc plates, with a combination of fine lines and dots etched at varied depths to hold the inks, which are about like oil colors in texture, and usually very dark in value. My method was to push the thick inks down into the crevasses, carefully separating the areas of color. The surface of the plate was then selectively rubbed with tarlatan, a stiff material which clears the smooth levels of the plate to reveal the light values.

The paper was wet when placed over the plate. Thick blankets were placed over that, and the press bed was rolled between rollers under great pressure. This forced the image up so it was absorbed by the paper. The print was pulled off the plate and dried between blotters.

Some of my complicated etchings were remarqued with colored pencils to heighten and separate the colors. Another method of adding color was to roll as many as three transparent colors onto the surface of the plate over the intaglio colors. (See Damselflight)

I use the past tense here because my studio is not set up for printing at this time.

All images and writings are the exclusive property of Ruth Zachary.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Earth Woman

Etching size 9x12"

This image was one of a series of Women's
Heritage montages created in the etching medium.
Earth as a Goddess was the theme here.
Later the piece was used as the book cover
for Diane Stein's Stroking the Python.

Does anyone have questions or comments
about this medium or about the images?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Montage- Compressing Time

Concert After the Rain

This piece was completed this year and won
first prize in Photography in the Greeley Art Association Show, "Art from the Heart."

The old man in the background was my great grandfather Alfred, who made violins. My mother, was raised in his home, and he gave her one of his violins for graduation in 1920.
She is shown at right. I inherited the violin from her, but to my dismay, it fell apart, but unable to part with it, I kept it in its case.

My daughter did not play it, either, but my grandson Josh does play violin, and just joined a High School concert group in Grand Rapids, MI. His teacher restores violins,
and was able to put Alfred's old creation into operating condition, and I gave it to Josh.

I used Photoshop to bring three eras together in one frame. I used old family photos and the one of Josh and the background is mine. I found a puddle image to create the reflections, to
further express the idea of reflecting upon the passage of time.

Permission required to reproduce images and writing, which are the sole property of Ruth Zachary .

Friday, August 29, 2008


Arachne's Web. Photograph, Slide Overlay.

Both of these images use a montage approach,
with combined imagery.

These compositions present different aspects
to express a single idea, and generally, a single
moment in time.

This image was created around 1985.
Arachne was a Greek Goddess.

Wolf Totem
Mixed Media Painting,
Collage, Drawing, and Painting.

This piece was created in the early 1990s.

This illustrates the idea
of a woman who identifies
with the character of wolves,
and relates to the persona
of the wolf as a helpful
symbol for her life.

Both are works from
the Women's Heritage Series.

Monday, August 25, 2008


"My Muse Takes Me Out to a Sidewalk Cafe"

The process of creating art, for me, whether expressed in visual forms or in words, is an intuitive process, in which
connections between different images are noticed, and
demand to be recorded. The connections between diverse images seemed to convey meanings beyond those of single

This first happened many years ago while working in the darkroom in a photography class. Soon this way of seeing
spilled over into other art forms, such as etching and painting. Eventually drawn to Photoshop as a tool for
creating art, I began to mix the effects possible by using
many media in combination.

I have been a closet writer as well, and often have been attracted to poetry. There is an obvious link between the two forms. Metaphors are not limited to words. Perhaps images are the most primeval metaphors of all.

I invite others to share their thoughts about their
unique creative process. Or if anyone has questions
about these comments, I'd love to answer them!