Artist and illustrator ruth allen has been a member of MakersPlace since its inception. We couldn’t be more excited to Spotlight her and her large and diverse body of work.
Brady Walker: If I’m a big fan of your work, what do I already know about you as a person?
ruth allen: You know what I love, what I’m wrestling with, what’s coming, dreams, anxieties, and my hopes for the future. It’s all about what’s behind and underneath, hovering over and inside everything.
BW: What’s the story behind your Lost in the Redwoods Collection?
RA: Oh my gosh, I think about this collection all the time. Creating it ignited a big desire in me to visit a redwood forest, and I was all set to do that in 2020. Sigh. Hope to make it to one in 23!
Back in the beginning at MakersPlace, there were a LOT of super fun art challenges that I would get emails for. They all said, “Find out more on our Discord!” But I did not have a device at the time that could access Discord. Luckily, I eventually acquired one and was able to take part in them.
Lost in the Redwoods was one of several themes suggested by collectors for the Lucky 7 Showcase which ran for seven weeks. We chose our theme and created seven pieces, minting one a week. I told a story of being lost for a year, going through all the seasons, and in the end, becoming a part of the forest itself.
I really got into researching the flora and fauna and what happens to certain things at certain times of the year. There is also a more personal story going on underneath, of course, as there is with nearly everything I create. But I like to let those stay there and allow the beholder to see what they need and want to see in things.
BW: You’ve written six children’s books (from what I can tell, perhaps more).
RA: Ooh! I must have miscommunicated somewhere because Pink Cake is the only book I have written and illustrated. I bet my Instagram is kind of confusing because I do a LOT of art challenges there, and most of them are for kids’ books because I always wanted to make cool picture books.
I have a second book in the Pink Cake series that I hope to work on during this holiday break about the sea and several others only half written.
During lockdown, I illustrated a book about Bongnyeogwan, the first female Buddhist nun on Jeju Island in South Korea! It was amazing to work on, and I completed more than 100 illustrations for it between March and May. The main nun from this temple loved one of them so much that she used it for the cover of her own book, also about Bongnyeogwan.
BW: Does your children’s book work make it into your crypto art oeuvre?
RA: I have so far minted ONE gif that was created using the watercolor images I made for Pink Cake. I’ve been experimenting with using AI-created backgrounds and digitally drawing on them for the book about the sea. But yes, I have several pieces out there that have more of my line drawings involved in the animations and gifs.
BW: What’s your fascination with pink cake?
RA: When I was a kid, we got sheet cakes from the bakery. None of these three-tiered things back in the day! The box had a cellophane window, and our Mom always kept it in the fridge. My sister and I used to get in trouble for sticking our hands in there and taking all the icing off the edges. Haha! The cake would be naked by the time it was served.
But MY pink cake is pink because of a cake made by one of my favorite restaurants. The cake was called Raspberry Pinkerton, and it was made by The Grit. Any time you ate at The Grit was just pure joy. The breads were more like cakes, and the cakes were like nirvana! The Pinkerton was a chocolate cake with raspberry filling and pink icing. It was lovely. Sad to say, The Grit closed this year. The cake lives on!
BW: What’s the origin of your handle 10tinbluebirds?
RA: Once I had a dream that I was visiting my dear (dream) friend Madonna at her estate in England (when she was with Guy Ritchie), and she was showing me her massive aviary, which was filled with these tiny bright blue birds with a top knot like a cardinal has, but vivid blue and very, very small. They were EVERYWHERE! It was so cool! And memorable! I can still see it in my mind. It was so amazing and real.
I even did a painting of a kid with tiny blue birds flying around him, which is now hanging in a winery in North Carolina. I actually did several paintings with kids and birds. Later on, I created a new email account using an even longer version of 10tinbb, and when I started doing beta testing for Pinterest, my email handle was way too long to use there or anywhere! So I “shortened” it to 10tinbluebirds, max characters allowed then, and I just used that for everything so anyone could find me anywhere I was.
BW: You’ve got many styles, though some are more heavily represented than others. Can you tell me about the more “obscure” style you explore in “A Fascination of Paradoxes” and “Where Hummingbirds Hide”?
RA: Hmm, it’s always interesting to hear what other people see, think, and feel about your work. When I look at everything together, I don’t see different styles, but that may be me as a self-taught artist showing.
I’m still using the same process in those pieces, only adding an asset from an animation app. If I had the time and desire and skills to build those myself, I’d have a whole flock of birds! A world full of animals! Everything moving!
In the end, I think all of my work is about expressing what’s going on inside.
BW: What does your creative routine look like?
RA: Listen. Feel. React. Express. Repeat. Using any medium available at the time. Including writing it out before it becomes an actual image.
BW: How often do you finish a new piece? How much do you discard?
RA: I create new digital work almost every day. And discard!? I’m very much an image hoarder. I have such a hard time deleting things, it mostly only happens when I can’t update an app because I have no space left.
When I’m drawing and painting, things can take a bit longer. I have found I can devote myself to working up to four hours at a time, but if I try to push beyond that, something suffers. And there is that old saying, good art is knowing when to quit, so I often go back and look over images and make them into something completely different.
I usually draw with ink because it forces me to accept mistakes and move in unexpected directions. When I’m painting, it’s always done in layers, and often I’m reusing canvases. I create a base layer and paint a color on top of that and scratch through it, and so on. I also reuse canvases, recreating the same process on top, but because of the thickness of the paint, you can still see the textures of what lies beneath.
My greatest collectors love this and consistently reject any paintings that don’t have any “hidden” textures. It’s a very similar process with all of my digital work as well. Lines and layers and what’s underneath. Everything is like a collage in a way.
BW: How do you stay inspired or motivated (two sides of the same coin, I suppose)?
RA: I don’t start every day with something in mind that I want to create. I believe in downtime and listening, and going with the flow. So when I’m inspired, I give in to that, and when I’m not but want to be, I take time out in nature and/or meditation. I just listen and ask, what is happening right now? Or, what do I need right now? I weave this into my day job and keep going.
BW: If only one of your works survived you, and it landed in a permanent and prominent spot in a major art museum, which would you pick?
RA: I can never, ever pick ONE favorite of anything. I usually have a rotating top three or five that fluctuates with my moods. So if I had to pick today, it would be The Secret Trees of 4am, This Is A Test, 3359, and My Monster Tea Party.
BW: What kinds of work are you most excited to create in the new year?
RA: Oooh, I’m still super excited to learn more about animation, so I hope to just make more and more gifs and short animations for 2023 and beyond. Maybe one day I’ll have a traveling road show of gifs. I’d like that.
BW: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self about creativity and making work?
RA: Never, ever give up. Don’t take NO for an answer, look for alternate routes, and remember it just takes ONE YES. Never compare what you are doing with what anyone else is doing. Explore everything. If you love it, do it.