Joanne Beaule Ruggles


Joanne Beaule Ruggles bends then breaks wooden dowels to achieve the long-handled, pointed shards that she employs as primitive drawing pens. She says each fabricated pen can make wide range of marks, yet each has a distinct voice – and so she has “a quiver” of these pens in various thicknesses and lengths from which spring her passionately expressive lines. Deep bottles of ink allow this artist to load up her pen shafts for extended mark-making before requiring another dip into the ink container. By varying the pressure that she applies to the pen’s shaft, as well as by rotating the pen tip from its narrow to thick sides, Ruggles has learned to dramatically change line quality.

Whether she is painting, drawing, or employing collage materials, Ruggles’ process gravitates toward high drama. She explains that intuitive, non-objective exploration with mark, color, shape, and pattern typically is what starts her work – “the more daring, the better”. She calls it “tightrope walking where there is no need for a net, no preparation for failure, and she feels intensely in the moment. Eventually she WILL fall wildly into her figurative subject, and she describes that plunge as exhilarating”.

She has coined the term “environments” to describe the products of her intuitive and non-objective creative play. When these preliminary improvisations start to become interesting, she will pull back and wait. Invariably she’ll begin to see a possibility of something that already exists in the wild field of marks. She says her next task is to excavate that image. This studio art professor’s specialty has for decades been the human figure, so it should not be surprising that (quite often) she finds bodies and learns that each has a universal story that they are impatient to share.