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Paige Ruby Moves into Mixed Media

BERLIN — The only thing more satisfying than being good at something is getting good at something. Finding both the means and the reason to push yourself out of your comfort zone in order to reawaken your creative spirit is an act with which many are familiar. 

But when your creative spirit is also your livelihood, it takes more than confidence to do something new, it takes a significant amount of will. 

Paige Ruby has been a prolific painter for nearly two decades. Working primarily in watercolor, she was drawn more to marine scenes featuring boats than any other subject she studied as she traveled the peninsula. But over the last few years, she’s found herself drawn more to mixed media, layering paint, paper, silk, and other texturally interesting pieces onto her canvas.

“I’ve decided to make silk thread my signature,” Ruby said. 

Like many changes in artistic direction, Ruby’s foray into mixed media was more an exercise than anything else. She took some classes as a way of changing her focus and, hopefully, providing a new perspective on color and technique.

“It was an exercise in the beginning,” she said. “As you do layers you evolve out and into what you’re doing.”

As Ruby become more involved with the process, she found she enjoyed it. More importantly, she had a talent for it.

The way she approached mixed media is much the way one might expect an abstractionist would do. It is about on-the-fly texture mixed with a predetermined color scheme. A way of doing whatever you want as long as it conforms to a predetermined style.

Working within that paradox is a little more dangerous in terms of production because it is easy to lose a piece or have it become too unwieldy.

Working in watercolor, there is plenty of room for correction and adjustment. In Ruby’s style of mixed media, she is either able to come to terms with what needs to be done or she is not. When she is not, the piece is ruined, but when she is, something special happens and it is evident in the work.

“I build it up by layers and it has to work,” she said. “If it doesn’t work, you know it.”

Combining nameless disposition and emotion on canvas has indeed helped her in her “normal painting” as she sometimes calls it.

Much of her work is done from sketches for form and photos for detail. That is she’ll sketch an idea, kind of get her hands used to what is going to be expected of them in general terms and then she’ll photograph the subject to personalize it.

When it comes to workboats, which are her specialty, almost everything is done from memory. But other studies take a little more than that.

Ruby chose a relatively wide selection of her work for this week’s show at the Berlin Coffee House, which opens officially with a 2nd Friday Art Stroll reception. She has work in galleries throughout the region — a Point Pleasant, N.J. gallery just selected many of her new mixed media work for display — and though it best to provide some of the paintings she thought might best fit the Coffee House and appeal to its clientele.