Artist Interview | Liz Ruest

Become acquainted with perhaps a few unknown dimensions – thoughts, ambitions, wisdoms, life changing moments – of this inspiring artist.


When it comes to your art/writing, explain what you do in 100 words.
I use technology as a glue to combine layers of texture and iconic imagery, building a sense of place and the complexity of life decisions in my compositions. My tools and techniques range from hands-on collage, printmaking, and encaustic wax, to digital cameras, scanners, and microscopes – all to help capture a sense of history. I create colours by building up digital layers, add details, obscuring and revealing, just like in a hands-on collage. Then, I have the luxury of deciding how to share my digital file: online, as a limited-edition print, or as open-edition accessories on print-to-order sites.

What project are you working on now?
I’ve just wrapped up a “body of work” for the year that I titled, “Factors,” large digital images with multiple layers of photography and collage. Now, I’m in prime-the-pump mode for next year’s work. Each fall and winter, I start building the basis for another year of images and layers. I’m shooting with my digital camera, using my collages as plates in my printing press, and experimenting with acrylic and watercolour for more colours and textures that I can scan.

Why do you do what you do?
I process so much visually – it’s what I go to sleep mulling over, and what I wake up thinking about – that I can’t imagine not doing it. When I don’t get art time for too long a stretch, I get antsy. As I combine layers and images, and hit that just-right combination, I can’t wait to share it, to find out if you see what I see, and connect.

How has your practice changed over time?
I’ve made much more of a switch to digital compositing since 2010. Before that, I was trying other ways to get images to layer: Chine-collé printmaking, acrylic matte medium, and encaustic wax. Digital layering allows me to experiment more quickly and freely, and doesn’t preclude me from using hands-on methods with the final print, either.

What is your strongest childhood memory?
I grew up in an old house near Lake Ontario, in Canada, with frequent visits to the beach after dinner. That endless horizon and sense of calm have stayed with me, and they are something I still seek in my travels.

What is your scariest experience?
One evening at the beach, I was a little apart from the rest of the family, and started walking into the water. Nobody saw that I had walked right off a drop-off, and I became completely submerged. Thankfully, I was able to calmly turn and swim back, but that sense of being utterly alone underwater has stayed with me since childhood. I am grateful for the sense of self-reliance that seemed to come out of nowhere that evening, and I lean on that to this day as well.

Describe a real-life experience that inspired you.
When I moved from Ontario to the American West coast, I became an invisible immigrant, not obviously a stranger, but feeling very strange and out of place nonetheless. I’ve since done a lot of thinking about what it means to leave a location, choose a new one, or decide to stay put, and that exploration of a sense of place comes up in my work every day.

What superpower would you like to have and why?
I always think that I’d like to be a mind reader, to simplify the complex process of communication, but I realize we all think thoughts that aren’t always fit for consumption. The editor in me appreciates that we can choose our best words and images to put forward.

What is your pet peeve about the art world?
I notice a need, a human need, really, not just an art world need, to label things. But I have more fun when I mash two colliding ideas together, such as handmade and digital, or printmaking and collage. “Mixed media” doesn’t always cover the complexity that goes into the work.

What is your dream creative project?
I wish everyone had large digital screens in their homes, so I could just zap them my work! Since that’s far-fetched, I’d love to work out how to physically render some of the many layers in my work, rather than flattening them all prior to printing.

Which place in the world do you find to be the most inspiring?
With my French-Canadian background, you’d think it would be France, and I’ve certainly tried a visit or two. But I keep returning to Scotland, for its landscapes, coastlines, language, and history, despite not having more than a drop of Highland blood in me. I’ve tried to figure it out, find the origin of my fascination, to no avail. The rugged views, the self-reliant underdogs, and the wonderful people just keep me coming back, and I’m okay with that.

What’s the most indispensable item in your studio/practice?
Oh, this is so tough! I am torn between my camera and my computer… But maybe it’s as simple as a sketchbook that I can slap collages into, to get creative thoughts moving.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
To encourage more attempts at art and less focus on perfection, my art teacher in high school said, “If you made it once, you can make it again.” That thought frees up a lot of worry about getting it just right, and has led me to creating great quantities of work, but I am pleased with only a small portion of it.

What are your hobbies?
I still love to try new art techniques in my spare time, but when I’m really trying to take a break from art, I dive into a good book, or explore a bit more of my family tree. My French-Canadian ancestors are so well documented that my genealogy database has upwards of 10,000 names. I track my reading in a database too, on goodreads.com, and have logged over 1,000 books!

Creatively, where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I see myself moving into more and more abstraction, finding a studio to share with friends, and growing my small business enough to fund those trips to Scotland!

Liz Ruest was born in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, and is currently based in Bellevue, WA, USA.
Visit http://www.lizruest.com.

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