Ruth Armitage’s Tide Lines: Cold Wax and Oil Collage workshop is in session, and I am eavesdropping.
“If it doesn’t resonate for you yet,” Ruth encourages a participant considering a work in progress, “you have nothing to lose because you’re not at fruition.”
I observe as Ruth floats from artist to artist as they play, building up layers of color however they want, experimenting with texture, opacity and mark-making and letting happy accidents carry them into uncharted waters. There is so much joy in the room.
Ruth Armitage and Nancy Newman
Back at my desk – my Sitka desk, not my home office - Ruth’s words and the coastal collages in progress tug at my imagination like an ebb tide. So much of the past year and a half of my personal work has been focused on helping Sitka respond to churning circumstances and sea change without taking on too much water. Creative and open-ended conversations were replaced by necessity with pandemic problem-solving. My core muscles are so used to sustaining survival-mode tension now I have to remind myself that it’s ok to relax them.
In the unmasked oasis of Ruth’s studio, exhaling comes naturally. There is a tingling sensation as creativity starts flowing again to parts of my brain that have been dormant, like the first steps getting up from a chair that’s put my legs to sleep.
“If I do a watercolor,” Nancy, one of the participants (and Sitka’s administrative coordinator) shares, “and I’m trying to be purposeful, but then something happens that I didn’t want to happen, I do my best to fix it, but I can always tell. But with this…,” Nancy’s face muscles relax, “the unexpected things add to our compositions in ways that maybe we didn’t expect, but it makes them more interesting. It’s so freeing.”
I consider Nancy’s observation and let Ruth’s wisdom wash over me again. We have nothing to lose. We are not at fruition…
What unplanned aspects of this time away from each other are worth carrying forward now that being together is possible? What experimental layers now feel foundational? Which disappointments are happy accidents in disguise? What new marks do we see to make? What new information surfaces when each of us, in our own work and ways, resume disrupted rituals and rhythms with a fresh sense of appreciation and wonder?
The year unfolding now is one of tidal transition. The sand is still shifting, and the paint is still wet. Some parts resonate and some feel unsettled. I don’t know what fruition looks like, and it feels a long way off, and that’s ok. At Sitka the art of not knowing is a joy to practice.