Saturday, October 29, 2011

Painting vs. Pain: Getting beyond the less than ideal

Portrait #60
©2011 Toni Ruppert
20 x 24″
Oil Painting (on Canvas)

Today and in the next post, I show you the “secrets” to how my painting can help get beyond a less than ideal situation.  My painting also goes through a less than pretty stage and I will share this too.  

Knowing the story behind each piece and having rituals (things I do all of the time) are just a few “secrets” to getting beyond this. 

What's this painting’s story?

My friend Diana’s Mom was having major surgery this summer.  To encourage her Mom, I thought I’d go visit.  I've always admired her funny and caring way.  In the back of my mind, I thought maybe one day I would get the opportunity to paint her.   

Yes.  I see people and think “Wow wouldn’t it be nice to paint that spirit or that personality or that hair.  

Anyway, at some point, I do visit again, taking my camera this time.  I took pictures on the spot.

These photograph I took told a different story than the one I wanted to paint.  The one we eventually used was a photograph from over 10 years ago.  It told a different story of a more happier time - before illness.  I knew I had to capture that happier time for Diana’s Mom and Dad. 

With any client, I try and and stay cognizant of their story.  Diana's Mom had always wanted a portrait she said.  Now seemed like the perfect time.

When Diana eventually saw the painting --about halfway through, she said, “He is so absolutely perfect. I cried...”  I was so elated to hear this because this portrait did not start off "pretty."  In fact, this is where it started: 

Portrait #60 -in progress
©2011 Toni Ruppert
20 x 24″
Oil Painting (on Canvas)

What should you do next? 
Think about someone you care about today.  Is there some difficulty or painful situation where a portrait would help?  Is there some stressful situation where my art could help?  

Feel free to comment or e-mail me at toni [at]

Thursday, September 22, 2011

New Painting is Accepted: “Genesis of Survival”

"Genesis of Survival" ©2011 Toni Ruppert, 30x40, Oil and Charcoal
Do you know a more inspired, more encouraged, more joyful artist from the "west side" than me?  Today I'm even more pumped!


Yesterday, I got an acceptance letter for my painting “Genesis of Survival” to the show "Testimony to Being" at Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago, Illinois.  

I’m really excited about this acceptance as it is the first time I’ve entered something this personal into a show and it was accepted.  “Genesis of Survival” is one of my favorite paintings because I love the detail work done with a palette knife.  It's like painting with a flexible butter knife.


"Genesis of Survival-detail" © 2011 Toni Ruppert, Oil and Charcoal

The exhibit will be on view from October 15, 2011 through November 5, 2011 at Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago, Illinois.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Lil Wayne: 7 Success Tips for Artists

"Musical Notes"  12x12  Mixed Media  ©Toni Ruppert
Last night, I watched something I thought I’d never watch; over an hour of biographical video footage about grammy award winning American rapper Lil Wayne.  I watched the VH1 Behind the Music video,  his interview with American journalist Katie Couric and some other footage with my teen daughter, Kayla.   

Kayla told me she had already watched his VH1 interview with her father.  Since they had a bonding moment over it, I figured I’d watch it with her as well.  Reason aside - let’s just say I was fascinated by the footage.  My daughter got a real kick out of seeing my reaction.

Lil Wayne in one word: industrious. He is hardworking. On one of the videos, he is shown performing a full show and then getting on his tour bus to record new material.  It’s like he was driven to succeed.

I was fascinated by the interviews. Couric asked about the rumors of his alleged addiction to cough syrup and use of marijuana.  He was real about that. That was interesting to me--since I often allow food to get in my way.  I mean I can eat.  Food addiction means I’d rather eat pecan sandies cookies for breakfast than cook a real meal.  Intimate knowledge of my own struggles enabled me to understand this portion of the video. 

After watching this, I now better understand why Kayla was “super gaga” over the Lil Wayne phenomena.  From watching these videos with her, I gleaned 7 success tips for ANY artist:

7 Success Tips for Artists
  1. Work hard: one needs the will to work hard; Lil Wayne tells Katie Couric he has this
  2. Find mentors: one of the videos stated that Lil’ Wayne was mentored since age 9
  3. Get involved:Lil Wayne did odd jobs at his old record label before he ever recorded
  4. Be real and know one’s identity: it was obvious to me that he knows where he is from AND an even stronger sense of where he is going
  5. Practice ones skill: In the Bible, one of my favorite sayings from King Solomon says “skill will bring success.” Lil Wayne embodied this as a youngster and with the old rap group, “Hot Boyz.” After the group disbanded, he was ready to do his thing.
  6. Work with a team: It might have been my perspective, but it seemed as if real commercial success came after Li Wayne’s second album was a commercial thud.  He then chose a fresh team of producers and music folks to create with.
  7. Be prepared to reinvent: Also after the second album, Lil Wayne said he reinvented his method of recording. In previous recordings, he had pre-written his lyrics.  After a reinvention, he says he began recording his music without using a pad of paper.  Whether this was totally “freestyle,” is debatable.  But his new way was different from the way he recorded before.
After watching these video tidbits about Lil Wayne, and gleaning these tips, I realize there is hard work to be done.  Watching Lil Wayne with my daughter has caused me to want to live to my creative potential.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Making the Best of It...

"Behind Her Smile"  12x12  Mixed Media  ©Toni Ruppert
The only thing missing from my meeting with Jackie Taylor...was Jackie Taylor.

I had high hopes to meet the theatrical history maker from Chicago.  My friend Kuki had suggested I seek to speak with her several weeks ago. Kuki thought Ms. Taylor would be excited about my creative work and that I could learn from her. 

To prepare for my meeting with Ms. Taylor, I researched to find out her background.  I utilized the  -   a biographical information and audio and video clips about African Americans who have influenced history.  I literally cried as I  found out that Ms. Taylor  and I have these things in common:
  • We both attended Loyola University
  • We both juggled marriage and motherhood as a Loyola student
  • We both have had great mentors and teachers along the way
So after confirming our appointment the day before we were to meet, I was so excited.  The Black Ensemble Theatre headquarters is on the north side of Chicago.  I knew I had to take my six year old to her sitter who would watch her as I  drove across town to reach Ms. Taylor.
I walked in with my bag and my portfolio.  Upon my arrival, I was told that Ms. Taylor was unavailable.  Her previous meeting had run over.  Oooh!  Crushed. Surprised. Disappointed. 

I would instead meet with Gwyn Sea, her assistant of 9 years.

As John Wooden, the famed college basketball coach said: "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out."

So with Ms. Sea so graciously standing in, I asked my questions--some of which I got from my Facebook friends and fans:

How did Ms. Taylor juggle her craft, motherhood and marriage?
How has Ms. Taylor dealt with failure?
What did her parents and mentors do to instill leadership qualities in her when she was a child - how does one make a history maker?

I learned that:

  • Ms. Taylor did whatever she could to put her craft first.  She does not use the word “failure.”  It’s all feedback for the next growth opportunity. 
  • As for children--Ms. Sea says that as a teacher herself, Ms. Taylor would seek out the child’s strong points and build them up.  One must emphasize the strength and offer encouragement with the weakness.  Offer plenty of lessons and opportunities to grow that strength. 
  • Ms. Sea said that Ms. Taylor’s philosophy is there are “no bad children.”

After meeting Gwen Sea, I was greatly impressed by Ms. Taylor and the Black Ensemble Theatre.  I hope to one day meet Ms. Taylor in person.  For today, I am blessed to know of her.  She is a history maker and someone to admire.

Who do you admire? Who is your history maker? How do you make the best of disappointing circumstances?  I can't wait to read your comments below.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Crazy Whoa! Summer

Let me say that it's been a minute since my last I'm super glad to have you here reading this.  Thank you for joining me here.

From the beginning of the summer until about three weeks ago, I was on a magical ride.  I partnered with the Oak Forest Park District to start an art program called the “Art House” in Oak Forest, IL for young artists.  Our focus was learning art techniques while doing work in the community.  You can see a video and read an article about the Art House via the Oak Forest Patch.

Art House student, ©Toni Ruppert
 Half-way through the summer, I took on another program in Tinley Park, IL--teaching young people via the Tinley Park Park District Summer Art Camp.  We taught 4 weeks of non-stop action packed classes.  And we had an art show at the end of each week for parents and students.
Proud parent, ©Toni Ruppert
Student Show, ©Toni Ruppert
Well, the summer was Crazy Whoa! - borrowing a term from my teenage daughter.  We face painted at the Relay for Life(American Cancer Society).  We participated in the community kite fly in Oak Forest as well as the Oak Fest--a fun fair for families. 

Looking back, I'm like Wow! - I learned 3 things from my experience at the Art House and the Tinley Park Summer Art Camp: 
  • Young people have a lot to offer the world with their artistry and are genuinely interested in the world.
  • Many of my students needed a tiny bit of encouragement and once they got it--they were off running and creating. 
  • Flexibility was a must.  I learned to be absolutely adaptable in my plans.  One of my students, Maddie made sure I never got too stiff. Thanks Maddie!
With our last art show, my students decided to raise money to supply a huge dog bone for Orry, the Oak Forest K-9.  By selling their art, they raised not only that amount, but also enough for one month supply of food.  I was blown away by their generosity. 
Art House students with K-9 Orry
After teaching this summer, the magical ride concluded.  Last week, I realized that I had not painted in a month. NO PAINTINGS=NO EXPRESSION + NO EXPOSURE.  I'd been teaching young people art for several months.  Though I loved that part of my life too, much of my creativity went to the kids as I teach.  I knew it was time to get back in the studio. 

So last week, I started painting little landscapes near where I live.  Then we went for a little getaway this weekend.  And I painted three more little landscape paintings near the Fox River in Ottawa and Norway, IL.  It was like me and God time.  After not painting for a while, it’s like He whispered to me--”Just Do It.”

Painting on the Fox River, ©Toni Ruppert
Painting in Norway, IL, ©Toni Ruppert

So what’s next?  More teaching in the fall via the Art House in Oak Forest.  And more painting.  Definitely more painting.

Monday, April 25, 2011

New Mixed Media Collage: After the Storm

"After the Storm" ©Toni Ruppert, 5x7 in, Mixed Media Collage on paper

Do you remember learning to ride a bike?  

Recently, my youngest daughter, Imani, could not stop falling as she learned to ride her new bike.  Unsure of how to steer the bike, she kept riding and falling.  The only thing I could teach her to do is to get back up right away.

After watching Imani fall and get back up, I reflected on some life challenges of my own. 

The result was this painting, “After the Storm.”  It is a mixed media piece--which means it was created with multiple kinds of media or materials.   

I chose strong colors red, umber and orange simply because I absolutely loved them.  They represent power and strength to me.  I tore paper and added them to the piece - not due to a plan, but due to my desire to explore collage with jagged edges.  And the hearts that are in this piece are my way of representing friendship and intimacy.   

Regardless of how many times I’ve fallen, I’ve managed to get back up with the help of God’s power and my family and friends. 

In the bible, Psalm 145:14 says, "The LORD upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down."

May my new creation remind you of this.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Be Willing to Start

"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step."  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

2011 Vision Board, ©Toni Ruppert
I'm starting 2011 with a bunch of written goals. Since my girls went back to school, I've been spending my mornings reading, thinking and writing. 

I'm starting this year journey without seeing the whole path.  After my birthday, Christmas Eve, I had the urge to start anew. To begin again.  Hence, my word for this year is reinvention.

I made another vision board which is pictured here.  I admit, I don’t have a clear path.
But, I’m willing to start.

to lead.
to see.
to voice.
to dance.
and make waves
with my art and with my life.

In his January 12th eulogy at the Tucson Memorial for the Tucson, Arizona shooting victims,  President Obama said, “We should do everything we can do to make sure this country lives up to its  children’s expectations.”

Chaos.  Domestic uncertainty. Poverty. Violence.  That’s what many youth have come to expect. On another twist, my 17 year old told me she expects nothing.  She doesn’t really know what to expect except Jesus’ return and death.

Should any of us just sit around waiting for death?

Just before my birthday Christmas Eve, my brother-in-law lost his mother, due to an unexpected illness.  As I joined my family and others in serving the repast dinner after the funeral, a thought occurred to me.  I thought I had never seen such love and togetherness as I’d seen that day.

I don’t want to have another death occur to experience that love and unity again.

Scripture tells us, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
My days are numbered.  In the end, I hope I will be found:


With my brush, pen, palette, pencil and camera in hand I am willing to start.  Though I can’t see the whole 2011 path, I am willing to start.

Are you?