Ruth Marsden’s work first captured my attention when I stepped into her home during the Derbyshire Open Arts weekend.
Her paintings, adorning almost every wall in her New Mills home, were a feast for the eyes and received many appreciative comments from visitors thronging the hall and stairway on the way up to her studio.
Especially striking, and gaining a lot of attention, were her nude paintings. And that was not for the first time in the Derbyshire town. When one was exhibited in the window of The Gallery in High Street they were asked to remove it by a disgusted resident.
But after a mini protest campaign by the artist, who, tongue-in-cheek, cited Michelangelo’s David as an example of why the genre was normally considered acceptable, the painting was returned to the exhibition.
“It was not very serious, but I did think that it was a shame that someone could be upset by a nude human body when artists have been painting them through history. I felt I had to make my point,” she said with a cheeky grin.
“I love to paint people, whether it’s nudes or people as they are in everyday situations. I also enjoy painting the ordinary things that surround me, whether it’s a pile of books, a glass of water, eggs, vegetables or even cutlery.
“One theme I am working on at the moment is painting people at work in New Mills and I really want to do more – it is just a case of knowing where to go next with it and finding a willing subject.”
The artist has painted Northe from the town’s bookshop, Jilah at the Butterfly Café in The Torrs, ‘Cobbler Jim’ outside the shoe repair shop, as well as her friend and fellow artist ceramicist Jo Basnett at the wheel in her studio.
Ruth studied Fine Art Painting at Kingston upon Thames in her youth, but like so many others didn’t think she would be able to make a living out of it, and turned to calligraphy as an outlet for her creative side.
It was her partner Dave who encouraged her to return to painting.
“I hadn’t painted for a long time, when 12 years ago he suggested that I ought to take it up again. He really liked a huge drawing I had been working on and just said ‘why don’t you paint something?’.
“With those few words he inspired me to start again. Straight away I realised what I had been missing all those years and I haven’t stopped since.”
If you try to find out more about Ruth online you won’t have much luck as she admits that she is not the most business-like of artists.
“To be honest I just want to paint and so I begrudge using time to promote my work. I know I should have a website, but I don’t ever seem to get around to it. I do put my work on facebook though,” she says sheepishly.
As I leave she vows to make a website a priority, so maybe by the time this is printed she will have achieved that goal. Meantime check out her facebook page to see her latest work, or better still go along to The Gallery 12 High Street, New Mills.
Next May it is well worth seeking out her studio during the Derbyshire Open Arts weekend – as well as her paintings she will almost certainly be serving some awesome cake.