Ruth Eisenhart is a practicing fine artist, lead tutor on the Creative Painting and Creative Drawing Short Courses, and former student of eminent teacher and painter Cecil Collins. In this post she takes us on a free associative stroll through her life, education and teaching practice.
© Ruth Eisenhart
I’m originally from South Africa and attended art college in Johannesburg. When I came to live in London and wanted to teach I was advised to upgrade my qualifications to a BA. I was disappointed that I couldn’t start teaching immediately, but later realised it was the best thing that I could have done. I learnt so much about new methods and techniques that enhanced my knowledge. I was very fortunate to be accepted by the Central School of Art in 1979 on the sculpture course, but more important, I met a teacher that was to change my life and my outlook on art and the way I teach today.
His name was Cecil Collins, and he always reminded us that "You don’t have to understand in order to create but you do have to create in order to understand."
I pass that and many other things I learnt from him to my students. In order to understand what creativity is really about, one has to look inside oneself to see what is blocking the energy. Only then can one work on removing the obstacles, so the creativity can be released.
After Cecil died in 1989, the college asked me to continue his classes. I feel that it has been my privilege to share my experiences with students from many different countries and all walks of life.
Over the years I have become more and more interested in the creative process and what it takes to be truly creative.
The most rewarding outcome of my years of research is how the same rules apply universally in music, dance, poetry, etc. and even in human relationships.
I’ve always wanted to share my passion for understanding creativity; what it is, and where it comes from. This has led me to join a writing course so that I can begin to write a book that can help students and anyone interested in this mysterious, indescribable thing that is creativity. The best book I’ve ever read about it is called ‘Free Play’ by Stephen Nachmanovitch, but I would like to write about my own experiences on this journey towards fulfilment.
My own work is made mainly with found objects; pieces that have been discarded, distressed or broken in some way.
It eventually became clear to me that making sculpture out of these found objects was a metaphor for creativity, i.e. about transformation and ultimately, for me, about beauty. The piece ‘Icon’ seemed to make itself, where the right pieces were found easily after I picked up an empty brushed beer can off the street and immediately reminded me of medieval icons because of the distressed colour and the way it looked like stylised drapery. When I do paint, it’s through the medium of monoprints, which allows for spontaneity and working with surprises. It’s been very effective when using it in my classes as many students have been delighted by the results.
My early figurative pieces, made out of fired clay, were inspired by my interest in myth, symbols, archetypes and dance. The latest piece of distressed metal I picked up in a vegetable garden on a farm has triggered off my imagination and I can’t wait to see where it will lead me to. It’s got me excited even though the gardener told me that it was once a ‘mole trap’. Ouch! There’s a lot of pain that has to be transformed and somehow healed. Not easy, but I’ll try my best.
Inspired by Ruth's work? Why not take a dive into learning creativity with some of our Creative Drawing and Creative Painting courses, we have spaces available from March through to May! See you there!