Meet Margaret Ryall.....
An interview for Visual Artists Newfoundland and Labrador's Newsletter 2011
When did you first realize that you wanted to become an artist?
There has always been an artist inside me fighting to get out. I painted in my early 20’s and just stopped when my career in education began. I didn’t pick up a brush again until I was in my late 40’s. I didn’t decide to be an artist until 2001. Possibly it was a combination of my recent retirement and the hot sun pounding down on my head in a sunflower field in France that accounted for this impetuous decision.
What mediums do you work in and why?
My work is mixed media, consisting of acrylic paints and gels, colored pencils, charcoal, photo transfer, ephemera, and paper. In the last year, I’ve also added wax, oil paint and oil pastel to this mix. Over the last seven years, I gave every medium a fair chance and found that acrylics work best with my temperament and my need to layer and resolve things as I work. For me, painting is as much about the process as it is about the final outcome. I like monotype and collograph, and I often use parts of my unsuccessful printmaking adventures in my mixed media works.
How do you get ideas for your artwork?
I am interested in what is around me both in the natural and man made world - the simple things that often get overlooked by others. My summer home in Duntara, NL is on the ocean and my time there has contributed to “slowing down” and taking a closer look at the world. In these quiet times, I also write poetry which sometimes leads to art work. Travel has broadened my interests and given me the opportunity to observe different cultures. I collect books and ephemera during my travels.
I keep a journal where I jot down all sorts of foolishness from time to time, including: quotes, sketches of what I will do, how I might do things or questions I have. I keep several collection files where you will find an assortment of images ranging from pictures from art magazines to scraps of gift wrap and old postcards. In the last two years photography has crept into my work as photo transfers. As a result, I am taking many photographs that I sort and re-sort in different ways. This process allows me to look at an experience with new eyes. Many of my works are born during this categorizing process.
What artists influence your artwork?
I think every piece of art you see contributes to your understanding of art and impacts your practice in some way. It all gets filed away mentally and comes back to you in various ways. Georgia O’ Keefe’s work was my first love. Her use of line and the simplification of organic shapes is visual poetry. She dared to be an artist on her own terms. On the opposite side of the spectrum the work of Anselm Kiefer and Anthony Tapies fills my need for heavy texture and an exploration of darker subjects. Fred Otnes is a collage artist whose work I saw in a New York gallery and I absolutely drooled over it because it is so exquisitely layered. I am also hugely attracted to the work of Robert Kushner, whose brazen use of decorative motifs parallels my need to connect nature and culture in what I do.
My most important influences come from artists I have direct contact with and who have been supportive of my desire to be an artist. They include the teachers I had in the early stages of my art career and artists who encourage me along the way through the critique process or by just listening to my ramblings. The opportunity to talk about your art gets you out of your own head and forces you to really look at what you are doing.
Gardens feature strongly in some of your work as well as landscape and objects. What subject matter inspires you the most and why?
All of my work involves an examination of the passage of time and its effects on the natural world, memory and in a subtle way identity. I am attracted to patterning, flora, and the dregs of life- what gets left behind.
Go to your studio and find out who you are. Just paint without concern for a final product, make messes, add and subtract and see what you learned from the process. It’s how I found my artistic voice.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully still alive and creating art! Each year I have more confidence in what I am doing, and I trust my instincts to lead me where I need to go. I honour those instincts with hard work and planning. We all want to be “successful”, but I haven’t yet decided what that success will looks like for me in ten years.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing?
I would be retired and probably very bored and unfulfilled creatively and serving on too many boards to fill in the time when I’m wasn’t actively being a grandmother. I’m sure I would still be looking at art, reading about it and wishing I could buy more of it.
If you could have one art wish granted, what would it be?
Coming to art from many years in education, I would love to see excellent resources, including enough teachers with concentrations in art education, as well as consumable and print materials, to support art curriculum in the school system. There were no art courses in my schooling and I am very aware of what I missed; I want it there in spades for coming generations.