Liz Ruest creates digital collages that combine analog and digital techniques. She says she doesn’t call herself a digital artist because people who call themselves digital artists build EVERYthing inside a digital platform and she doesn’t. She can’t give up physically mixing colors and layering them on paper. She transforms traditional methods of collage, printmaking, and photography into digitally layered compositions. Her works always include hand-building – an analog component. She says “I try to remember I can create marks digitally, but always want them to have an analog, textural feel.”
Liz Ruest says she likes to mess with layers and boundaries, ask lots of questions, and especially likes answers that acknowledge complexity.
Her surfaces are intriguing. The image above is titled “a wider sense of home” and is part of the Future Wanderings series. It’s digital collage with 12 layers (© 2021 Liz Ruest). Notice this work has embedded text and texture, pattern and a sense of watercolor. I see a vast space with land, sky and water. The image invites you to look into the space, and there is so much to see.
I asked Liz Ruest if the title – “a wider sense of home” – connected in any way to her biography and her move from rural Ontario in Canada to the Seattle, WA area in the Northwest U.S.
Liz Ruest says: “If I think about that particular title, and pull it together with my artist statement. It makes sense: I moved from a rural location in northern Ontario (near Ottawa) to the suburbs of Seattle, and more recently, into the city itself – and ask – can I consider all those places home? When I travel around Seattle, back into rural vistas, does it feel familiar? I am particularly struck by how much a flat expanse of farmland, just north of Seattle, can also call to me, and how, in general, being able to see to the horizon helps me establish context. Adding travel, which used to be so frequent, and I hope to get back to a little, all adds to the sense of that title, and expands where I can feel at home: Canada, the US, Scotland, France…”
The image above is a digital collage with 6 layers (© 2021 Liz Ruest) titled “strange skeins of light.” This work also has a sense of landscape. The colors are earthy and the layers are atmospheric. I asked Liz Ruest about the calligraphic line in this work. She said the line wanders the page, adding, she took a Posca pen for a walk on one of the collage layers and found, when she scanned the image and added the image layer digitally, that vestiges of crinkled paper seemed to electrify the line’s path. When she added another layer to create a lighter value, she saw that the calligraphic line was even more energized. Liz Ruest’s digital images can be custom ordered as prints in various sizes and printed on different substrates, including metallic paper, aluminum, and paper mounted on wood and coated with layers of wax. Contact the artist for information.
The image above is a digital collage with 14 layers (© 2020 Liz Ruest), titled “the sweet and the bitter.” Liz Ruest says “There are a lot of layers in this work that don’t get counted – like a hand-made collage I covered with paint applied with a palette knife, or doodles, scribbles and Asemic writing over the top that felt like a note to myself, plus a tree added for emphasis.” Pink tones cohabit with a small amount of rust, earth green and lilac. Liz Ruest writes about this piece in terms of balance, trial and error and getting carried away with mark-making. This work is part of the Unstable Ground series about fantasy landscapes. Liz Ruest asks: “What does your internal landscape look like? Can a landscape be reassuring and disturbing at the same time? When the ground keeps moving, and life is a bit scary, how can we manage to keep exploring and moving forward” See 12 images in the Unstable Ground? series.
In a recent article on her site, Liz Ruest talked about her previous life as a technical editor, and how she loved clarity and removing anything that wasn’t necessary. Now, working as an artist, she says she’s removing representation because it feels too real.
See 10 images, including “strange skeins of light” and “tumbling over itself eastward” (both above) at the series titled Future Wanderings. Liz Ruest says these works are landscapes with no physical evidence – digital and abstract collages that represent “the idea of us finding our way, of making different choices over time.”
The image above is part of the Forecast Stability series and is titled “no safe paths in this part.” It’s a digital collage with 11 layers, (© 2020 Liz Ruest). The artist says: “…in case you’re wondering, the photograph peering through the torn-edge collage is an imposing mountain range with no roads across it. Proceed with caution!” This work was accepted for publication in 3 Elements Review, Issue 31: stitch, glacier, beacon.
SCANNING IMAGES TO CREATE DIGITAL COLLAGE
Liz Ruest scans images to create her digital collage media. She uses a big Epson flatbed scanner that can scan work up to 9×12 inches in size, and allows her to capture any analog work she’s created at any point in its journey. Each scan is saved as a JPG file, cataloged in Lightroom along with her digital photographs, and is ready to be loaded into programs like Gimp or Photoshop.
The artist says “The digital collage process comes in when I place these layers on top of one another, and decide how to combine them. The most basic combination is to add one layer over another, but with less intensity – say, from 30-50% of the original. That is the equivalent of adding a wash, in traditional terms, but in this case, the layer might be more than just a color – it could be a photograph, a collage, or a blend of many layers that I’ve already created. The software allows many other ways to combine layers: I can combine just the darker colors, perhaps, or the lighter ones, or an inverse, and each combination can have a different intensity. I try them all! Finally, for each layer, I can add a mask, a digital way to exclude or include which parts of the new layer are active. I might use a digital paintbrush to create large, soft-edged areas, or to section off which parts I don’t want from that particular layer. If needed, the mask itself can be another image.”
The image above, titled “much that is fair,” is a digital collage with 23 layers (© 2019 Liz Ruest) that combines collage elements and texture mixed with a photograph or two to provide a focal point. Liz Ruest says: “I was imagining fantasy adventure books in need of a cover. I added an overbearing tree on the left, and a tiny gate into a graveyard on the bottom right (a photo from my Scottish travels), then added another layer with a reassuring rose-gold texture that hints at a hopeful outcome.” This digital collage is one of 6 works in an ongoing series titled Unstable Ground.
The image above is titled “an infinite cloak of air” and was built from layers and experiments that were part of a sketchbook project where Liz Ruest decided to combine sketchbook pairs into unified compositions. Read more about the sketchbook project.
The image above is titled “where the sun sails” and is a digital collage with 33 layers (© 2021 Liz Ruest). The artist asks: “At the end of the epic fantasy, do the heroes follow the sun into the distance? Just in case, I gave them a photograph of a stone circle to head towards, and a hint of a happy ending after their quest, with sunset hues in an imaginary sky.” Intrigued, and want more information? Contact Liz Ruest.
The image above is titled “mingled with grief” and is a digital collage with 27 layers (© 2020 Liz Ruest). Liz Ruest says “… these landscapes are imaginary! No, this quiet Skagit Valley farm did not go up in flames. That’s just me, adding dramatic skies and textures to represent what felt like the year-long fires of 2020.” Notice the sky includes a map the blends into the smoky farm landscape photo below.
I found this image at the artist’s Instagram site and wanted to include it here because it looks like it’s analog collage. Liz Ruest says this new work didn’t fit into any of her prior series, but felt like it had its own story to tell. I asked: Why these colors? Why the focus on pink? Liz Ruest said “I’ve never considered pink a favorite color – way too girly for me – but, when I look again, I see these colors recurring amidst the autumn tones…” Read her post about her new palette.
The image above is an early digital collage titled “very small rocks” with 17 layers (© 2014 Liz Ruest). This work started with a scanned photo of an analog collage the artist created that included an image she found in a very old book purchased on a stroll along the River Seine (while on a family trip to Paris, France). Liz Ruest says the pages in the book were uncut and still in folios – perfect for ripping up. After she scanned the collage, she added an image of stones from the wall at Doune Castle of Monty Phython & Outlander fame, then digitally enlarged the image and made it darker, then added a photographic image of a soft horizon from a local lake and painted out some bits on a filtering layer to darken it. She added a photo image of a building, taken on a trip to the Skagit Valley tulip fields where, she says, “I remember we were caught in construction traffic.” In the next several layers, she added marble texture from a photo of the floor of a Chicago mansion – to add warmth in two places, then added a scanned image of a geli-plate monoprint, then inverted the colors to a rich blue. Liz Ruest says “This digital collage speaks to me about history and endurance, from France to here.” See the artist’s interactive slide show “How I Built It.”
The image above is a digital collage, titled “the flowing years” with 11 layers, (© 2019 Liz Ruest). This work was accepted into 2 shows this year, both the Shoreline Arts Festival’s 2021 juried show and the Society of Canadian Artists juried show.
The image above is a digital collage with abstracted landscape and Skagit Valley images titled “seeing beyond now” with 8 layers (© 2020 Liz Ruest). It’s part of her Familiar Territory series that started in 2017. The subtitle is “alone, holding on: a tree for our year.” This digital collage was the winner in the Kent Creates online exhibition titled Looking Forward, Winter 2021, and is available as a signed edition print or an unsigned, open edition print. See different products with this image at redbubble.
Liz Ruest grew up in rural Ontario, near the national capital, Ottawa, surrounded by farmland, but with easy access to the National Gallery and its excellent Group of Seven collection. She says her large French-Canadian family surrounded her with fun and interchangeable French and English jokes and teasing.
She wanted me to say she is delighted to be a new member of SLMM (the Society of Layerists in Multi-Media), a national group that accepts and welcomes artists who work in a wide variety of media. Liz contacted the Membership Chair after she read my Art of Collage post about the SLMM web gallery and the artists who participated. She mentioned this at a recent SLMM Zoom meeting I was also attending. I am so glad I wrote this interview and got to know her better.
Please contact Liz Ruest to say hello.
If you want to get more information about her process, please see Questions? and Answers!
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