William M. Ruller, Born in Gloversville NY, 1981 received a B.A. in painting and ceramics from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh in 2007. Following his undergraduate degree, Ruller moved to Oregon where he worked as a production potter and ceramics instructor. He now currently resides in Savannah G.A. where he is working on his Masters in Painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design.
The abandoned mills and tanneries of my youth and the dilapidated areas of metropolitan and rural sites, with its rust grey tones inform the visual and aesthetic language present in my work. These residual sites serve as the foundation for the work, which allows for a reinterpretation of the space into a abstracted images. The evidence of physical and experiential textures of crumbled brick and concrete serve to represent the frailties of humanity; and the erosion of lives that once existed.
1. How do you make your decision on the scale of your work?
For the most part I generally as of recent go for a little longer scale just to reinforce the idea of landscape.
2. What inspired you to make the books? Are those made with the same materials and you’re other works?
The books came out of the idea of knowledge, and recording information. I wanted them to be like diaries of the human condition. I use the same material in them as I do the larger works, really for the fact that the books informed the paintings completely. The books from the idea of trying to change my work and create a physical thing. Then I realized that I could do that with the actual paintings themselves.
3. What inspires your color choices/palette? I know the statement on your website mentions it but see the transition from grays to the use of blues and was wondering if something specific inspired that.
Color, I try to stay away from color. I think a lot of painters think they understand color and I think most don’t, I am in the camp of not understanding it. That’s why I try to stick with mostly greys, but with the blue in the last body of work I was thinking a lot about death and water, that’s where the blue came from. I wanted it to change a litte from most of my other work, to try and be subtle and very smart and minimal with the other colors that I added (browns, reds, purples) just to try and give a little something more.
4. How much planning and/or research goes into your work?
Most of my work is based on my hometown, so I really try not to plan or research, that’s too much like homework.
5. What are some of the things that people guess the work is about/what are some memorable responses to your work?
To be frank most people never really tell me what they think it is, I have gotten people to tell me my work sets a mood, that is close to what I am going for. But a lot of people just say I like it or “no not for me” which I love that simple to the point form of honesty.
6. Is there anything that you’re unhappy with or working to change in your work?
I’m unhappy with a lot but I’m happy with a lot, I’m not a good painter I never really have been. I can’t sit down and make a masterpiece time and time again. I work like Picasso; I just try to make a lot, that way out of 20 at least 3 might be really good.
7. If you get stuck for inspiration, what do you do?
I have actually never gotten stuck so I cant really answer that question.
8. Are there any artists that have influenced you? If so, in what way?
This might be a long one, yes there are a lot of artist that have influenced me. I have been really influenced by, Turner and the Hudson River School of painting because I love their way of making these really romantic, dynamic paintings that just seem to want to explode at the seems. Franseco Clemente has been my favorite painter since I started school; the guy’s work just blows me away. Rothko for his use of painting to set a mood. More contemporary artists are people like Mike Nelson who is a brilliant installation artist, again he setts a great mood with his work, Huma Bhanha for her use of materials (if you ever get a chance to see this woman’s work go its amazing!). But mostly I have been influenced by writers and musicians, to be honest until I was close to 20 I really didn’t think people where “artists” besides Bob Ross and the animators for Disney. So when I started paintings all I had to go off was music and literature.
9. When did you first start showing your work?
I seriously started showing probably about 2 years out of undergrad so 2008, before then I wasn’t really good at it. School makes you think you don’t have to actually work at that side of the job.
10. Do you have a gallery? How did you start a relationship with them?
I did have two galleries back in 2010, and I actually just walked in and showed them my portfolio, very stupidly thinking that’s how things where done. But they seemed open to what I was doing and it worked out well until they both filed for bankruptcy.
11. Do you have frustrations and/or insecurities about your work or living as an artist?
I am plagued by insecurities; I really don’t think I will be able to live off painting alone, even though I am trying my hardest to make that happen.
12. Is there any advice you would give to a young artist starting out?
Advice I would give to younger artists starting out is to work hard, after undergrad they should try to get a shitty job and still try to make work at the same time, if they can get through that and still want to pursue a carrier then they have the appetite to continue.
13. What do you see as a pitfall that young artists aren’t prepared for?
Most young people don’t understand that the art world is a business, and its very cutthroat. They believe that you will get a gallery and everything will be all set, but that isn’t the way it works even artists that show in good galleries, are part of biennials etc. still struggle to make ends meat.
14. What’s the best thing about what you do?
The best part about making work is the fact that you are allowed to stay a child and do as you wish, make what you want for the rest of your life. That is so stupid its wonderful.
15. Work stems from his home town; shut down factory; work is like a friend who is beautiful but broken; romantic notion
16. work is made with oils on watercolor paper and crushed ceramics (first layer on watercolor paper is slip to give oils something to absorb into and results in more cracking and texture); dust and small fragments of ceramic fall off when paintings are moved/touched so they are never “finished” and in constant state of transition
When I visited his studio, I found out some other little tid bits about him that I also found interesting. He crushes up this ceramic piece by placing a wooden board on top of them and swiveling on it in order to crush it into the small fragments he uses in his paintings. I also works exclusively on the floor, comparing it to Pollock and drawing cartoons as a child. He used to live in OR and threw bowls and cups for tourists, living a self-proclaimed hippie life style which is also why he still wears crocs. He doesn’t think of himself as a painter or his work as paintings, he thinks of them more as objects that are constantly changing and evolving literally as the bits of clay and other materials flak off over time.
I came across this idea from the show Touch, which I dont watch anymore but I still think this idea is very interesting and relates to my "spirituality" that I try to make a part of my work. I can look back and sometimes understand now why certain people were brought into my life. Also, believing that people are meant to come in your life for a reason, believing in fate, gives me great comfort when I struggle with people and situations; I just hold onto the belief that I'm never in the wrong place at the wrong time, nothing is pointless, and every moment is exactly what it is meant to be. Allowing myself to let go of control and plans is so freeing and has helped me to have experiences and gain understanding about things that I never thought I would.
An obvious example of all of this is my husband; he's in the military and we met online. If we hadn't both joined an online dating service, would we have ever met? According to the Red String of Fate, somehow we would have but it seems almost impossible; he was stationed an hour from where I lived, I was in art school and he in the military and we both rarely went out. However, I do know that we were both at the St.Patty's day parade downtown the year we met and may have walked by each other for all we know. The second thing that was unexpected was me marrying a military man. I grew up new DC and saw so many friends move away, couples get divorced, and Dads disappear for long periods of time. Suffice to say, I was determined to stay away from that life. I only started going on dates with military guys from the online dating service because I lived near two bases and they were some of the best options on the site (I obviously was not looking for anything serious). Then I met Kevin and the rest was history; it didn't feel like I had a choice but to become a part of that world because that's what marrying him meant and not marrying him was out of the question if I wanted to be at all happy. So I let go of my fear and preconceived notions and found a freedom in the lack of control and set plans. Life has always had a way of making face what I fear the most.
I found this branch of philosophy by doing an online quiz to figure out which philosopher you're like. It was silly but once I started reading about it, I realized that Stoicism is almost the same as my own personal ideas and "spirituality".
I had very strong ideas when I was younger about reaching for a "higher lever of consciousness" and being true to myself and my fate. I lost those ideas as I grew older and ran into issues dealing with my own personal demons which drove me further from who I truly am and who I want to be. Once I hit rock bottom and climbed back out of the rabbit hole, I realized that many of those ideas I had when I was younger were spot on and I looked back to them to start to guide myself in the right direction.
Now, my "spirituality" (for some reason I'm still not sure if I like that word... I haven't found the right word for what these ideas are to me) is something I rely on and want to put into my work because I'd like my work to relate to something bigger then me. I like art that is less specific (like narrative art... I understand it's importance but I have little interest in it), art that connects to something deeper within me and within the world. That is also one reason why I am drawn to abstract art; it has the ability to connect to broader, deeper parts of me and the world. Also because theres many was to see and interpret abstract art; the way I relate to it changes over time and with new experiences.
This is a piece I'm currently working on. Sorry for the fuzzy photo! I'm at a point where I need to make a decision: I either need to fill int he lower right corner completely white to give the idea of the piece disintegrating into nothingness or I need to fill in all the current white spots with the darkest color to give some depth to the shape/piece as a whole.
The original idea of this piece is sort of the opposite of the disintegrating idea; the image is derived from a photo of a knot in a tree which speaks to the idea of embracing experiences, good or bad, as a part of you and moving forward. Knots in trees are made from branches, dead or alive, getting stuck in the larger branch or trunk, thus creating a knot but the tree continues to grow around it. However, I slap believe that a big part of life (mine in particular) is allowing plans to be changed and then embracing THAT as well.
So... basically I can't decide!