It would take far too long to list all of Ruby Newman’s accomplishments, art awards and lifetime successes, but some of them are too interesting to not mention. Ruby received a BFA at Carnegie Mellon University, specializing in costume and set design. She worked for the Santa Fe Opera, Minneapolis Institute for the Arts and the International Opera Barga in Italy. In 1973 she turned her focus to public art and then devoted ten years to projects for the San Francisco Arts Commission. We corralled some of her energy to relax with us one sunny afternoon for this interview.
Ruby, what brought art to you in your youth?
“It started very early. My mother, a graduate of Pratt, was an artist and owned an art gallery so it was in my DNA. I actually dropped out of pre-school at the age of four because I was too bored and preferred going to art classes with my mom instead! All I wanted to be was artist.”
Did you have a favorite teacher?
“First and foremost, my mother Lucille was the biggest influence. She represented high-quality contemporary New York area artists in her gallery. I worked there after school, helping with installations, visited art studios and maintaining her art room, cleaning brushes and general clean up at the end of the day. The experiences there were invaluable. At the same time, throughout high school, I studied classical figurative drawing with another favorite teacher, Charlie Mazussian also from Pratt.”
Do you teach others?
“I do offer to help individuals to counsel them if they need some guidance, but I don’t do regular classes. I like working one on one with folks.”
What is your daily schedule?
“Once daily needs of ordinary life are taken care of, I try to get into the studio around 2 pm, ideally. If I’m uninspired, I start by detailing and cleaning up work that’s in progress to get the juices flowing. Then I delve into doing playful color sketch exercises for an hour or so before starting on new canvases. I do listen to music, generally classical, jazz or old rock and roll. Something positive and upbeat. In fact, my brush strokes move with the tempo of the music very often!”
Where would somebody never find you? (Where would you hate to be?)
“Oh, anywhere with large crowds of people.”
Is there something people don’t know about you?
“Along with being a fine arts painter, I have been fortunate to have worked on several wonderful public arts projects. These included public murals, and overseeing the restoration of the 1914 Golden Gate Park carousel. Once these pieces were properly prepared, I personally hand-painted the 62 wooden menagerie figures, decorative panels and masks. I also created all the decorative painting for the exterior and interior of old St. Vincent’s Church in Petaluma.”
What do you feel is the future of art in all its forms?
“Art today seems to be driven by sensational and commercial elements. People are barraged with images that saturate the digital world and galleries. If tools, both traditional and digital, are used well, they can give us amazing works. It comes down to 90% sweat and tears to 10% talent. The artists who delve ‘into the moment of the creative process’ and enjoy that exchange rather than being concerned about making a masterpiece or producing what people want to see, will be the ones to bring us inspirational imagery. I remain hopeful!”
Ruby, thank you for your time, and we look forward to viewing your current exhibition at the Arts Guild.
Ruby Newman exhibits throughout the year at the Arts Guild gallery in Sonoma. Her website address is: RubyNewman.com