Life is lush and bountiful in Debra Ruddeforth’s world. Whether it’s a profusion of wild irises, fruit spread on a linen napkin, or hydrangeas in a basket, Ruddeforth’s art is very easy on the eyes.
It is not to say there is anything shallow about her oils, pastels, and watercolors. Ruddeforth doesn’t recall a time that she was not an artist. She began her formal training with the inestimable Robert Douglas Hunter, who taught her at the Vesper George School of Art in Boston. Today the artist, a signature member of the Copley Society of Art in Boston, has a packed schedule of painting and gallery work.
The Brewster resident couldn’t be happier that her work is soul-filling rather than heart-wrenching. “That’s my purpose in painting, to have people feel an emotion or memory, to make them happy,” she says. “There’s enough going on in the world that if I can make someone smile, I’ve done my job.”
Ruddeforth has experienced change in both medium and subject. She began by working in watercolor, but today leans toward oil and pastels. “I’ve always loved pastels,” she says. “I’m very pleased with what I’ve produced.” Her subject matter has evolved from flowers and food to still lifes with decorative items such as Chinese porcelain and copper. The copper—deep burnished pieces painted from a collection of her late mother’s—is a more recent development for her. “I’ve always loved beautiful things,” she says. “I love to set up still lifes.” Ruddeforth continues to experiment, not knowing what will come next. “I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied,” she says.
She finds inspiration all around her, in her home, in the open spaces of the Cape, and in life’s little moments. Ruddeforth’s husband, the photographer Tom Ruddeforth, takes many shots for her to consider. “He’s my eyes. He knows what I like,” she says.
People think she has a “dream job,” Ruddeforth says, and she often agrees. But, she adds, “If you work and aspire, you can be an artist. You have to take that first big step.” It’s not easy, she says, estimating that she works 75 hours a week. But it’s all good. “Some days when I’m exhausted, I have to remind myself, I am living someone else’s dream,” Ruddeforth says. “And I count my blessings.”
For all the precise composition and fine brushwork in Sergio Roffo’s paintings, the landscape artist holds a remarkably simple view of what art means to him. “I am inspired by life,” Roffo says. “Life is art, art is life.”
A devoted family man, Roffo lives life to the fullest, intertwining art with almost everything he does. “Art goes with everything, whether it’s vacation, relaxing with the family, cooking, drinking fabulous wine, listening to opera,” he says. “It’s all one entity.”
Born in Italy’s Abruzzi region, Roffo became aware very early of nature’s goodness. “When I was seven years old, I had this feeling of being affected by its sublime beauty,” he says, then pauses. “I don’t know if it is possible at that early an age.” Considering the stillness and serenity in his paintings, an early connection between Roffo and nature seems not just possible, but a given.
The Dunes at Cliffside, a gold-flecked beach scene with a swath of grass and a house in the distance, is imbued with glimmering subtleties. The same understated energy emanates from the pastoral Breaking Light, painted in Stowe, Vermont. “I try to convey the harmony of nature through color and light,” Roffo says.
Roffo studied art formally in the 1980s at the Vesper George School of Art in Boston, under the tutelage of Robert Douglas Hunter. “He was a mentor, a big influence on my life,” Roffo says. He first painted watercolors of Boston cityscapes, and switched to oils when he and his family moved to Scituate in 1991. He still lives in Scituate, painting, teaching workshops, and drinking in life like a cool glass of water.
Roffo’s work has earned him many accolades: he is a Fellow of the American Society of Marine Artists, a member of the Guild of Boston Artists, and a designated Copley Master at the Copley Society of Boston. But even without all these feathers in his cap, Roffo would certainly still have the same driven devotion to art. “We can never get bored at what we do,” he says. “Every painting is a challenge, and we can’t ever get it perfect the way nature does it. That’s what keeps us coming back.”
Francie Randolph says that the best solutions are found by paring things down to their essence. Randolph’s latest works, two series called “Structure and Flow” and “Coral,” have an aura that feels as old as the universe, conveying messages of time and change.
The two series—encaustic, oil, and mixed media on wood panel—began six years ago. She and her husband, artist Tom Watson, share a barn studio behind their antique Truro home, with farm animals grazing the rolling lawn. This sublime setting is perfect for Randolph to “get swept along in the tidal pull of my mind.”
Randolph’s art is alive with connections, including how the medium is applied. “The ‘Water Series’ was created with encaustic; it’s heated and flows on,” Randolph says. “It represents time moving away from hard-edged reality.”
The “Coral Series” is more about connection. “Coral is one of the largest living organisms,” Randolph says. “Through its life cycle, it creates patterns. To me that’s a beautiful metaphor for the world. Connecting to each other and nature, we build something that’s much greater than ourselves.”
Art has brought many uncanny twists to Randolph’s life. Recently, she was invited to create a book based on a commencement speech given by author J.K. Rowling at Harvard University, Randolph’s alma mater. The book, a gift to Rowling and Harvard President Drew Faust is an exquisite presentation of the speech featuring Braille over vellum.
The project had many coincidences, something not lost on Randolph. “That was a wonderful project,” she says. “The coincidences were extraordinary.”
Randolph is a careful listener and remembers important words. “I had a prof at Harvard who said basically, ‘Francie, the work you make is yours.’ The rest of Harvard was saying, ‘you should get out there and make yourself a top lawyer or doctor.’”
The professor’s message hit her hard. Randolph got grant money to travel to Papua, New Guinea, where she saw the tie between art and culture. “I realized I wanted to work in a way that responded to the way we were living our lives,” she says. “That’s sort of how my life has unfolded.”
On a summer day 33 years ago, Page Railsback was in her kitchen, preparing a meal, when she was suddenly mesmerized by sunlight filtering through the flowers outside her window.
“It hit me like a bolt of lightning,” Railsback recalls. “I suddenly thought, what do you do with all this beauty? There must be more I can do.” Her personal call to action was simple: Don’t think, just pick up a paintbrush. So Railsback, a new mother and yoga teacher, began watercolor lessons. During her first year, she was invited to hold a show and sold one painting. Since then, she says, “It’s been a flow, a steady journey.”
Railsback’s deep appreciation of nature’s bounty—flowers, food, and all good things that spring from earth and water—is imbued in her art. Harvest is filled with expressive, deep-hued strokes that form zinnias and snapdragons, with ripe tomatoes tumbling around the vases. The aura is simple yet deeply mystical, nature at its ripest. Her landscapes and seascapes, such as Chairs of Summer, have the same sense of openness and fleeting beauty, qualities that prompt some people to call her work impressionistic. Railsback thinks it may be more expressionistic, or perhaps occupies a territory between the two labels. As she says, “Maybe it’s both. I consider my work expressive and intuitive.”
Railsback, now living in Hingham, has warm memories of summers in East Orleans when she was a teenager, living with her best friend’s family. “This is a familiar, favorite place for me,” she says of the Cape. Today, a member of the Copley Society of Art in Boston, Railsback paints and teaches art, traveling between her Hingham studio and a second studio in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico.
Nurturing art in herself and others seems to be natural for Railsback. “I try to stay in ‘beginner’s mind,’ a Buddhist term,” she says. “I suggest to my students to paint like a kindergartner, to let go of fear and judgment and to dare to have a bad painting.”
She continues to develop her art as a vehicle to express her lifelong study of how body, mind, and spirit work as a whole. “The essence of my creative work is heart centered,” Railsback says, “painting from the heart, authentically, letting the work come alive. My daily mantra is, ‘May I be happy and free, and may my actions contribute to the happiness and sense of freedom in others.’”
Behind the impeccable execution of Pamela Pindell’s artwork is a tender heart. Models often become friends, and even dishes and fruit become dear to her. “I tend to fall in love with my models, whether it’s an apple or a person,” Pindell says. She wants her viewers to see this heart, too. If a painting looks too perfect to her, she may go back and smudge a little spot. “I would rather see an imperfect painting that has passion than a perfect painting,” she says.
Pindell’s traditional style is based on classical techniques touched with impressionistic colors and light. The combination of pristine detailing and heartfelt emotion renders artworks of sensual power.
Her still lifes and portraits start with a “lean wash,” going from lean to fat layers of paint, such as in the painting, Boston. She also works alla prima, painting one layer quickly;French Pot, an alla prima still life of ripe grapefruit, is luscious and rich. Her subject matter is transitioning. “I got to a point where I really wanted to paint just people, flowers, fruit, living things,” she says. “I don’t feel that I can improve on nature; nature is so beautiful.”
Pindell’s training is an artist’s dream of classical studies and solo travel. After graduating from Syracuse University, she studied at the Tyler School of Art in Rome. She then lived in France, traveling across Europe to see impressionist art. That is where, she says, “quite a love of classical art and drawing started growing.” Rembrandt’s paintings opened her to the excitement of shadow and light. “I’m absolutely mesmerized by chiaroscuro,” she says. Her mentor, Sidney Willis, introduced her to the Boston School style.
Now a resident of Boston’s Back Bay, Pindell lived on Nantucket for 28 years, where, she says, she “fell in love with the prismatic air.” She visits frequently, to see her daughter and grandchildren, good friends, and the island galleries that represent her work.
Pindell is feeling a change in the air, the exciting sense of venturing into the unknown. “The older I get, the more I want thick luscious paint and mystery going on,” she says, then pauses. “It’s something about essence.”
Tom Odell’s pieces—sculpture, jewelry, and hollowware—appear to be distinct modes of expression. But ultimately, it’s clear that they all inform each other. Whether it is an 18-carat yellow and white gold brooch, an eight-foot fabricated steel sculpture, or a beautifully simple bowl, all the metalwork is imbued with a clean, multidimensional aesthetic, each piece stamped pure Odell.
“The sculptural, three-dimensional aspects of all the work are my main concerns,” Odell says. “In every piece, the composition and design are in the forefront.” His jewelry is meant to be worn, but in a sculptural way, just as the client who purchases his cast bronze bench may rather gaze at it than sit on it. “All of the jewelry and hollowware pieces have a sculptural aspect, but a functional aspect as well,” Odell says.
The excitement for the Chatham resident is in creating “new things, new images that are compositions,” and balancing all the visual elements: shape, form, line, and color.
Odell went into jewelry making after he left college for a stint in woodworking with an architectural designer. After landing a job with former Cape Cod jeweler Bernard Kelly, Odell says, “I realized I wanted to make things.” His jewelry occupies two camps: pieces that are crafted in precious metals, including 18-carat gold and platinum, and pieces that add copper-based alloys used in traditional Japanese metalwork, perhaps treated with patina techniques.
His jewelry making evolved into sculpture. Odell says it’s a natural progression. “Bit by bit, you go from making jewelry to making larger things,” he says. Lately those “larger things” have been massive. He is currently working on an eight-foot freestanding sculpture for a client’s yard, all angles, flat plains, and triangular shapes, “a little different than the other things I’d been doing, which are more curved,” he says. Akin to the sculpture is his hollowware, now mostly cast bronze pieces finished with a patina technique for color.
Today, Odell and his wife, the artist Carol Odell, live in an 1800s Greek Revival house in downtown Chatham with a studio in back where the couple works on separate floors. His wife is an enormous inspiration. “We’re inventing problems for ourselves all the time,” Odell says with a laugh, “then creating an interesting visual solution.”
Andrew Moore’s studio, inside his Oak Bluffs home and a paintbrush throw from his gallery, is a natural world that is constantly in flux. “My studio morphs with the painting I’m working on,” Moore says. “It becomes an indoor version of the outdoor subject.”
This day, Moore is working on a painting of a barn swallow flying across a meadow. Surrounding him are flowers, grasses, drawings, photographs … and a partially frozen bird. About the bird, Moore explains, “I’m sort of a depository for birds that hit windows on the island.” To prepare for the painting, Moore and his daughter Hannah staged dozens of photos of the swallow in flight at a nearby meadow. Back in his studio, now an indoor meadow, Moore begins his paintings with pencil drawings and progresses to layers of oil.
Whether the painting centers on the natural wonderland of Hawk and Squirrel or the extremely realistic The Rigger, which depicts Vineyarder Gary Maynard rebuilding the island schooner Alabama, Moore’s work is beautifully intricate, flowing with unselfconscious respect for animals, people, and nature.
A realist painter, Moore is careful to distinguish between his work and photorealism. His deliberately composed work may start with an experience in nature or as an idea, but the painting evolves over many months.
“At its core, realism has an artist making countless choices and detours in a circuitous path,” he says.
That circuitous path has taken Moore to the most beautiful spots on the Vineyard and coastal Maine, and, occasionally more exotic places, such as a rainforest in Brazil. His subjects, he says, are “everything from hard-edged manmade environments to the fluid undersea world of fish.”
Moore’s work has a strong American stamp, reflected in his genes. “I am rooted in New England,” Moore says. Generations of his family lived in Connecticut. His great-great-grandfather, Nelson Augustus Moore, was a Hudson River School painter who traveled to the Vineyard as early as 1894 to paint the Aquinnah Cliffs. Today, Moore lives in Harthaven, an Oak Bluffs community begun by his family in the early 1900s, with his wife, Heather, and three children.
Moore’s New England has no pretensions. “Most of my paintings reflect my experiences exploring the Vineyard and its surrounding waters, but some of my strongest paintings grow from random everyday occurrences,” he says. “Of course, I have the advantage of living in one of the world’s most magical spots.”
David Kelley has never been hesitant to push the envelope, whether he’s working in the corporate world as an illustrator or painting an ethereal Cape Cod landscape. His multifaceted background has taught him to stretch the boundaries. “I’m always evolving,” he says.
His career path has veered off in many directions through the past five decades. He worked as a medical illustrator and graphic designer for advertising agencies, insurance companies, and book publishers. He designed a reading program for elementary schoolchildren. He was a printmaker. But he never lost his love for painting. “I find that lots of artists start off as graphic designers or illustrators and paint on the side,” he says. “Their passion is painting. Anyone who gets into it (as a career) is very lucky. Lots of people have the potential, but have their desires squashed.”
After graduating from Providence College, he enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design. It was at RISD that he first began exploring the limitless bounds of creativity. “That was a major factor behind my design work. If I was having problems, I’d think what other artists would do and I’d refuse to be limited by restrictions,” he says.
After stints as a photo re-toucher for an advertising firm, a designer for Aetna Life Insurance, art director at Houghton Mifflin, and a freelance sports photographer, Kelley relocated to Cape Cod in 1991 and, inspired by an eight-week oil painting course, began focusing on painting during the past decade. “I didn’t want to design anymore,” he says. “I just wanted to be free and loose. I wanted to develop a spontaneous approach. I had worked on the computer (creating illustrations and collages) since 1987, but I wanted to get away from the tightness of all that.”
Distinctive shapes and evocative shadows have always intrigued David Kelley. He initially worked in acrylic and oils, but eventually shifted entirely to pastels because of that medium’s versatility. A former president of the Falmouth Artists Guild, he is now a member of the Pastels Painters Society of Cape Cod. Determined not to have his work pigeonholed, his paintings range from landscapes and wildlife scenes to portraits to the occasional sports piece.
“I just react to the situation. I like the excitement of a situation that is changing,” he says. “Doing different kinds of work and different disciplines has helped keep things natural and exciting.”
Multimedia sculptor Benton Jones of Brewster sees life as malleable and transformative, much like his art process. Jones’s glass sculptures, like clusters of light, seem to change before your eyes, pulsing with energy in a happy marriage of color and form.
A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Fine Arts, Jones says he learned the real craft of sculpting at the Johnson Atelier Technical Institute of Sculpture in Trenton, New Jersey. Of the experience, in which he studied alongside sculptors such as Claes Oldenburg and George Segal, Jones simply says, “It was quite a steep learning curve.” Today he operates three kilns at Millstone Gallery in Brewster, his workspace and sculpture gallery, attracting worldwide collectors that include the musician Eric Clapton.
One of the kilns represents the genesis of Jones’s glasswork. He was working only with metal when his mentor, the late Donald Beaulieu, left Jones his glass-fusing kiln and instructional books. Beaulieu, in fact, helped Jones complete his first large commission, a sculpture of two winged lions holding a clock, which stood at South and Main Streets in Hyannis for a decade.
Much of Jones’s work is themed around water, and there is almost always an environmental message. The brilliant ice-like sculptures in his Melting Hemispheres Series, such as Receding Glacier, are based on reclaimed glass flotation spheres that were used in climate change research at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The series is a comment on the world’s “very shortsighted views on climate change,” Jones says. “”I have great passion and love for nature, maybe less for the people who have been ruining it.” He also creates monuments to the local culture, such as Cape Cod Basket, a 17-inch-diameter glass vessel that is interwoven with copper and brass strips. “It’s reinventing the Nantucket basket in a modern way,” Jones says.
Jones is teaching sculpture this summer in Prague, through North Carolina State University, traveling there with his Czech-born wife, Jana Jones, and their five-year-old son, Elliot. “The Czech Republic is the predominant glass-casting country in the world and the predominant country working on a monumental scale,” says Jones, sounding dazzled by the upcoming opportunity. “All the stars have aligned.”
If you’re one of the many people trying to catch Randy Hudson, Godspeed and good luck. The Nantucket painter, businessman, soccer coach, husband, and father, is known over the island for his deep involvement with family and community, and his schedule reads like a rush-hour commuter train.
Fortunately, Hudson finds time to devote to his art, a serious endeavor for him for the past several years. In spirit, artistic pursuits have been with him his whole life. “Art has always been something I’ve been around,” Hudson says. After attending school for landscape architecture, he moved to Nantucket and began drawing, painting, and printmaking; then, he says, “I got too busy with life and put it (art) away for 15 years.”
After he had knee surgery several years ago, his wife Wendy Hudson, the owner of Nantucket Bookworks, signed him up for lessons at the Artists Association of Nantucket. Now, art is as vital a part of Hudson’s life as the rest of his myriad roles. “It’s an outlet for me,” he simply states.
Hudson’s canvases—whether landscapes, still lifes, or abstracts—are powerfully engaging, compelling viewers to look, and look again. Hudson says his art has no particular message, but he does concede that he is fascinated by the idea of connection: “how everything in an environment affects how we perceive the rest of the environment, and vice versa.” It makes sense, considering the important role of community in his life.
Hudson’s latest turn in art—toward abstract style—is exciting news for many of his fans. As he explains, the personal impact of painting abstracts, such as Ullage, is a powerful tonic. “The emotional aspect of painting—not from life but almost from the heart—is like letting something take hold of you and use you as a medium. When I can achieve that, it feels so much more rewarding than, say, rendering a glass or a flower. It’s something that’s beautiful, that has a connection; it’s almost like it came from nowhere.”