Artist profile: Ruth Odile

Cape Cod Art  /  Annual Art 2018 / ,

Writer: John Greiner-Ferris

Ruth Odile painting

I Remember That Sunset • 40” x 20” • Oil on canvas

From the initial scene she chooses to paint, to the actual act of painting, to the experience she hopes the viewer will have, artist Ruth Odile does everything within her power to elicit an emotional, rather than an intellectual, response. “I’m trying to get to the feeling of the landscape so people can project their own ideas on the painting, so they can become acquainted with the landscape on their own terms,” she explains.

For the past five years, Odile has been working exclusively in oil, painting landscapes on fairly large canvases that measure up to 4 feet by 4 feet. She cites the pictorial landscape artist William McCarthy as one of her leading influences, and they do have a lot in common. Both investigate the relationship of color and form. She also seems to fit nicely in the long tradition of Cape Cod colorists, starting with the likes of Provincetown painter Henry Hensche, although her paintings are much more atmospheric.

Odile starts a painting by noticing something within a scene that catches her eye: a patch of color or a glint of light. She might make a note to herself by sketching a line of trees or photographing a marsh, noting how they wind around the scene, but the actual painting takes place in her studio. “I like being outdoors, but when I paint plein air, the painting becomes too realistic,” she says. “I like to keep the work abstracted so there’s a little mystery to the painting.

“I don’t need for the grass to be green or the sky blue,” she continues. “In my studio I can play with more intense colors. I can choose colors that present more of a mystery to the scene, reminding the viewer of the time of day when they know the grass is green but they also know it could be another color, too.”

It seems much of the way Odile experiences the world is through her emotions and feelings, to the point where she even likes the feel of the paint being applied to the canvas. “It is about instinct and feel,” she emphasizes. And when she isn’t painting but instead looking at art, she likes to see a looser, interpretive style where she can see the artist’s hand in the work. “It connects me with the artist, and I can feel their presence,” she explains.

“I’ve always felt I’ve had a thirst and a feel for nature and life, and I feel as if I’m experiencing it very quickly,” she says. “I want to paint the landscape the way I experience it, which is really only a moment or a glimpse. I’m really painting from my heart; it comes from a feeling.”

Ruth Odile’s work can be seen at her new gallery in Harwich, located at 704 Main Street.

John Greiner-Ferris

John Greiner-Ferris is a writer and playwright. He is the co-founder of Boston Public Works Theater Company and the founding artistic director at Alley Cat Theater. John has written many articles for Cape Cod LIFE over the years, including artist profiles for our annual Cape Cod ART issue.