For artist Amber Ruehe, animals are inspiration. She grew up on a ranch in Florida with cattle, peacocks, dogs and rabbits.
All of that life flows in her acrylic paintings, which burst with colors and movement.
“Animals have always been my passion,” said Amber. “Their personalities and kindness have always been a draw to me.”
“I feel like they all have love, respect and protection built in with no reservations or pretension.”
She even thought about becoming a veterinarian. But life had other plans.
Amber got into art at an incredibly young age, which had a lot to do with the fact that her mom was an art teacher.
“She always encouraged all four of her kids to use it as a way to express ourselves or simply to enjoy,” she said.
When her mom had health issues while Amber was in high school, she leaned into her work “to express and release all my frustrations and sadness.” That’s when she new that art was “more than just a hobby.”
Amber studied art in college and has made a career as a painter, which she said works great when her husband has to move for work. Each new location brings different inspiration.
Now that Amber lives in Charleston, the animals in her paintings tend to reflect the Lowcountry.
“In Texas, it was more cattle and farm inspired, Florida more bright colors and beach and fish themed, Hawaii more ocean and sea turtle based,” she explained.
In terms of aesthetics, Amber said Charleston brought out lighter colors and natural tones.
On Saturday, Amber will do a live painting at Art Mecca of Charleston on King Street. She plans to paint foxes “playing in a lush field of flowers and other animals around … more movement of play and neutral colors.”
A selection of her other work is on display at the gallery.
“I hope it brightens up people’s world a bit,” Amber said of what she wants people take away from her art, which she also hopes will boost awareness of conservation and fighting pollution.
“In today’s environment with the violence and the politics, I feel like we all need some type of outlet or way to loosen up and be less uptight.”
That seems like what all those animals would want.
Hoa Sypolt’s paintings are more than human figures and images of nature. They’re swirls of color, contrasts of dark and light, and musical in their movement.
“When I’m painting a human figure, for example, I don’t look at the perfect lines of the human body or the face,” she explained. “I look at the light and dark that are bouncing off the lines and the positive and negative space.”
It shows through in works that are both representational and expressionist. Light and color create emotion.
“There’s a sort of rhythm in my painting. Like songs, some paintings are softer and other paintings have a quicker energy. That’s where the light and dark strokes come in. It creates different types of energy in each piece.”
Hoa was born in Vietnam. Her family fled the country when she was 6 years old. They washed ashore in Thailand and lived for three years in a refugee camp.
Her family finally made it to the United States when Hoa was 9 years old. And that’s how her long journey with art began.
“I couldn’t understand English but I understood my art classes,” she said. “I remember the first print that I made and a ceramic piece.”
The day to day of family life strengthened her interest.
“My dad back in the day was a tailor, so he would pick me up and I would go to his shop. I was bored to tears, so I just doodled a lot.”
Hoa said she took art classes every year after that, but her first memorable experience with painting was in high school.
“I started to really understand paints and the freedom that comes with the paintbrush.”
Studying fine art in Tennessee and at the University of South Carolina, Hoa started working with oils because her coursework demanded it. But she is more drawn to acrylic paint now.
“I like the speed of acrylics. When I’m feeling something, I like to get it on the canvas while I’m still feeling it. I like to paint very quickly,” she said. “It’s methodical but organic at the same time.”
Hoa expects her next few works to focus on “spiritual discovery and growth” and how “nature and I have this connection that makes me feel at one with the universe.”
She pointed to Buddhist philosophy as an inspiration.
“Clouds are fleeting and impermanent and that reflects our lives,” she said.
Hoa’s work is on display at Art Mecca of Charleston, you can catch her doing a live painting session in the King Street gallery on Saturday, Sep. 8.
Laurie McIntosh's abstract collection "Pages" is a series of eccentric paintings that challenge the idea of how we read. Inspired by her love of making books, "Pages" offers up non-traditional, and more open format. This deconstructed technique is influenced by the desire to see all the pages at once while in a book. The unique creations have a more interactive approach to art with lots of options as to how to interpret each piece.
Her mediums are chosen for each piece based on "whatever solves the problem," whether it be a water-tight medium, something such as wax, or simply oils.. After created, the pieces are then deconstructed and bound back together to add to their unique formation. She also has recently been commissioned by the city of Columbia to do some exciting work involving painting city buses.
For the former graphic designer each series has a very long creative process to go along with it.. This process includes 2-3 years of developing and working on the art, with a minimum of 40-50 pieces in each collection. This really allows the collection to develop a beautiful story, without the same need for words as books have.