Like many artists, I have always been creating.
As I recall, I was in first grade the first time I told a teacher I was going to be an artist. All through grade school, I enjoyed learning, but I loved doing art. I had good teachers who encouraged me in art, and I won many ribbons at the fair, and won various poster contests.
There was no question that I wanted to do art, but I also knew I would have to make a living. Soon I learned of graphic designers and their work, and decided that would be my route.
When it came time to apply for college, the obvious choice was to go to art school. However, what I constantly kept hearing at the portfolio days was a confusion about where my talents were best suited—in art or in design—and programs did not combine both.
Then I found a liberal arts college that offered an art major with a concentration in design.
There through my college work, I developed a love of designing, of drawing, of painting, of collage and of sculpting. Some of my artwork became entirely multimedia.
During college, I had the opportunity of spending a semester China, working at an art gallery, and even began to freelance, and did some commissioned artwork. I also had a paid internship in design. After my internship, I continued with the same organization and freelanced on the side. Later, I went completely freelance.
Then, I took a bit of a detour, becoming interested in sales, though I continued to design. It was after those years of detour that I began to find myself as an artist and a designer.
I have always had an interest in religion, family life, family history, national pride, and the tension between these and current events and issues.
I grew up a Mennonite. I also grew up a proud Canadian. Later I married a fellow Mennonite, though an American, and I became a US resident. Then, we both became Catholic.
The Mennonite Church comes out of the anabaptist movement that began in the Netherlands during the time of the Reformation. I was raised both culturally and religiously Mennonite and my first language was Plattdeutsch and not English.
My family on both my mother’s and father’s side came from the lowlands of Germany. However due to continuous religious persecution over a span of nearly 500 years, my family would move to Poland, then to the Ukraine, then to Canada, then to Mexico, and then back to Canada again, where I would be born.
The town I grew up in was quite Catholic, and when we visited Mexico I experienced Catholicism there in the cities. I also learned much about Catholicism through studying religious history, the arts and the humanities. There was a draw there for me, and through study, I found just how important Catholicism was to the church in general, and to the shaping of western culture.
My college studies and my time in China, would leave me asking a lot of questions. Struggling for many years with ideas of religion, feminism, family, national pride, history, and with the miscarriages I would experience, I turned to the Catholic Church for answers it seemed I could not find anywhere else.
All of this struggle—my own personal struggle, but really, the 500 years of struggle since my family left the Catholic Church and Germany—have greatly impacted my person and my work.
It was not until the last couple of years that I began to see the threads, and I began to see where God seemed to be calling me as an artist. Then last year in the fall, I had a moment in prayer that cemented the call into place.
Overall, I am an artist that is deeply impacted by my roots, and an artist that is focused on serving God's purpose for my work.
-Ruth J. Smucker