Heather Franzen Rutten is a colored pencil artist residing in Pennsylvania. After discovering her talent for colored pencil art in high school, she left the art for a time to focus on other interests. However, Heather returned to her pencils and her style eventually evolved into the innocent and sincere creations we see today! Check out her blog to see what she has to say about the changes in her style and her return to the world of art!
You’ve mentioned that your artwork stems from your childhood memories. Can you describe your favorite illustration and which childhood memory inspired it?
The Dragon of Pincushion Forest is one of my favorite drawings from last year. The dragon is based on a felt dinosaur my aunt helped me make when I was about ten years old. Whenever any of my toys would rip, I’d imagine that they were in discomfort until I sewed them together again.
Where did your ambition and drive come from to start drawing again after graduating with a degree in music performance?
I drew regularly throughout college and kind of minored in it, but my major was clarinet performance. I was determined to become a professional orchestral musician. I would find every opportunity to practice, even if it meant waking up at 5am to get a couple hours of practice in before class! However, by the time I graduated, I developed some significant damage to my hand. I could no longer play for longer than an hour. It was apparent that I could not practice as much as a professional needed to, and I had to make the hard decision to put away my clarinet.
Suddenly it felt like I didn’t have a purpose. I had too much free time. I filled it with drawing and eventually decided that art would be my new purpose. The discipline of practicing music transferred to art making, and it felt natural to set aside a few hours every day to relearn the fundamentals and to work on larger illustrations. To this day I still find it strange that my hand isn’t bothered by drawing for hours as long as I take regular breaks.
You’ve appeared in galleries across the United States and Canada. What did you do to get noticed?
My first curated group show felt like a lucky accident. A few years ago I tweeted something at Becky and Frank (@beckyandfrank) and they just so happened to be having an exhibition at Gallery Nucleus later that year. I can’t remember what I tweeted, it wasn’t even art-related. But a few days later I got an email from Nucleus saying that I was recommended for their group show. Since then I got into other galleries by sending my portfolio to curators, applying for calls for art, and networking with other artists on Twitter.
What attributes do you feel an artist needs to get their work noticed?
Being consistent and being friendly!
An artist can’t get noticed if they aren’t producing new work, especially when the Internet is flooded with other artists. I try to be consistent by setting daily and weekly goals for myself. I participate in weekly and monthly drawing challenges so I can join popular tags like #animalalphabets, #colour_collective and #inktober.
Interacting with others on social media helps build a group of friends online. I try to reply to every tweet and message and leave comments on work by artists of every level. Every now and then I let my followers suggest a random word that I might pick and draw for my daily sketches. It’s all about building connections with both artists and non-artists! People will follow you if they’re having a good time.
How did you find out about Bee Paper? What is your favorite Bee Paper Product?
I first discovered Bee Paper in a little art shop in Fargo, ND. It was the bogus recycled drawing pad. I’ve seen some artists who like to draw on Kraft paper so I wanted to give it a try. I liked that a USA company was making high quality paper and soon found myself buying more Bee Paper sketchbooks. My favorite is definitely the Aquabee Super Deluxe. A lot of my work is watercolor with colored pencil, so the versatile paper is perfect. Water doesn’t warp it too much and it has enough tooth to handle additional layers of colored pencil.
Why do you do what you do?
I have a couple main motivations. The first is a desire to keep improving. I try to make each new drawing better than the last. When I’m working I take note of any mistakes and how I can fix them next time. Social media also motivates me. I try to share something with my followers at least once a day, so I need to consistently work and produce new content. My favorite thing is when someone sends me a message letting me know that a drawing made them excited or shed a tear of joy or react in some other positive way. It makes me want to create more for them!
Follow Heather on her Instagram @heatherfranzen