Originally hailing from Oxford, Ruth Stewart aka Ruth Draws Things is a freelance illustrator currently based in Bristol, having moved here from London where she studied illustration and managed pubs, bars and nightclubs. Her move was born from a desire to escape the hospitality rat race and focus more on her artistic practise.
Ruth has been drawing since she could hold a pencil. Every photo from her toddler years features her standing in front of her little plastic easel proudly presenting paintings of wonky animals; and while her technique has improved significantly in the subsequent three decades (she hopes) her subject matter has remained largely the same.
Animals, plants and the natural world feature heavily in Ruth’s work, stemming from a childhood largely spent outdoors: riding her bike, walking her dog, climbing trees, finding snails and caterpillars to keep in jars. But thanks to a fascination with adventure stories, fantastical elements creep in – mythical creatures, girls with magical powers, ideas and imagery from mythology and folklore.
During her almost-decade of professional experience, Ruth feels she has finally found her stylistic ‘groove’. Her practise is now cemented in portraiture, printmaking and as a self-confessed typophile, signwriting; her style influenced by her favourite graphic novelists and tattoo artists.
As well as taking on private commissions and commercial freelance projects, Ruth is now preparing to launch an online shop with her first collection of hand printed tees, bags, accessories and stationery entitled ‘Natural History’: an assortment of her favourite creatures.
Ruth’s artistic process
Ruth was incredibly lucky, after years of saving, to go on an art-defining trip around the Americas from 2017-18. One of her favourite things about her adventure through two continents was the opportunity to observe incredible animal and plant life in its natural habitat. Since her return, Ruth has used this inspiration to create detailed, hand-carved rubber stamps and block prints of numerous animals. By her own admission (and that of her long-suffering uni tutors), Ruth is allergic to technology so all her work is made entirely by hand using traditional techniques.
Each animal starts with reference studies – drawn from her own photographs wherever possible – exploring the shapes and movement of each creature, before refining her preferred pose into a black ink drawing. This is then traced using layout paper and transferred with heavy pencil scribbling onto soft lino before being meticulously hand-cut.
Ruth is a big believer in shopping small, and while it takes a little extra effort and elbow grease, loves the idea of a completely self-sustainable studio, where everything is unique, handmade and produced in small, exclusive runs. Her love of nature extends to creating environmentally conscious artwork, using ethically-sourced and recyclable materials and packaging. She wants each piece to feel as personal to receive as it is for her to make.