The Essence of Joy – Combating the Blues with Art

Posted by: Elaine Luther

Antonia (Toni) Ruppert is a painter in the Chicago area who works in acrylics, oils and pastels.  

You said you combat the blues with art, do you mean your own blues, or others’ who see your art?

I mean both. First, creating for me is like medicine. It regulates my mind and is my own way of staying upbeat. Second, I have been told by others that there is a certain level of joy they feel from my work. Whether they are getting that from the colors chosen or the subject matter, I’m glad when that happens.

I’ve noticed your favorite colors are turquoise and orange and you seem to work these into as many paintings as you can, why are you drawn to those colors?

They are like my love colors. In Johnnes Itten’s theory of color expression, he talks about the color blue in conjunction with yellow and red having a cheerful lively effect. That orange is a “focus of maximum radiant activity” and warm, active energy.” I highlight this not because I’m thinking this as I create but because that IS the result I see.

As complementary colors the red-orange and turquoise are like the ultimate eye candy for me. One day, perhaps I’ll try a series of paintings using one or both of these and see how I express myself.

Have you always used art to fight against feelings of sadness? Or did that develop gradually?

Art has been a friend and solace since elementary school—I’m not sure I was fighting sadness. I think my mind and spirit knew what it took to stay well.

After we moved to the west side of Chicago and I left friends,—pencils, pens, colored pencils and blank paper became my favorite forms of expression.

What’s the connection with your “flow”  or “joy” paintings?

Great question. I just found these this summer. They were a departure from the traditional collage or oil pieces I’d been creating. They have brought me joy just by creating them. Non-objective, color and music—wow!  It’s probably the closest I’ll ever come to an abstract painting. It’s the next step for me in combatting the blues. Who can stay low when all this goodness is flowing?

What kind of music do you listen to when you paint?

I wish you could be a fly on the wall. On my Pandora play lists there is all kinds of music including Funk, Gospel, Piano medleys and Christian Hip Hop. This summer, I found Nigerian Christian artist Lara George whose music I can dance and paint to.

Do you listen when you paint everything, or only certain kinds of paintings?

When I start painting, I need music. This summer I heard another artist say she does not like music because it influences her.

Why? Though everyone’s process is different, I say I’m happily under the influence of the music I’m listening to. Who would not be—painting and listening to Stevie Wonder or Chaka Khan? Setting up the paints, putting on the music is my ritual. It tells me it’s time to paint.

The flow/joy paintings are created to certain styles of music, heavy on the rhythm, vocal harmonies and of course the bass. Oh and the louder the better. Other work, like portrait work, sometimes require softer music.

You have some paintings you call “Joy” paintings and they make me smile. Are they a specific person?  What do they mean?

Only the image in my mind. They are not of a specific person.

The colors, lines all converge to bring a smile. I’m glad they have resonated with people. One of my collectors was buying one for a friend and decided in the end to keep it for herself. She said she felt happy seeing it in the morning. My joy pieces certainly need some new additions.

Tell me more about how those came about and how you go about creating each one.

They came about by accident in my quest to complete a DIY residency with another artist. I wanted to just paint and fall in love with painting again.  Some start in a sketchbook. I’ll do a few in my sketchbook and choose from them the ones I want to paint.

There is no story individually other than the collective striving to grab joy and commandeer it on a canvas or panel.

I remember one of your paintings was bought by a health center of some kind? Tell me more about that.

Thanks for asking. Four or five were purchased by a woman who was beginning a women’s counseling center in a local church. She thought the women battling depression, abuse and etc. would be encouraged to see my paintings on the walls as they entered. That was the highlight of creating these joy paintings because several of them were purchased. It’s like they were being utilized for the specific purpose intended.

I love when that happens!

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