“Sometimes I question myself why I do what I do. The answer is bigger than what I’m capable of answering or understanding. In the end it comes down to the fact that in a way… we contribute in the creation of culture, visual heritage/ the history of the world.”
Ámbar Ruiz is an emerging designer and artist from the Caribbean. After finishing her BFA in Design & Digital Arts at the School of Fine Arts of Puerto Rico (Escuela de Artes Plásticas de Puerto Rico), she decided to start an Illustrated Lifestyle blog called The Brushed Life. The idea behind her blog is to draw and illustrate her favorite memories with the purpose of creating an artistic “life album” or memory box for evolution documentary purposes. Read on to find out more about Ámbar and her work.
You describe your blog as your “life album”. Tell us about The Brushed Life and how you got started.
Ever since I was a young girl I’ve been storing boxes and boxes of journals, pictures, pins, and knick-knacks because I’ve always been afraid to forget the small details of my life. About seven years ago I stopped writing journals… until last summer when I found myself going through many changes and a rush of anxiety trying find my true identity, trying to reconnect with the part of me who wants to make something good enough that could make me immortal.
That night I sat in my computer, opened Photoshop and started brushing, making a self-portrait (the one I have on my “About” section), and by the time I was done all I wanted to do was illustrate all my favourite memories.
So I opened the web and without even thinking it, I bought the domain and –shazam! The Brushed Life was born!
Was this always what you wanted to do or did it emerge over time?
I’ve always wanted to be an artist and a designer. On the other hand, blogging was something I never though I would do because I’m a very private person. But this time I had an urge to share who I was with everyone, because I’ve been silent for too long and I had a need to be heard.
It’s curious how people see my illustrations and write through the blog, wondering “how I do it”, or how I made the “make it look so good”. But truth is it doesn’t take much to capture the joy and passion when you are being genuine and true to yourself. And even though I’ve always wanted to be a genuine artist and designer, new tools (in this case blogging and social media) can always help you emerge new ways of surpassing expectations and reaching new levels in an everlasting evolution.
What and who has helped you in the process of following your dream?
I’d be lying if I didn’t recognize that I got amazing family members, friends, and mentors that have always been supportive and have always believed in me. But the key to becoming a better artist and designer is discipline and commitment.
We can all have talent, but discipline is the fuel that (in my case) makes that talent consistent, yet evolving, staying sharp with my skills, researching and reading about inspiring artists and topics that make my work more solid.
Commitment makes me understand that it’s never wrong to take my work seriously, because it was commitment that made amazing artists like Francisco Oller, Ai WeiWei, Marina Abramović, Van Gogh, Marian Bantjes, Frida Kahlo, Doyald Young, Ives Klein and many other artists’ part of the visual and cultural history.
What inspires you?
Music and films are my main source of inspiration, and there is a large group of people making great works. I’m an indie/folksy ‘gal and I appreciate the crisp, earthy sound of instruments, along with lyrics that actually gets me closer to my soul. And In films I love scripts that use hidden symbolisms to portray the inner psychology of the characters, (because like I said –I’m a private person) and that challenges us to look beyond. The work of other rising voices in art and design also make me feel like this world is smaller and more palpable than we think. That’s one of the things that I find very interesting in communities like Spout Art, they unites all creative minds, without labeling and surpassing the boundaries of skills, countries and distance, connecting us to this fresh environment and inspiring community.
What challenges have you encountered and how have you overcome them?
My biggest struggle creating the blog has been to illustrate my memories. Writing a journal, and making scrapbooks, it’s a tricky thing! Imagine illustrating your memories! Showing people what your eyes saw, what your mind remembers!
My solution has been making notes of what my senses experienced. Whenever we remember things, we not just remember what we saw, but how it felt. That’s why I write down the songs and sounds, the flavours, textures, smells, and last but now least, I take reference pictures with my mobile phone. Then whenever I sit down to illustrate my memories, I can remember the experience instead of the aesthetics.
Have you encountered burnout and if so how did you deal with it?
Of course I had! We all do. Like I said in my bio, I love bird-watching, kayaking and nature. Usually whenever I have a burnout it means that all I need to do is stand up and rest my soul in my hobbies. If this doesn’t work… I got my two dogs Lucy and Lena. They are the best therapy one can have.
What message are you trying to share with your work?
The main goal of The Brushed Life is to remind myself that even though I sometimes feel like I haven’t done much; the blog helps me look at my evolution instead of focusing of what I still want to achieve. This blog has made me apply my passion for art into a lifestyle, allowing me to see the beauty and valuable lessons in the small details and experiences of life.
For example, in my post of “All You Need Is Chocolate” I learned that sometimes we pick the wrong flavour and think we wasted our money or our opportunities, but the truth is that all we need is to change the attitude from “wrong choices” to “learned lessons”.
How do you deal with criticism?
Criticism is not a bad thing; we just need to learn how to speak to others with respect in order to earn it. I’m not competing with anyone; I just hope that we can all achieve whatever it is we are looking for. We can all learn from each other and we can all help each other. I’m sure that if we all critic someone else’s work with the premise of helping them improve; we will ALWAYS receive the same positive type of critics we give. And if not, never EVER fall in the unprofessional practice of diminishing others through negative criticism, it only builds walls of negative qualities to yourself and people won’t even feel a good connection with your work.
Why do you love what you do?
This is hard to answer. Sometimes I question myself why I do what I do. The answer is bigger than what I’m capable of answering or understanding. In the end it comes down to the fact that in a way… we contribute in the creation of culture, visual heritage / history of the world. We may not realize it now, but all the arts shape civilization in the background without us even noticing, just like a score soundtrack of a film. And that’s what I love about what we, the creative minds, do.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
Never look forward without having clear where you come from. Stay true to who you are, but have an open mind to the criticism you get, by adapting new influences and references to do your job and your style.
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back?
I don’t want to go back. Can you imagine repeating teenage years AGAIN?! It makes me exhausted just even the thought of it! Ha-ha! I’m joking! On a serious note: don’t go back. You’ve learned so much; there is no reason why to do things differently… even if the outcome was disappointing.
What are you most excited for in the future?
The possibility of reaching more people through The Brushed Life and going to new places while I keep #BrushingAwayMyLife, building a life I am proud of instead of searching for it.