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The Generous Artist

There is absolutely no doubt that Will Rutherford is a talented artist. Seeing his latest piece is always a joy and it is clear that as well as having a real talent, he works hard to develop his style and technique. What resonates from Will’s work is his passion for art and how he uses this passion and his talent as a way of giving. For Will, his art is a gift that he gives to others and this truly reflects the person that he is – a young man who uses his own gift to delight the people he loves. He paints pictures for friends and family and also sends ‘snail mail art’ to pen pals all over the world who rather than writing letters, send intricately designed artwork to one another. Most of the time, the work has a theme and folds away into an envelope shape. The happy receiver will unfold the creation that is a thoughtfully laid out work of art including pockets filled with artistic creations.

“Giving something that you have created for that person is a really great feeling,” Will smiles, “and it’s always super fun to receive snail mail art from friends.” Communication with these friends is so easy as they all follow and encourage one another on their artistic Instagram accounts where young artists post pictures and time-lapse films of their creations, processes, and snail-mail art that they receive. ‘Art as giving’ could be a whole new movement and when asked when he is inspired to paint for others, Will explains:

“I just like painting anything. If something seems cool to me, I’ll want to paint it to show people how I see it. Or if there’s a nice view I’ll take a photo of it and then draw it later. I just like capturing memories in a certain way.”

Talking to Will is an absolute pleasure. His passion and excitable love for art shines through and at the same time, he is modest, almost bashful about his talent. His resounding message is that he will see something that interests him and he has to draw it:

“I’ve got a sketchbook and it’s filled with random things that I’ve seen on the internet or views from my house and from walks. I’ve got a scrapbook that I use to cut out photos and keep memories in. I like capturing memories.”

Will explains why he likes to paint a picture that is attached to a memory:

“Obviously it’s nice to take photos and keep them but I think it’s a bit more special when it’s something that you’ve actually made - a little more heart has been put into it. I prefer making paintings of something than just taking photos. It’s just something I like to do I guess.”

During the Lockdowns, Will produced a lot of art. He explains that working on his art had a positive effect while we were confined to our homes:

“Like most people, I guess everyone was super bored, so it was something to keep me occupied. If it wasn’t for doing loads of art, I don’t really know what I would have done. It keeps me motivated to do other stuff as well as my art.”

Reflecting on his Art lessons during the Lockdowns, Will talks about how he was encouraged by his teachers to explore different media and technique:

“We were presented with the topics, shown examples, watched videos with our teacher, and then we had time to draw and paint in the style of the topic. I would spend the lesson sketching and then most of the breaks that day concentrating on the piece of work. I’d concentrate on it off and on for the rest of the week and it was just quite nice to have a topic that you have to focus on. I do love painting and sketching random things and having that freedom, but sometimes it’s really nice to be given a very specific task to work on by your teacher.”

For Will, it seems that art is the centre of his universe and while many boys his age will be asking for the latest iPhone or games console, Will would specifically ask for “a haul of art supplies”.

“For Christmas and my birthday, I asked for art supplies, so I have been trying out some different media. I think Lockdown has really given me the opportunity and the time to try out lots of new techniques.”

A well as having fun creating art in the styles of different artists, Will specifically enjoyed going outside and searching for art in everyday objects and nature:

“I really enjoyed the alphabet photography where you had to search for letters in random objects. I did that in Conwy when I was on a walk with my Dad. It was also quite funny to look at something for a while to see a face in it. I remember staring at a certain tree for ages and eventually I saw a funny old face in the bark. I enjoyed looking at things a bit more than you normally would and admiring all the patterns that you don’t generally notice.”

When asked whether he has any favourite pieces that he has painted, Will focuses on the paintings he gave to his parents of their dogs:

“To be honest, if I look at one painting for an amount of time I kind of just look at the stuff that I don’t like instead of the stuff I do like. Obviously, I like all of my paintings but sometimes I look at them for too long and they start to look a bit weird to me. I remember doing a painting of my Dad’s dog Tilly for Fathers’ Day and I quite like that one. It’s a picture of her on Conwy mountain. She just loves walks and looks so happy. I thought my Dad would like that. He’s really good at taking pictures of her and I think he likes the painting because it’s painted from a picture he took and is kind of through his eyes as well as mine. I did another one of Tess, my Mum’s dog. It was a photo of her when she was a puppy at my Mum’s work and she used to be able to sit in this red chair but now she’s too big and can’t fit fully in it! I think my Mum likes it because it reminds her of when Tess was little.”

While giving is a part of his generous nature, painting for loved ones also helps to relieve the pressure of painting for perfection and allows Will the freedom to develop his techniques without worrying:

“To be honest most of the paintings I do are for people I know. Lots of them get to stay in my families’ houses because when I paint, it’s mostly for family. I probably take a bit more time when I’m painting for others whereas I kind of rush paintings for me!”

Will describes his painting process really well:

“When I’m painting, I feel relaxed. I often don’t remember that there’s a big pandemic going on – I feel totally zoned out but then again, I just like painting, so it just makes me happy I guess.”

Will has a clever way with words as well as with art:

“When I was doing Inktober last year, I’m pretty sure I looked up inspiration for the word of the day, saw what most people were doing, and tried to do the opposite! I guess I wanted to have an original interpretation for each word.”

Focusing on technique and style are Will’s priorities for now but he has ambitious plans for the future:

“I’m going to try and place in a big art competition that my teacher told me about this year. I have lots of half-finished paintings on the go at the moment and I’m hoping one of them will be the right one to submit.”

If this is what Will’s art is like now, I can’t imagine how incredible it will become as he spends more time perfecting his techniques. While his work oozes with the exuberance and innocence of youth, it is also massively impactful, mature, and meaningful at the same time. Even without the WR signature, you instinctively know when you are standing in front of a William Rutherford. I imagine very much like the poet John Keats, whose friends and family instinctively kept every letter he wrote to them, knowing his writing was a pure talent, that Will’s family and friends will treasure the paintings he created just for them, not only because they are generous gifts, but because they are of that indescribable quality created by those with a true and passionate talent.


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