Ruth Perkins is a local artist in Finksburg who lives on a horse farm. When she was 5 years old, Perkins remembers climbing under the desk in her mother’s room and drawing on the wall. She was severely punished for that, so Perkins began to draw in secret. When she could, Perkins still drew secretly on the walls in her room.
When she was 7 years old, Perkins bought modeling clay at Woolworth’s. She created hundreds of clay animals, imaginary dwarves and fairies. They were her friends. Perkins hid them in her room.
When she was in grammar school, the class made several large dioramas. Perkins was always asked to make the animals.
Perkins attended St. Margaret’s Boarding School in Waterbury, Connecticut. That is when she was first able to take one drawing class, the only art that was offered. Art was not considered proper for a career.
After graduation, Perkins attended the Moore College of Art in Philadelphia. She studied graphic illustration and graduated with a BFA in 1973. As part of an internship, she went to a day care center and painted murals.
Perkins got married right before she graduated from college. “We moved about 14 times the first few years we were married,” she said.
In each city they moved to, Perkins left artwork, on walls, in offices, children’s wards in hospitals, and newspapers. At one point when they moved, she did graphic art for The Coastal Journal in Bath, Maine, where they lived for about five years. Her husband was in the Navy, so they moved a lot.
Everywhere they lived, Perkins did art. Even in the Philippines, she did art for the Navy Wives Clubs. She did art for calendars, cards, newsletters and club publications. Every year Perkins drew a Christmas card for the Wives’ Club and one for herself. She now has 45 images she drew for family Christmas cards over the years.
When the family moved to Virginia, she taught art for the Fairfax Recreation Department for before- and after-school programs for 9- to 12-year-olds. Every student she taught went on to seventh grade taking an art class because of her influence.
“Since my art was secret for so long, I wanted them to know whatever they put down on paper was OK,” she said. “It was important to me to make sure that it did not matter what other people thought of their artwork, it mattered what they thought. Their eyes saw things in a unique way, and that was important.”
She taught her students to draw from life including how something moves and breathes, muscles and other details that gives an artist a connection with the work.
When she was in Virginia, Perkins bought her first Virginia-bred thoroughbred horse. Then they moved to Maryland in 1998 and bought a horse farm in Finksburg where they have lived for 20 years. Perkins does a lot of life sketches and includes her horses.
Perkins is currently doing drawings of her horses in action on her arena walls. She concentrates on dressage.
“It is designed to enhance the gaits of the horse so that the horse becomes more athletic and can carry the rider in a skillful and more artistic way,” she explained. “It is classical riding at its best. It is expressive and demanding on both the horse and rider. The rider should always be in harmony with the horse. When I do my art, I try to get in harmony with the subject, both when I draw or sculpt.”
Perkins also likes to sculpt, particularly little fairies and creatures like the ones she did as a child. The materials she uses now such as Sculpy and an epoxy resin make her creations last longer.
She also carves with power tools. Perkins makes bowls, spoons and freeform items. The freeform items are made from fallen wood and most often turn into animals, reptiles and birds from nature.
“My children and grandchildren are always an inspiration, as well as every creature and sight I am exposed to each day,” she said.
Perkins learned her skills at Common Ground on the Hill held at McDaniel College every year for two weeks. Common Ground on the Hill is an international art and music series of classes, lectures and events that “Celebrating the Common Ground of Traditional Arts” since 1994 (www.commongroundonthehill.org).
Because of her classes at Common Ground, she also found her love of pastels again. The class she took was on drawing from life. Wild birds were brought in from Bear Branch Park, including raptors such as an owl and a red tail hawk.
“Art is very fulfilling, spiritually, deep inside my soul. It gives me a voice and inspires me to be grateful for everything I see and experience every day,” Perkins said.