For the month of October, The Current is featuring Zinah Ruff as Artist of the Month. A senior at Ossining High School and AP Art student, Zinah shines through her craft, and is a well-known artist at OHS. Her artistic passion has led to impressive recognition for her work, and has fueled her contributions to Ossining’s diverse arts program. Zinah’s colorful, candid, and diverse pieces embody her skill and connection to her art. The following is an interview with Zinah Ruff.
DB: What is your preferred medium to work with?
ZR: I love using colored pencils. Specifically, Prismacolor colored pencils. Colored pencil pieces can take me over a month to finish but it’s worth it; I love watching the colors blend and melt together.
DB: Where and when did your passion for art begin?
ZR: I was born and raised in the Bronx, so I suppose it started there. My dad’s a huge nerd and would always show me superhero comic books and those animated DC movies growing up. He also used to buy me coloring books, one of my personal favorites being a Hello Kitty coloring book. My dad also used to sit and draw with me when he wasn’t busy with work. Every time I show him my art he jokingly says, “You know you get your talent from me, right?”
DB: What does your creative process involve, and how do you find inspiration for your pieces?
ZR: My process always changes depending what kind of project I’m trying to do. For example, since I take AP Art I have to plan out a 15-piece portfolio with a common theme. Once I settle on a theme, my current one being dark messages in music, I do extensive research. For my current theme, I’ve been researching lyrics of songs I find to be dark and sad and then I sketch my interpretation of what that song would look like. I go into more details of the sketch, all while listening to the song on a loop, and then I make the final piece. I use this fixation method on many of my pieces so I don’t get distracted. I try to focus on one idea, stick with it, and go.
DB: What is your favorite piece and why?
ZR: My favorite piece is my “McDonalds Baby” piece because it’s so beautiful to me. I usually have a love-hate relationship with my artwork, but I really like the vibrancy of the colors in the piece as well as the amount of detail I put into it. This piece is very personal to me because it’s my take on a picture of me when I was a toddler, growing up way too fast on the Grand Concourse.
DB: Who is your biggest role model or inspiration for your work?
ZR: It’s so hard to choose, but if I had to pick a top 3 I would say my biggest inspirations are Takeshi Obata (the manga illustrator of “Death Note”), Kadir Nelson (contemporary painter), and this 23-year old artist named Alyssa who goes by @alythuh on Instagram. I would say out of my top 3, Alyssa is my role model. She’s only a few years older than me and has managed to do art full-time as well as create her own lingerie line and self defense kits. She’s extremely hardworking and her paintings are absolutely beautiful.
DB: What are some of your artistic achievements?
ZR: One of my greatest achievements is bringing the school’s dead Art Club back to life with my best friend. Our club has about 30 members and every meeting is always a good time. Another achievement is my scholarship. Recently, I was given a $84,000 scholarship from the University of Hartford, known as the Artist of Promise Award. That was very cool and a nice ego boost.
DB: Where do you see your art taking you in the future, and would you want to pursue it as a career?
ZR: I absolutely love video games and horror movies, so I really want to do illustration or game arts as a career when I’m a bit older. I’d do it now but I don’t feel like I have enough experience, sadly. My dream is to be able to live comfortably while profiting off my work because I’ve been told a lot in my life that artists don’t make any money or that I’m not a good artist, which hurt my feelings, but I kept going. Succeeding and thriving with my art would make me happy.
DB: What drives you to create art, and what do you want your audience to take away from your work?
ZR: Art is like therapy for me. I know that sounds kind of corny, but it’s true. When I’m upset or feeling any sort of way, drawing helps alleviate that. Even if a loved one has passed away or I simply had a bad day, I always find comfort in my art and art-making in general. I want my pieces to make people feel something. I feel like a lot of non-artists don’t like art museums because they feel as if staring at a canvas for hours is pointless and boring. I don’t necessarily want to create art that would end up in a museum, but I want non-artists to be less bored with art. I want to make artwork that causes people to think or discuss.
DB:Where can people find your work?
ZR: As of right now, I don’t post my art on social media. So you’ll mostly find my art somewhere around the school. From time to time I do showcases in the school hallway. I’m still trying to feel more confident in my work, maybe one day I’ll share it online.
Attached is some of Zinah’s recent artwork.