Studio visit with Emily Rutledge

 |  August 12, 2012

I think of my studio as a vegetable garden, where things follow their natural course. They grow, they ripen. You have to graft. You have to water. -Joan Miro

Tools of the artist

Currently living and working in Chicago’s warehouse district, I title my body of work, Urban Origins Art. It is an exploration of the beauty, richness and stories present in urban decay. I scavenge the city’s diverse neighborhoods looking for raw materials for my work. The text from wheat paste posters, handbill images and tags are reworked and combined with acrylic, image transfers, spray paint and graphite.

My encaustic work enables me to encapsulate the found objects I gather. Because encaustic is wax and pigment that is fused with a heat source that hardens quickly, it provides an interesting juxtaposition to the very impermanence of the street scene. – Emily Rutlege, from her artist statement

This past Friday I finally got to visit Emily Rutledge’s new studio space and have lunch. From the first moment I saw Emily’s work- the first FUSEChicago show at the Fine Arts Building on S. Michigan Ave. a few years ago- I was captivated. Her work in encaustic was so different from what I had seen being done in this medium at that point. It was exciting to see someone really doing her own thing with it- using the medium in service of her vision. Her application of wax in such a free and expressive way to capture urban grunge, texture, and energy just grabs me. I have always been attracted to street and urban art and talking to Emily and seeing her work, she is too. Obviously.

This year she moved into a new studio space that she shares with several other artists, but she has the spot next to a huge window. Perfect! She said that moving to a larger space has actually led to bigger works. Before her paintings were 12×12 inches. Now, she is working on a series that measure 30×30 inches. The open space also seems to have infiltrated onto her panels- more negative space in her pieces, which I really like. It’s hard to let the negative space dominate, and she does it well.

Emily Rutledge
Emily Rutledgeencaustic mixed media
A work in progress taken with my iphone using the Instagram app

When Emily says her work is mixed media, it means anything from spray paint, collaged bits of worn billboard, photocopy transfers, and encaustic. When I first entered her studio and had a tour of the space and after we caught up on conversational chitchat, I asked her if I could have a moment of silence to just take her work in.

It was a lovely moment of silence.

Emily Rutledge
Emily Rutledge’s
painting on her studio wall taken with my iphone using the Instagram app

I am so glad I was finally able to visit with her as we had really good conversation about the direction of our work, challenges we’ve been facing, and just life in general. It’s good to connect with other artists in real life, with real face-time. You realize that you are not alone. I also brought a painting that has had me stumped these past few weeks, the one that made me stare and sigh and I think, I really think, that Emily and I figured out a way for me to breakthrough the stumbling block. Looking forward to getting back to it soon.


I just rediscovered the Instagram App on my iphone and I am seriously addicted. I used to see people blog those photo a day blogs that were just so beautiful and amazing and I always wanted to do it too. But I was always like, how in the world would I have time for that. Well, now there’s Instagram! And a new addiction has begun…..

Above photos were taken with the app, so the images shown here of Emily’s work is not true to life since I put filters on them. If you want to see her work, please visit her website. Or stop by the “Hot Wax in the City” opening next week- we’re both in the show together!


  1. by Leslie Avon Miller on August 12, 2012  8:16 pm Reply

    It sounds as if your studio visit was water for your studio gardens! I love the use of negative space and line in Emily's work. Thank you Bridgette for the lovely studio visit.

    • by bridgette on August 13, 2012  9:30 am Reply

      That is the perfect way to put it Leslie!

  2. by Seth on August 12, 2012  8:40 pm Reply

    Emily's work looks so wonderfully creative and alive. How nice for you to have a chance to spend time with her and in her studio. And another convert to Instagram, eh? I am afraid that if I jump in that pool, I will never come out!

  3. by bridgette on August 13, 2012  9:31 am Reply

    Yes, "alive" is a great adjective for her work.
    Oh, Seth, you don't even know how bad the addiction is!! Although I should look our for you, my dear friend, and tell you to avoid it- I really think you'd like it! Do it! :)

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