Poster Girl: Now Exhibiting at The London Transport Museum — Profiling Artist Ruth Hydes
From small beginnings in 1910, to Transport for London’s contemporary commissioning programme, more than 170 female artists have designed posters for the Capital’s tubes, buses and trams.
Amongst these heroines of 20th century design, is Ruth Hydes.
Ruth has been making art for 25 years and we are honoured to be representing such a prolific artist in terms of output, not to mention awards. Ruth grew up in Manchester, going on to study art at Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent. In 2012 she won the Gold award for Advertising 2012 in the Best of British illustration category with the Association of Illustrators. From there on Ruth has been in-undated with commissions.
Ruth, who or what would you say has been your greatest influence throughout your artistic career?
My tutors at art college who encouraged me, in particular Eric Lockrane who gave me the best advice, “Don’t be afraid to start again, Ruth”. Also my best friend, a fantastic teacher and artist who has endless patience and makes me see images in new ways.
Borough Market, commissioned by Transport for London.
A piece from Ruth’s portfolio.
Do you still work very traditionally, and what is your preferred media?
I still work very traditionally with paper, pencil and paint. My drawing tools have been pared down to the basics for ease of use. An A5 sketch pad, which fits in a hand bag, HB pencil (never pay less than one pound for one) eraser and sharpener. This allows me to draw in cafes and public places without anyone being aware, it’s very important to me to be anonymous when I am drawing, so there are no distractions and I can concentrate and relax while I work.
I draw fast, concentrating on my chosen viewpoint, trying to capture what I see, sometimes blurring my eyes so I only see shapes. The first marks are the most important, they give the drawing dynamism, dividing up the page into areas, defining space and then I add in the detail. For the painting I use gouache mixed to the consistency of cream, which gives a satisfying opaque matt finish and when thinned, transparent overlays. Otherwise the mixed colours lie bone dry in their mixing trays waiting patiently to be revived yet again with a squirt of water.
My preferred media is print.
How did you feel being part of the Poster Girls Exhibition and a celebrated female artist?
Very honoured to be part of the exhibition. From my teens, Transport for London Posters have always been something I aspired to. When I was first commissioned by them it was an ambition fulfilled, and to be part of the exhibition was the cherry on the cake — it was a bit scary too but I think I’ve got over that now!!!
Can you tell me a bit about your art training?
Going to art college was my ambition from an early age. My first year foundation art course was at Birmingham in a building shaped like a large wedge of cheese in Fazerley Street, where you could learn techniques and skills in everything from print to 3D, I remember thinking this was my idea of heaven . . . now sadly demolished.
The next three years I went to study Graphic design and illustration at North Staffordshire Polytechnic (now know as Staffordshire University) I specialised in illustration and was fortunate to have a charismatic tutor who inspired me to develop my work and keep drawing. Another three years of heaven amongst paint, print and like minded people.
Book jacket design for Random House.
Do you have a favourite artist or artists ?
Not one but many: Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious, John Piper, Thomas Bewick woodcuts, Leon Bakst’s costume designs for the Ballet Russe, Rousseau, Soviet ceramics and posters 1920/30s, beautiful typography, to mention a few.
Clockwise from top left: Edward Bawden’s Covent Garden Market; Costume design for the Ballet Russe, by Leon Bakst; Woodcut by Edward Bewick; John Piper’s architecture; The Westbury Horse by Eric Ravilious.
Are you creative every day?
In my head yes, as there is a lot of time spent thinking about work. Hands on no. I never find it easy, it usually takes time before I am happy with a design and there are many abandoned ones along the way.
Commission for John Lewis.
Where do you find your inspiration day to day?
Everywhere, anything which fixes my attention . . . from the colours on a found piece of wrapping, to the shapes between buildings, interiors . . . glimpses of rooms lit up in the early evening and my sketchbooks.
I also have a collection of scrapbooks which contain inspiration, images, magazine pages, papers, postcards — which I have collected over the years and still add to, and a pin board of things that fix my attention. These are quite often a prompt for creative thoughts.
Columbia Road Flower Market, commissioned by Transport for London.
You won the AOI award in 2002 – did this have a marked effect on your career?
Yes — The AOI award was a career changer, bringing me recognition and new commissions.
Ruth pictured with her AOI award for her commissioned piece on Smithfield Market. Read more here.
If you’d like to work with Ruth, you can get in touch via The Bright Agency here.
Our huge thanks to Ruth, and to The London Transport Museum. If you’d like to visit the Poster Girls exhibition, details can be found here.