Sherry Ying Ruden: Art is My Life and Life is My Art
East meets West for artist Sherry Ying Ruden. Fibre Arts take Two learned about Sherry’s career and art, including paper and calligraphy.
Sherry Ying Ruden’s Friday Feature Artist Interview can be found at the bottom of this page.
Inspired by her experiences of both East and Western cultures, artist Sherry Ying Ruden uses traditional Chinese rice paper as her paint medium. Although fragile, in Sherry’s hands, it seems surprisingly versatile. Her work seems to evoke stories, the form suggesting places or inhabitants that may have moved through them. While her earthy colour palette is often muted, the results are rich in tone and texture.
For Sherry, the process is specific, but the outcomes are often spontaneous, allowing imagery to evolve organically. Fibre Arts Take Two recently enjoyed learning more about Sherry and her creative beginnings in Shanghai.
Sherry sources paper from China, “I get the paper,” she says, “and then I use Chinese paint. It’s called Chinese paint, which differs from the watercolours traditionally used in the West. I was researching to figure out how to colour the paper. After all, it’s so fragile, so I can’t paint on top. So that’s why I coloured them in a bucket of water with the colour in there. Because of the motion of doing that, it created some sort of unexpected mark-making.”
The paper itself can also bring some surprises to Sherry’s work, “With paper making in China nowadays,” she says, “they incorporate some material that’s in there that already comes with a certain texture. So I’m just getting a bunch of paper and trying to figure out how to manipulate or use it and experiment because I don’t really know the outcome.”
Along with paper making, Sherry has other Eastern traditions that she loves exploring: “I have been interested in calligraphy since I was young,” she says, “Chinese calligraphy, in a sense, is almost like a picture drawing, right? So I treated it as the pen is my kind of drawing tool. I’m drawing letters because, you know, it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, it’s like symbolic writing in the West, right? It’s like music… you don’t have to understand what it says. You get a feel for it.”
For Sherry, inspiration can come from different places, “Sometimes, I look at my doodling book and see, wow, there’s something in there that I might be able to do. But other times, if I have some extra paper, I just start to paste it on the board. And that’s how I start. It’s not always a plan, you know.”
Sherry is also not afraid to incorporate modern tech along with traditional techniques, “Lately, the last few months, I got an iPad Pro,” she says, “and I started to draw on my iPad Pro and some of the pieces, if I like them, I might turn them into a larger piece. But I find that once you rely too much on technology, you become stiff and pull back. Ultimately, you know, you draw on an iPad, you can never recreate how it feels, you know, the paper will do its thing.”
Sherry is an artist through and through, but the pandemic shook things up for her, “Since I graduated from Shanghai University,” she says, “I never stopped making art in some format. I think what happened is when COVID hit, all of us were working from home, so I was working from home literally for a year and a half, and then I didn’t have to commute and a lot of things like corporate ish politics, I didn’t have to deal with that much. So I was able to put my mental model of focus on the art so that by the time we say we’re going back, I said, ‘I’m not going back’. Since I left full-time, my whole time is basically making art, that’s all I can think about. But it’s so rewarding, I guess, in the sense if you’re not focusing on the outcome because to me, art is my life, and life is my art.”
About the artist
Sherry’s life began in China’s most significant cultural city – Shanghai. Surrounded by culture thousands of years old, she developed a deep appreciation for the spirit of Chinese art, a unity of painting, poetry, and calligraphy. After quitting her job as an accountant, she attended the prestigious Shanghai University of Fine Art. Travelling throughout China, her early works focused on landscapes and village studies, primarily in oil. She has had multiple exhibitions at Shanghai Fine Art Museum – the only gallery that exhibited works of contemporary artists at the time.
After graduating with honours, she decided it was time to change and moved to Seattle, Washington. For over a decade, Sherry has worked as a graphic and UX designer leaving nights and weekends open to pursuing her unique artistic voice. Always active in the local art community, her journey has evolved from the more traditional figurative to pure abstraction.
With a deep interest in Western calligraphy – based on ancient scriptures, Sherry now incorporates these traditions into her series of Chinese rice paper collages. With her Asian heritage combined with a love of cultural travel, she sees endless ideas through their native materials and languages.