About Ruth

Ruth Tietjen CouncellRUTH COUNCELL has been a freelance artist for over thirty years. She studied art at the University of Redlands, California, and at the College of Creative Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara. She has worked in graphic design, and is the illustrator of six books for children, several of which earned national honors.

She studied botanical illustration at the New York Botanical Garden, the Chicago Botanic Garden, and the Morton Arboretum, and holds a Certificate in Botanical Art from the Arboretum. She is a former member of the Western Massachusetts Illustrators' Guild and is currently a member of the American Society of Botanical Artists. Her paintings and prints are in numerous private collections.

Exhibitions of her art include Michelson's Gallery in Northampton, Massachusetts, the Illustrators Guild of Western Massachusetts, the Seabury Western School of Theology in Evanston, Illinois, the Straube Center in Pennington, New Jersey, and Trinity Cathedral, Trenton.

She has taught art at Trinity Cathedral Academy and at tthe Trent House Museum in Trenton, and at her home studio in Pennington. She is currently co-chair of the New Jersey Chapter of The Episcopal Church and Visual Arts, and is teaching at the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts in Princeton.

In her own words:

Born in California in 1949, I was the second of four children. My father, a Lutheran minister, was also an Army Chaplain. That meant that he and my mother, who was a gifted musician, and the four of us kids, moved around the country a lot, staying no longer than three years in any one place.

Many of my earliest and happiest memories were of semi-rural Springfield, Virginia — of snow days, endless summers, and walking to school. I never wanted to leave there. Not even to live in France. But shortly before my tenth birthday that is where we went. After that we were transferred to Germany. Living so many places at a young age opened my eyes to the wider world and its languages and cultures. My parents encouraged my interest in art, and made certain we made the most of our travels. How many eleven-year-olds get to see Michelangelo's David? The travel, museums, and historic sites stimulated my imagination and confirmed my desire to become an artist. I dreamed of becoming an illustrator of children's books.

In 1967, after graduating from Kubasaki High School in Okinawa, we returned to California. As an art student at the University of Redlands and later at the University of California at Santa Barbara, I was drawn into the counter-culture of the late sixties and into the ant -war and anti-racism movements. These were my hippie protester days. I dropped out of school in 1971, my junior year, and married my protesting sweetheart, George Councell. Together we hit the road to Cambridge, Massachusetts where he entered an Episcopal seminary. After he was ordained a priest, my life's focus became our little family. Daughter Sarah was born in 1973 and Martha in 1976.

In the early 1980s, I worked in graphic design at the University of California, Riverside. I continued to study art, and almost 10 years later, with the help of wonderful mentors Elaine Smith, Peg Davol, and author Jane Yolen, my childhood dream of illustrating children's books was realized. (Click here to see images of the books.) Eleven years and six books after that it was time for a change.

I began studying botanical art in the Chicago area where we then lived. During l that time I worked with a garden designer, Dorothy Hebért, painting watercolors of her designs for clients' gardens. Later I found myself being drawn into painting large colorful abstracts in oil. I began teaching art lessons to children and adults, and I learned the basics of curating and mounting exhibitions.

Currently residing in Pennington, New Jersey, I still do botanicals, oil painting, and now illuminated letters. I also enjoy gardening, quilting, and Ukrainian egg decorating, as well as teaching art and organizing exhibitions for the New Jersey Chapter of ECVA (The Episcopal Church and Visual Arts).

I am grateful to my parents and numerous teachers and mentors who encouraged me along the way. I hope that in creating and teaching art, I will never stop learning and that I can pass the joy of art on to others.
© Ruth Tietjen Councell
Updated 28 January 2010