Interview: Artist Ruth Gray

Ruth Gray, Belper artist
Ruth Gray, Belper artist

With more than 10,000 Twitter followers, Belper artist Ruth Gray has certainly made a name for herself.

Ruth, 42, a mum-of-two who lives at Hillcrest, has painted hundreds of pictures over the years, often including scenes of Belper and the surrounding areas.

She realised her talent at the age of nine with the help of her aunty, who used to take her to the New Forest and give her art materials to work with.

At the age of 16 she won an award, presented by David Attenborough, for designing the coat of arms for Stapleford. It was then she realised that art could be her career.

Originally from Nottingham, Ruth moved to Belper with her family seven years ago from Australia. Her husband Jim had got work three hours north of Melbourne. In the UK, Ruth had been working as a fashion designer but there wasn’t much call for it in Albury–Wodonga so she started focusing on her art.

She said: “I have painted all my life and have been a professional artist since 2003. When I was in Australia I did a lot more from my imagination.

“I did a series about immigration. I like to tell a story when I do an exhibition. I did one for drought relief to help farmers raise money.”

Ruth said she used to produce 100 pieces of work a year but has slowed down to focus on the Derwent Valley series.

“You have got to be dedicated,” she said. “Otherwise there’s no point. You can’t be half an artist, it has got to be your whole life. I’m always at work. Even when I’m picking the kids up from school (Long Row), I’m looking for inspiration.”

Ruth is currently working on a Derwent Valley Series as part of the discovery days. By October she will have painted 20 pictures depicting buildings across the Derwent Valley. Many of her pieces include streets in towns that a lot of people will recognise, including Market Street in Heanor and Nottingham Road in Ripley.

She said: “The idea takes longer than the painting. If you add all the hours up, one project can take a working week.”

Ruth’s current project will be displayed at Cromford Mill and Dead in Derby. Upcoming events include the Belper Arts Trail with an exhibit at the Black Swan, on the Market Place, Belper, on May 1 and 2, between 10am and 5pm.

Ruth, who paints on both canvas and paper, has also just joined the Peak District Artisans.