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The many seasons of a painter’s life

Posted on 28 October 2018 by calvin

Messenger editor and co-owner Calvin deRuyter wins Winsor & Newton Award in national watermedia exhibition

Calvin deRuyter, editor and co-owner of the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger, recently won the Winsor & Newton Award in the NorthStar Watermedia Society’s Fourth National Juried Exhibition.

Watermedia refers to paintings made with any medium that can be dissolved in water, such as watercolor, acrylic, gouache, casein, egg tempera, and water-based ink.

Artists from 20 states and Australia submitted 280 entries, and 16 awards were given in the form of art materials or monetary compensation.

All the winning paintings can be seen online at

deRuyter (photo left by Margie O’Loughlin) has entered the competition each year since it started, but this is the first time that he’s won an award. “There’s never any way of predicting if you’ll get into a juried show, or if you’ll place. You enter, and then you hope,” he said.

His winning submission was a nearly mono-chromatic abstract watermedia painting called Formare Due, which is Italian for “second in a series of paintings based on form, shape, and molding.”

In a sense, he’s entering the second stage of his career as an artist. deRuyter explained, “Over the last 15 years, I’ve been fortunate to win more than two dozen awards for painting, including four other national awards and four other ‘best in show’ awards, but this NorthStar award was especially meaningful. I’ve been working in abstract forms for the last couple of years, and I was pleased that one of those paintings was recognized with a national award.”

Like most artists, deRuyter’s path to success has held its share of surprises. He graduated from Hamline University with a fine art degree in painting and spent a fifth year there as an artist’s apprentice. Accepted into graduate school but lacking the means to go, deRuyter decided to take “a couple of years off.” He had edited the student newspaper while at Hamline and, through a turn of events, ended up purchasing the fledging Midway Como Monitor for $1 in 1975. He and his business partner, Tim Nelson, purchased the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger several years later.

He didn’t pick up a paintbrush again until 1998.

Eventually enticed by a friend into taking a watercolor class at Como Conservatory, deRuyter wasn’t exactly wild with enthusiasm. He said, “I was an oil painter in college, and I thought watercolor was a dirty word.” But, the two friends completed their first class, then took another, and eventually signed up for a five-day watercolor workshop with nationally recognized teacher Skip Lawrence.

deRuyter explained, “More than any other painting medium, watercolor has so many rules. I never liked following them, and it showed in my work. On the second day of that workshop, the teacher was making the rounds and looking at what students had painted so far. He stopped at my table, and asked, ‘You’re not having any fun at all, are you? You should forget all the rules, paint the way you want to for the next three days. Just have fun with the medium.’”

Photo right: Of Calvin deRuyter’s award-winning painting, Judge Rachel Daly said, “To me, this painting is the crackling sound of thunder. Or what static looks like under a microscope. It is a shifting, mysterious image of ice forming in the darkness of a December midnight. “ (Photo provided)

“I really thought about what that meant,” deRuyter continued. “After driving to the workshop the next day, I wondered how I could capture the feeling of that grey, cold morning. I went into the studio, and just started painting directly from the tube—with no palette, and a hard bristle brush. I’ve been doing watercolor that way ever since.”

deRuyter went on to establish a reputation for himself as a landscape painter; what he called, “a Midwest colorist.” Now a ten+ year tenant of the Northrup King Artist Studios in NE Minneapolis, he said, “There never was a color invented that I didn’t like.”

But the landscapes stopped holding his full attention a couple of years ago, and the brilliant colors he had always been drawn to were slowly replaced with blacks, greys, and whites. deRuyter explained, “If someone had told me ten years ago, when I was becoming known as a colorist, that I would be focusing on monochromatic or single color paintings in the future, I would have called them crazy!”

“A viewer knows whether or not they like an abstract painting right away,” deRuyter said. “But, often they just don’t know why. The abstract form is not familiar to most viewers in the same way that a landscape or a still life might be. As a selling artist, I’ve had to start over again from a marketing perspective.”

deRuyter will be offering a four-class series in November called “Loosen up your Painting,” and a two-day workshop in mid-January on the “Abstracted Figure” (both at White Bear Center for the Arts).

He will also be participating in Art Attack, Nov. 2-4, a three-day celebration of art at the Northrup King Building, 1500 Jackson St. NE. He invites everyone to stop in and visit him in Studio 321.

To learn more about deRuyter’s work and background go to

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