"I'm a Saint Louis girl, born and raised." There is no doubt of that when you peer into Natalie Rupp's Studio (studio number five in the north wing of the Foundry Art Centre mezzanine.) Rupp's studio walls are adorned with her architectural artwork, thoughtfully arranged to guide a visitor's eye. "One perspective of a building mirrors a different perspective of the same building on the opposite wall," she explains as our eyes pan across the studio. Sure enough, the beautiful Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis is mirrored on both walls, along with paintings of the Saint Louis Gateway Arch and the Eads Bridge. Skylines from New York City and Chicago are represented as well, but the majority of Natalie's work are familiar sights from our cities: Saint Charles and Saint Louis. The landmarks may be familiar but they are reintroduced to the viewer from a fresh perspective. Inspired by Monet's series of paintings of the Rouen Cathedral, Natalie strives to paint the same subject several times to capture the changes in light and to find new perspectives. Her eye is captivated not only by the structures she paints but by the understated beauty of the natural forms that surround buildings, and her landscapes reflect the congruence of the natural world with the man-made.
"I like lines. I love putting forms together and prefer geometric shapes and the repetition of lines," Natalie explains. When asked her why she favored painting architecture, she credits her training as a sculptor and ceramic artist as the basis for her love of buildings. "Even when I was sculpting, I always made block forms and geometric shapes. Architecture has a clean look and I come back to it time and time again." As a 25-year-old, Natalie is still exploring new mediums and subject matter as she builds a portfolio in her signature painting style. Many of Natalie's pieces are groupings of painted blocks or canvases and some even project off the wall, marrying the third dimension of architecture with her two-dimensional paintings. Upon closer inspection, her paintings appear to be reaching off their canvases through the use of a gel medium. Her paintings are layer upon layer of thinned acrylic paint, applied so delicately that often her brushstrokes cannot be seen. She begins with an architectural sketch of her subject and then applies her diluted paint in almost transparent layers. She then incorporates image transfer into her paintings, using either all of the image or just parts of the ink. Texture plays a large role in her paintings as she applies gel medium with a sponge or combines her gel technique with the type of surface she chooses, be it paper, canvas or wood.
Natalie started painting Saint Louis to ease her homesickness while earning her degree at the University of Dallas. She grew up in Saint Louis, in the Lindbergh School District, and has always been interested in the arts. Her parents encouraged her burgeoning skills by enrolling her in fine art classes at the Saint Louis Art Museum. During high school, she was awarded scholarships to study art at Fontbonne University and the Missouri Fine Arts Academy where she gained experience in mural painting, ceramics, and sculpture. When enrolled in her first oil painting class at the university, she began to shift course from sculpting to mixed media art and painting. Natalie graduated with a BA in Art (emphasis in painting and art history), enrolling in English courses as well as theology and philosophy to cultivate all her interests.
In 2013, she returned to Saint Louis after graduating and stumbled upon the Studio Jury call for artists for the Foundry Art Centre. "I found out about it a night before applications were due. I just knew I had to apply. Plus, all of my art stuff was still packed in boxes from college," she laughed, "It would be so easy to just move it all here!" Her work was juried with other applicants in summer of 2013. To her delight, she was accepted and her name put on a wait list for when a studio became available. Her wait was brief; she moved into Studio 5 at the Foundry Art Centre in October that same year.
"I love it here. This place bustles with activity inside and out, and that's something I need as an artist! I enjoy the opportunities to interact with people and answer questions about my work." Natalie keeps a jigsaw puzzle of Raphael's School of Athens on a table just inside her studio as a conversation point with visitors that doubles as an activity they can do while they visit. Her students also enjoy working on it after their lessons in her studio.
Natalie teaches art lessons to students of all ages throughout the week. The focus of her lessons range from the principles of design to the cultivation of artistic skills and are adapted to fit each individual student. She has been teaching since May 2014 and has enjoyed giving lessons not only in her studio but also off-site for home-school classes, groups, and individuals. Natalie has instructed Foundry Art Centre classes and teaches at Arts on Elm in O'Fallon.
In addition to her own paintings, Natalie is frequently commissioned for artwork. She is finishing up a painting of the Old Chain Of Rocks Bridge for a client. The piece not only represents the bridge but will contain bits of it; she has chipped away old paint from the historic landmark and will affix it to the canvas as she adds the finishing touches.
Along with several other artists at the Foundry Art Centre, Natalie is contributing art for an event benefiting the Center of Autism Education. She is currently creating new work for an upcoming group show at the Donald D. Shook Fine Arts Building at the St. Charles Community College. Her new pieces, and work from her current portfolio, will be on display March 7 - April 8, 2016.
"I'm doing what I love - what I was made to do," Natalie beams as she glances around her studio. Her studio is cheerful and inviting, a reflection of her own character. Her advice to creatives who want to make art their career:
Article & Photographs by Jillian Schoettle.