“I am a product of the Midwest. Family circumstances meant that I attended four different grade schools, two high schools and three colleges. Yet despite all this change, or maybe because of it, home life remained structured, disciplined, and grounded in religious dogma. Schedules were rigid. Conformity was encouraged and valued. Exploration or experimentation, shunned and suspect. This ying-yang conflict affects me to this day. I crave change and new experience while at the same time finding myself drawn back to the stability of solid ground – the landscape. Often in my landscape painting, there is tension between the freedom of color and brush stroke against the solidness of the earth; the violence of the sky against a calm earth; or the chaos of earth against the serenity of the heavens. Sometimes I’m accused of painting two different paintings on the same sheet of paper – but in reality, I am painting the truth, the ying-yang that is deRuyter."

"Although the process is different, the same principles apply in deRuyter’s abstract paintings. Llayers, and texture, and sometimes limited colors – all work to capture my perceptions and conceptions in works of abstract nuance. Spirituality not only surrounds us in the environment, but is in the very essence of our thoughts and emotions. Capturing thought is ultimately much more complicated than capturing the landscape. Using layers of paint, deRuyter captures the impermanence of mood, emotion, and thought. My dream, is to capture and paint the ‘air’ both external and internal, and then, ultimately, that which makes us understand and relish it.”


Minnesota artist Calvin deRuyter was born in a small town in northeast Iowa and spent most of his life in the Midwestern plains. Raised in a Calvinist household, he remembers loving parents who had very defined ideas of right and wrong. There were strict regimens and rules of behavior, and one did not question certain tenets. Life was black and white.

Yet the world outside of family and church was full of temptation and the pulls of secular society. A crisis of faith at 18 led deRuyter to reexamine everything he had been taught, and took him in an entirely new direction.

Today, deRuyter reflects spirituality in the paintings he creates. “There was a time when I thought of spirituality as full of rules and ‘thou shalt nots’,” he notes. “Now I see spirituality in everything around me, in the sky and the ground, even in the air that we breathe. At first I wanted to paint what I saw. Now I need to paint what I feel!”

deRuyter first became interested in painting in grade school. A 70-year old neighbor regularly invited him in to see the latest progress on her paintings when he delivered a weekly paper. She sparked such an interest in art for deRuyter that he convinced his high school, which had no art program, that they should at least have an art club.

After leaving a pre-seminary program, deRuyter spent a year at a junior college, exploring all aspects of the arts – literature, graphic arts, poetry, music appreciation, and theater. By the end of that year, he decided that fine art, specifically painting, was what he wanted to pursue. He headed off to Hamline University in St. Paul, where he graduated with a fine arts degree in 1975.

“After Hamline, I was accepted into grad school, but didn’t have the money to go,” deRuyter said. “Instead, I had an opportunity to start a small community newspaper, and before I knew it, it was 23 years before I picked up a brush again.”

Although his preferred medium in college was oils, when he re-entered the art scene in the mid-1990s, it was to enroll in a watercolor class. “A good friend kind of dragged me into watercolor, but I really hated it for the first years I worked in it,” deRuyter noted. “I hated all the rules that I thought watercolor demanded.” It was not until a number of years later that someone pointed out that he hated the rules of watercolor, just as he hated the rules of his upbringing, because of the restrictions on thought and expression that he felt in both instances.

On the second day of a Skip Lawrence workshop in 2002, Lawrence confronted deRuyter with a simple truth: “You are not having one bit of fun.” deRuyter admitted he really wasn’t enjoying it that much -- that he couldn’t seem to “get it,” didn’t like all the “rules” and “restrictions” that the medium imposed on his creativity, and that he hated what he was producing in his art.

“Why are you doing it then?” Lawrence asked. “If you can’t have fun while you are doing it, then what is the purpose?”

That one moment was deRuyter’s artistic turning point. The next morning he started playing with paint the way he paints today…in layers. In watercolor, he works directly from the tube, without a palette, accomplishing all of the mixing of colors directly on the surface he is working on. He can produce a full range of effects in the watercolor medium, from traditional watercolor transparency, all the way to the rich painterly brush strokes you might find in opaque media.

“In my landscapes I left the world of black and white a long time ago,” noted deRuyter. “Now that world is full of color, vibrance, excitement, and energy.”

Although the process is different, the same principles apply in deRuyter’s abstact paintings. Color, layers, and texture – all work to capture his perceptions and conceptions in works of abstract nuance. “Spirituality not only surrounds us in the environment, but is in the very essence of our thoughts and emotions. Capturing thought is ultimately much more complicated than capturing the landscape.”

"Whereas my landscapes are attempts to embrace and embody the outer world, to be enveloped in the outward spiritual, my abstracts reflect the inner spiritual, where emotions are often shrouded by inhibitions, by lack of understanding or awareness, or by lack of a desire to reveal. Both cases, external and internal, are revelations of my own take on the spiritual."

BFA in Fine Art, Hamline University, St. Paul MN

Selected Awards:
"Morning Ground Fog," Honorable Mention Award, NorthStar Watermedia Members' Exhibition, 2017
"The Sun Settles," Bestof Show, Hopkins Center For The Arts 2016 Members Exhibition
"Morning Ground Fog,"  Award of Merit, Minnesota Artists' Association Member's Exhibition, 2016
"Glassy Waters," Award of Merit, Northstar Watermedia Association Member's Exhibition, 2013
"Cloud Bank," Award of Excellence, Northstar Watercolor Exhibition, 2012
"On the Hill," Merit Award, Red River Watercolor Society, 2012
"Grey Skies," Honorable Mention, Northstar Watercolor Exhibition, 2011
"Grey Skies," Award, National Juried Exhibition, Red River Watercolor Society, 2011
"Grey Skies", 2nd Place and a Member's Choice, Artists of Minnesota 2011 Spring Convention, 2011
"Hilltop," Award of Merit, Northstar Watercolor Exhibition, Nov 2010
"Fall Shower Passing Us By",  Award of Excellence, 2009 Northstar Watercolor Exhibition, 2009
"Clouds Over The Plains," Honorable Mentio, Hopkins Center for the Arts, 2009
"Clouds Over The Plains," Jack Richeson & Co, Inc. Award, Red River Watercolor Society 2008
"Grazing", Award of Excellence, March Madness Show, Robbin Gallery, 2008
"The Opening", Award of Excellence, March Madness Show, Robbin Gallery, 2008
"The Inlet", Second Place, Artists of Minnesota Spring Show, 2007

Selected Shows:
"Mesmerized, Landscape," 2-person show, Northwest Iowa Area College, 2013
Exhibit by The Escape Artists, "Master Manipulations," Hopkins Center for the Arts, 2012
One-Person Show, White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church, Mahatamedi Mn, 2010
"Grounded Visions, Heavens Above", One-Person Show, Great River Arts Center, Little Falls MN, 2009
"Impressions,” One-Person Show, College of St. Benedict, 2007
“Envisage”, One-Person Show, New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, 2007

Of Note:
"Arrangement in Blue Vase," Cover art, 2018 Summer Catalog, White Bear Center for the Arts
"Claim Your Own Abstract," 2-day Workshop at White Bear Center fror the Arts, 2018
"Digging Deep Inside," 3-day Workshop at White Bear Center for the Arts, (return visit) 2018
"Taking Flight," accepted into the 3rd Northstar Watermedia National Exhibition, 2017
"Digging Deep Inside," 3-day Workshop at White Bear Center for the Arts, 2017
"The Sun Settles," accepted into the 24th Annual National Watermedia Exhibition of the Red River, 2017
"The Sun Settles," accepted into the 2nd Northstar Watermedia National Exhibition, 2016
"Painting Skies," 2-Day Workshop, White Bear Center for the Arts, 2016
Signature Membership, Northstar Watermedia Society, 2015
"The Clouds Open" accepted into Northstar Watermedia's First National Juried Exhibition, 2015
Conduct 3-day Workshop, White Beaar Center for the Arts, 2015
Conduct 3-day Workshop in Cormorant MN 2013
Acted as Exhibition Judge, Artist Del Norte Member's Exhibition, 2013
Guest demo artist: Artists del Norte, 2012
Guest demo artist: Central Minnesota Watercolor Society, St. Cloud, 2012
Watercolor Society.Featured artist in Maple Grove Magazine, October issue, 2012
Conduct 3-day Workshop: Battle Lake MN, 2011

Conduct 3-day Workshop: Alexandria MN, 2011
Guest demo artist: Artists of Minnesota Annual Convention, 2011
Conduct 1-day Workshop: Edina Art Center, May 2010

"Fall Shower Passing Us By," Cover art, 2010 NorthEast Minneapolis Arts Association Catalog
Conduct 3-day Workshop: Alexandria MN, 2010
onduct 2-day Workshop: Battle Lake MN, 2009
Conduct 2-day Workshop: Minnesota Watercolor Society, 2009

Judge: Minnesota Watercolor Society Spring Membership Show, 2009
Conduct 1-day Workshop:
Duluth MN, 2008
Guest demo artist: Minnesota Artists Association, Bloomington Center for the Arts, 2008
Conduct 1-day Workshop:
Hackensack MN, 2008
Conduct 2-day Workshop: Battle Lake MN, 2008
Conduct 1-day Workshop:
New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, 2007

Conduct 2-day Workshop: Battle Lake MN 2007
Guest demo artist: Artists of Minnesota, Brainerd, 2007
Judge: 10th Annual Community Art Show, St. Anthony Park, 2007 and 2008


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