A Sanibel artist is gaining traction in a sometimes difficult and very competitive market.
David Ruhe in Sanibel alone has sold some 30 original paintings, many others in Florida and the US. He has sold paintings in the Keys to a Hollywood filmmaker, another commissioned work of a sailing sloop for an American governor. His acrylics are popular for the whimsy, originality, realism and fun he brings to his work. Many of his works, for instance, are of children in dream sequences of pirating or afloat amongst flying fish. His work can fetch $8,000 per piece, each original.
Island merchant Paul Roshberg said Ruhe caught fire in his shop about a year ago.
Sanibel artist David Ruhe
"All I hear is who is this guy," said Roshberg, the owner of Sanibel Art & Frame, the lone Sanibel dealer representing Ruhe's work. "They are very amazed."
And, apparently, eager. Roshberg has sold 30 of Ruhe's paintings since April 2013. A Minnesota woman purchased eight works, and has plans for more, Roshberg said.
"She really likes David's work," he said.
Ruhe is self-taught. His mother in Ohio painted, guiding her son in his early drawings. Ruhe drew with a No. 2 pencil, sketching the stars and planets. Some of his early drawings will be included in an introduction exhibit Roshberg plans for early 2015.
Ruhe evolved to acrylic in his 20s. Many of his pieces are of wildlife in odd situations; birds playing with bubbles, birds cozying up to a woman's flowered swimsuit, a heron poking into a beachroom as a dog lays asleep. Other works are more serious. Yet each piece fairly glimmers in the attention to detail, technique and color. His mastering of shadow, proportioning and geometry are the fallout from many years of practice, he said. Ruhe also sketches in great detail before hitting the canvas. Mistakes are in the drafts, he said, which allows the time to crank out two to three works a month.
Ruhe, who is 51, said beginners or amateurs should heed three words.
"Never give up," he said. "Never. Follow your heart."
Ruhe's work can be viewed at his Facebook page, or at sanibelartandframe.com.