Sonia Ruiz

“There are colors everywhere; you can always see them — you just have to look,” according to painter and illustrator, Sonia Ruiz ’19.

Ruiz started painting when she was five years old. She took art classes near her childhood home as a fun extracurricular activity to participate in with her siblings. But with time, painting morphed into something that Ruiz not only enjoyed and looked forward to, but also felt lucky to practice.

“I think when I was little, I was more concerned with making it neat and accurate,” Ruiz said. “Now, I just feel peaceful and lucky.”

Last year, Ruiz served as the Illustrations Editor for the News. Besides the News, Ruiz has illustrated for campus publications including the Yale Record, Yale Scientific Magazine and China Hands. She has also had her work reprinted in The New York Times and in a children’s book published by Heinemann Publishing.

This semester, Ruiz is enrolled in a class titled “Painting Time,” in which students paint outside at various campus locations. During the second class’ meeting, the students met near the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

“It was kind of drizzling but the sun was also out, the Harkness Tower bells were ringing and I remember feeling lucky that I got to just be outside and paint,” Ruiz said. “It made me very happy.”

Ruiz said her art evolved drastically when she came to Yale. When she was in high school, Ruiz strove to endow her work with a sense of deeper meaning. But since coming to Yale, Ruiz’s focus has shifted to documenting scenes that are already meaningful to herself and others.

“I think because I’m doing so many observational paintings these days, it’s not so much about a meaning that has to be puzzled out of it, but about what it means to me,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz said that her favorite art class at Yale was a seminar on watercolor painting that she took during her junior year. In this class, Ruiz learned to look for colors in the world around her — even in shadows and white objects — and translate what she sees through her personal perspective.

Ruiz said that this course changed the way she views the world and life on Yale’s campus.

“I’m always looking at objects by seeing how the light hits them, how they form shadows,” Ruiz said. “I appreciate Yale a lot more than I did earlier, not just the buildings but a life-perspective in general — looking for the good things and the bright things.”

Professor Adam Van Doren, who taught Ruiz’s painting course described her as an “exceptional art student.” Van Doren said Ruiz can see color in objects that look grey to everyone else, and that she is able to incorporate the techniques and style of classical artists into her work.

Van Doren characterized Ruiz’s work as “vibrant,” noting her use of rich colors and a clean palette. He said that Ruiz’s color choices bring a “freshness.”

“Her work always looks alive,” Van Doren said.

During her junior year, Ruiz began painting more outside of her homework for classes. Ruiz believes that balancing academics and art requires discipline, so she makes a schedule that she follows by setting deadlines for herself.

“I paint every week now, not for the sake of painting, but because there’s something I want to paint,” Ruiz said. “For example, I saw the Women’s Table with the flowers around it the other day, and I just had to paint it.”

It was Catherine Yang ’19 who originally suggested that Ruiz illustrate for the News during her first year. Yang said Ruiz stood out as an artist talented at a variety of mediums.

“There are two kinds of art, one with great technique and one that makes you feel, and Sonia’s art could do both,” Yang said. “I think she’s really grown in terms of the breadth of what she paints, from things that had a story behind them to anything she finds interesting.”

In the future, Ruiz plans to freelance and work on commissions or requests. She said that she has grown more comfortable with the idea of selling her artwork instead of keeping it for herself.

Ruiz’s senior art show will open this Saturday, October 13, in Maya’s Room in Silliman College. She said that she views her senior art show as similar to a senior recital — “a reflection on the past four years.”

“My perspective has changed a lot and I want to share that with people — my overarching theme is how the way I see colors has changed,” Ruiz said. “A professor once told me, ‘Don’t draw what you think you see, draw what you actually see,’ and I think that’s applicable to all our lives. Sometimes, life can suck, but if you open your mind and reflect more, there are always colorful things.”

Freya Savla  | freya.savla@yale.edu