On creating art imitating life
Ruwangi Amarasinghe, aka Roo or roobixcube (online) is a freelance artist and illustrator. Her most recent work, a comic strip pondering the sorry state of affairs in our country, reflective of the tension we have all been experiencing the past few weeks, garnered a lot of love and attention online.
Despite being a graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design from the Academy of Design in Colombo, Ruwangi shared with us that her work has since been mainly focused on illustration and painting, as it allows her more artistic freedom. “I love working with my hands and making a mess.”
Having lived most of her life in Colombo, this past year Ruwangi chose to move down and is currently residing in Talalla, Matara, and she shared: “Although sometimes missing the urban life in the city, now living in the village, I have the quiet time and space to focus on my work.”
Sharing with us her foray into the world of art, she expressed that she was certainly one of the lucky ones, having been born into a family of those who dabbled in the arts. She was fortunate enough to learn her skills from them. “My grandfather Ariyawansa Weerakoody was a noted sculptor in his day. My grandmother, Kamala, was an art teacher who was patient enough to let me sit in on her art classes. My uncle, Prassanna Weerakkody, is currently a renowned painter in Sri Lanka. I have them to thank for inspiring me to continue our family’s ‘tradition’ of being another generation of artists,” she said, adding: “From there, I have, through practice and experimenting for many years, come to find my own way of creating”.
Sharing her process with us, Ruwangi said that she splits her time half and half with her illustration work and then her paintings. She works with the electronic music label Jambutek Recordings and designs covers for all their tracks and releases, and she also works part time with the UK-based menswear brand FarAfield, making patterns for their seasonal collections, and other illustration work like children’s books, posters, and animations. As for her painting, she said that while she works mainly with acrylic medium and canvases, as well as digital painting, this is not set in stone and that she is always thinking of ways in which she can push her art further with each new work.
“My style I would say is inspired by a combination of many things, from the movies I watch to my favourite artists, to just expressing myself. It’s mystery, with fantasy, with darkness and sometimes humour.”
She shared that her work is “inspired from the world around us, as well as within our minds”, stating that she spends a lot of time thinking and wondering about nature and our place in the world; about the universe and what’s out there, about our own consciousness, and the emotions that drive us and nature, science fiction, philosophy, and fantasy.
Ruwangi shared she does in fact draw a lot from her own perceptions and feelings, and use her own sadness or anger or joy to create. She said that often she finds that if you are to put raw emotion on paper, whether it be a drawing or writing or anything, that is what people will connect with the most. “Because we all feel the same feelings, and I like to allow people to channel their own experiences through whatever work I have created. Let them perceive it or interpret it their own way,” she said.
Speaking about her recent comic strip which has gotten a lot of attention on social media, she confirmed that it is definitely a commentary about the state of our country, the tension hanging in the air over the past week, the dread looming over all of us. “Almost as if the dementors have descended and sucked away all our hope.”
“I was feeling overwhelmed. Each morning waking up to news more terrible than the last. The ship burning causing the destruction of our ocean life, the animals who have suffered/or are suffering due to this carelessness, our forests being cut down to make way for roads, almost every day this year an elephant had been killed, humans being brutalised by the very people who are supposed to look out for us, and the horrific rise in child rape cases and nothing being done to prevent any of this. All I can do is create, and hope that with what I have created the message will reach anybody willing to listen and feel the same,” said Ruwangi.
While her recent work has gotten quite popular, we asked Ruwangi about her personal favourites from her collection, and while it was difficult to single out a favourite, she said: “I put my heart into everything I do,” and pointed out some honourable mentions including her last painting The Killing of a Sacred Forest Spirit which she said was amazing to work on, adding also that she is having a lot of fun with her current piece, The Potion Maker.
She said that she has a few more works coming up soon and that she looks forward to each one. She also shared that she particularly enjoys writing stories, with her ongoing digital story series called the “Space Motel” (@thespacemotel) being very personal to her where she explores a lot of dark themes. Ruwandi commented that as for future plans, what she hopes is to “keep doing what I am doing, but push it further every time”.