Leopard Look: Eli Ruhala


Grace Nguyen

Senior Eli Ruhala has been an artist since freshman year. He plans to go to Maryland Institute College of Art.

Senior Eli Ruhala has been an artist since freshman year. He has artwork in the Young Masters exhibit at Dallas Museum of Art, was awarded gold national medal for his work in the Scholastic competition, and has received more recognition through shows and competitions.

At a Glance:

Favorite TV Show: “Modern Family”

Favorite art piece: President Obama’s Portrait by Kehinde Wiley

Favorite Medium: Oil paint

Favorite Class: Mr. Mac’s AP drawing and painting class

Favorite Fast Food Restaurant: Chick-Fil-A

Looking Deeper:

The Red Ledger: When did you begin art?

Eli Ruhala: I started doing art seriously freshmen year when I had Mr. Mac as my teacher in his Advanced Art 1 class, and then he just inspired me to take an art path. Now, I have taken his art classes all throughout high school.

TRL: What influenced you to become involved with art?

ER: I found it as something I could do on my free time, like even just sketching and painting with cheap art supplies. I remember I would do my own little independent projects at home and my own paintings outside of school. I think I found it as a way to get away from all the stress that’s involved on like our phones and social media because I know that’s what a lot of people do. I just kind of found painting much more relieving than going on my phone, per say.

TRL: In what aspect of your artwork do you feel most talented in?

ER: Probably the fact that I can work large scale. I think that’s something that a lot of artists find challenging–to transition to large scale pieces. That has benefited me really well in the long run because I think a lot of people look at large scale artwork and find it to be more interesting visually than something that is 1 by 2 feet.

TRL: How much time do you put into art?

ER: Outside of school, I’d say at least four hours everyday and then maybe 12 hours on the weekends. I’d say about 32 hours a week or so.

TRL: Between talent and practice, how did you get where you are now?

ER: I mean, I was somewhat talented. I think I’ve always kind of had a gravitation towards art because I wasn’t terrible at it. With that being said, I was pretty bad at one point. Everyone starts somewhere, and I think even going back to seventh grade I couldn’t even finish a portrait because it was so aggravating that I couldn’t get anything right. But I think it was that kind of mentality, that idea that it wasn’t right until I thought it was and gave it that respect, that brought me to where I am today. Basically that idea to keep on pushing it until I was comfortable with it is kind of what has allowed me to grow.

TRL: Have you won any awards? If so, which ones?

ER: It’s kind of weird for art because basically you could consider just getting into a show or an exhibit winning an award. Last year, we had this art competition called Scholastic and that’s like the big national competition, and so the highest recognition you can get is the gold national medal for your work. So I got one of those, along with a couple other of my classmates, which is really big because before us our school had only gotten one gold in the history of Scholastic. And then this year I got into a few shows. There was one called 20 under 20 for 20 artist under the age of 20 and I actually won third place overall of the 20 artist, so that was pretty cool. They gave a two hundred dollar cash prize. And then I got into Young Masters, which is a really cool competition held at the Dallas Museum of Art, so I actually have a piece on exhibit there. And then there’s Young American Talent, which is another small exhibit in a college in Dallas.

TRL: What do you enjoy most about creating art?

ER: I enjoy that it’s one of the few things I can actually take pride in. I would say I have worked really hard to get where I’m at right now with my art and my paintings, and so I think earning that recognition and getting the attention of others has been kind of rewarding. They look at it, they’re somewhat impressed, and that’s something I can take pride in and something that has distinguished me. And it has given me a language that I never thought I could have. It has allowed me to tell things to people that I never thought words could describe. Sometimes it even is hard to talk about my work because it’s something that is so mental and that imagery can explain but words cannot.

TRL: How do your parents and friends support you in your artwork?

ER: I’d say all my parents and friends are willing to help me. They even stage photos for my work. I do a lot of paintings of my mom. I have done a painting of my friend Bradley Davis. I think just them [being] willing to help [me] stage photos [to] work from is really helpful, but then they are also really helpful by just complimenting me and also giving me feedback. A lot of my classmates are my friends, and we critique in class. That’s where I get a lot of the constructive criticism I need to make my work better. So I’m really thankful for that and thankful for all the people who verbally support me like my grandparents, my parents, and brother and sister. They all are real supportive people, and I love them.

TRL: What kind of impact has art made on your future?

ER: Probably the biggest impact possible. I mean, I’m going to an art school–the Maryland Institute College of Art. I’m going to major in painting basically, which is seen as a gamble to a lot of people because I think painting is one of those majors that people don’t view as a money maker, you could call it. I understand that, but I also think that I am motivated enough. I think art has basically caused this career path that I never thought I would have. Being able to do something that I actually love and being good at it is something that I never thought I would be able to do. I remember thinking that I was going to be a doctor or a lawyer just trying to make a lot of money and get by, but I think art has kind of opened up new doors for me and has allowed me to enjoy life a little more. It has allowed me to open up and be more easy going.