Valuable guitars are often seen as pieces of art. And yet, the actual function of a guitar is still, after all, to be simply a tool – an instrument to make music with. So, my work of art – the guitar – can be used by other people to express their art. It’s like a paintbrush – or when placed into right hands, it can transform into a magic wand. This fascinating thought triggered an idea in me a long time ago. I was thinking – what if I could embed one more layer of art to this chain? Not just any art, but such art that has personal significance to me. Or better yet – art by such artists that I have some form of a personal connection with.
Eventually the idea matured to what we call The Art Infused Collection – a series of instruments with unique handpainted artwork by select artists. Each instrument is a one-off piece, meaning that what you see painted on the guitars are the actual, original paintings – no reproductions or series of any kind are made.
The first Art Infused guitar was painted by Sabine Reimer, a gifted artist from Hamburg, Germany. Sabine and I became friends in the early 2000’s at Frankfurt Musikmesse tradefairs, where I exhibited and Sabine used to come to perform together with Markus Setzer. Their duo Reimer/Setzer would do demo concerts which I enjoyed a lot, and at some point I learned that Sabine is not only a gifted singer but also a devoted painter. I fell in love with her art, and acquired at some point a beautiful painting named ‘Volcano’, which hangs on our living room wall.
Later on, when my Art Infused idea became reality, it was clear to me that Sabine should be the first artist to be introduced. I’m so happy she agreed to do it! In year 2014 we held a little event of our own – ‘Ruokangas Rendezvous’ – in Cologne, and Sabine painted the Art Infused I guitar in front of a live audience. The guitar was sold soon after the Rendezvous to a collector in Texas, USA.
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. The chain of events that lead into the creation of the tune 'Creature' by Antti Paranko is breathtaking, to say the least... Continue reading after watching the video!
As if it were a creature, the sound stretches up and down -
everywhere - even the directions that were not there before.
Is the guitar playing him or is he playing the guitar?
– Juno Ruokangas
The second Art Infused Collection guitar was painted by my uniquely gifted daughter Juno Ruokangas.
The story goes about like this… Juno worked as a volunteer at the first ever Holy Grail Guitar Show in 2014, as did my son Saalas. In fact the whole Ruokangas team volunteered to help EGB (European Guitar Builders association) put up the first show. Anyways – Juno had a chance to experience Earkraft (Antti Paranko, Markus Setzer, Mikko Arlin) play a demo concert on Sunday. Antti played the Captain Nemo guitar on that gig – check it out on YouTube! And there, on the spot, Juno wrote a poem, inspired by the melody lines and the sound of the guitar…
Later on, I asked Juno if she wanted to paint a guitar for me, to be included in the Art Infused Collection. Luckily, she did. And she ended up embedding to the artwork the poem she had written a year earlier – a poem of which I had no idea about, until I saw it painted on the top of the guitar!
Think about it – a magical chain of events: First we make a guitar that is being played on stage by a talented artist. Another artist, Juno in this case, hears this music live, and is inspired to write a poem of the experience – and then this poem is perpetuated in the artwork Juno paints on another guitar.
… and this is where the story gets spooky. When Antti – that very same player who inspired Juno in the first place to write the poem – saw this guitar, it inspired him to compose the tune ‘Creature’, which he then ended up recording with the instrument Juno had painted..!!! Sometimes truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
The Art Infused II guitar was sold to (and gets to be played a lot!) by Aaron Kaplan, a professional guitarist and composer living in Los Angeles, USA.
The third piece in the Art Infused Collection was painted – or to be exact woodcut printed – by Anniina Vainionpää, whose art Emma and I have loved and endorsed for years, and we have a privilege to own several of her beautiful pieces. I would encourage you to have a close look at Anniina’s website – she is one of those rare artists whose works I predict to become true sought-after collectibles of tomorrow.
The woodcut printing is an ancient technique involving hours and hours of woodcarving, one colour at a time. Even though it is a technique typically used for printing small runs, this guitar is a one-off piece. No other print of this kind was ever made.
The Art Infused III guitar was sold to a collector in Finland.