Ruth Speer's "Portrait of the Unknown."

The People's Printshop's timed release of Ruth Speer's "Portrait of the Unknown" begins Friday, September 2nd, 2022 at 1PM PST for 72 hours only. 

Learn about the ideas and subjects of the beautiful, intricate work of art from Ruth below:

"This is my fan art love letter to the series Over the Garden Wall, illustration, and stories intended for children in general. I love the show itself for its storytelling, the many different art styles and eras the animation draws from, and the symbolism, but one of my favorite elements is the friendship between the characters Wirt and Beatrice. The latter spends the majority of the episodes cursed to take the form of a bluebird, and I wanted to make a Victorian portrait-inspired piece of Wirt and Beatrice both as their human selves, to give their friendship a moment I think it deserves. 

The setting of a theatre stage is my way of framing the piece as a caught, staged moment in time, open to allegory and possible interpretations, much like Over the Garden Wall itself. These possible interpretations are my favorite aspects of narrative paintings, but here are specific clues I placed in the painting to tell the story: 

There are three scenes from the show itself around the top border: the harvest fields, the forest, and the river with the riverboat. A winged skull from Puritan funerary art is part of the proscenium arch. The edelwood spoken of by the Woodsman has begun growing around Wirt's shoulders. The pumpkin is my ode to 17th century vanitas paintings, which often used spoiling food to symbolize the impermanence of life and approaching death - surrounded by harvested wheat and growing grass, the pumpkin is split open and perhaps may soon begin to rot. However, on the other side and around Beatrice, the scissors needed to break her spell are laid on the floor with a lock of hair cut off, her blue ribbon is coming undone, and she holds the frog that accompanies them and Greg throughout their journey. I wanted them to hold hands with Beatrice's hand in the lifting, weight-carrying position, holding Wirt's in the more resting position, instead of the other way round, and Wirt is watching Beatrice as Beatrice watches us, the viewer. Beatrice's hair is another art history homage, this time to the red-haired heroines of Pre-Raphaelite art. Along the bottom panel, characters and objects from all 10 episodes are arranged in chronological order as shadow puppets, including a dog, a lantern, a bluebird, a deer, the inkeeper, Lorna, the Beast, and Greg. 

In my head, the title, 'Portrait of the Unknown,' is a reference to the passing of time and growing up. Wirt and Beatrice both look like adults here, and the forest is lurking - behind them, or perhaps before them. Dark things are creeping out of the corners, but they're holding on to each other in typically determined fashion.


This piece was painted in oil on a 24x24" cradled birch panel. My warmest thanks go out to the models for the figures, Quinlan Morrow and Coleman Weimer, who happen to be married in real life."

"Portrait of the Unknown" will be available beginning Friday, September 2nd, 2022 in three different versions:

A 16" x 16" regular edition, available for 72 hours only and never printed again.
A 24" x 24" regular edition, available for 72 hours only and never printed again.
A 24" x 24" hand embellished special edition limited to only 100 copies.

Every print will come signed and numbered by Ruth with timed editions edition sizes being determined at the end of the 72 hour period of availability.  Prints will ship 6 to 8 weeks after purchase.