Ardys Ramberg stands over a drawing in her brightly painted downtown studio. The drawing has an angel in it. Not that Ramberg planned for an angel to be there.
"I have no idea how the angel got in it,'' she said. "But it did.''
That's how Ramberg seems to work: instinctively. The Lawrence artist and musician, now vice president of the Lawrence Art Guild Assn., is showing some of her work in crayon, ink, paint and other media on the first floor of the Lawrence Riverfront Plaza.
Media-mixing seems to be her bag. In her "Mondrian's Garden,'' she places patterns of colored squares over depictions of hanging plants. "The Little Dog Challenges an Electric Fence'' shows a small canine companion getting a pop-art bang out of some charged wire. "Jazz Improvisation'' places vertical lines over some music-inspired shapes. Two light, colorful mobiles hang from the plaza ceiling.
"I JUST do it," Ramberg said in a recent interview. "Sometimes I let my arm go and I see what comes out.''
A native of Kansas City, Kan., Ramberg earned an art education degree at Kansas State University and taught art in Alma until 1974. After that she migrated to Lawrence, where she has worked both as a musician and an artist.
"I had a girlfriend who lived in Lawrence,'' she said. "She said I should come here. At the time I was teaching in Alma, and I'd come up here to do my Christmas shopping and I liked Lawrence so much.''
Ramberg has played in several bands over the years, including No TV Motel and the Barking Geckos. She now plays harmonica with Rick Frydman and Roger Holden in The Jolly Ranchers.
"MUSIC HAS a lot to do with my art,'' she said. "I'll have the radio on in the studio, and if the song doesn't fit the mood of the piece, off it goes.''
Until about three years ago, Ramberg worked part-time as a jewelry caster. Then she decided to make the move to independence.
"I would get jealous of the people making a living by themselves with art,'' she said. "I said I could be doing that.''
The studio she works in opens up to an alley between Massachusetts and New Hampshire streets. She now works there between teaching art and caring for a 4-year-old.
"THERE'S NEVER enough time (to work),'' she said. "My husband and I split taking care of her half a day each. Next year she'll be in school, and it'll be like heaven. But there's never enough time.''
Ramberg now has drawings at the Phoenix Gallery in Topeka as well as jewelry in the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art bookshop. She also does portraits on commission and some landscapes that have sold well. She said she's also been asked by Riverfront Plaza officials to do a large piece for the entranceway. The piece offers her an opportunity to be seen and to try something as expansive as her imagination permits.
"I do a lot of hanging pieces, and because there was that big space there I want to make something hugh and weird,'' she said.