'Butter Knife Girl' Collection

Chesterfield Artist Clicks With Art Challenges

Figurative artist JoAnn Houle is best known for combining fictional and nonfictional elements that give her artwork a unique, recognizable style. She, however, often thinks of it as having "pockets of style" over her time of exploring art. This Chesterfield resident had 45 new, fashion-inspired drawings exhibited at Saks Fifth Avenue in Frontenac from July 28 through Sept. 30. Gallery daily hours are noon to 6 p.m.  

JoAnn's art collection was titled Butter Knife Girl. An artist reception, titled "The Halftime Show," was held Sept. 2., at 1 Plaza Frontenac, St. Louis.

"Many people ask what my inspiration was for this collection. I was selected in February or March as one of the solo artists who'd be exhibiting this year in Saks' wonderfully cool space for rotating artists. I knew I had to have my art ready by July," she recalls. "For a couple weeks, I wondered what and how I would create for this special show, which is such a big opportunity. I study faces and monitor photographs in magazines, such as Elle and Vogue. I ultimately got the idea to draw a woman in a vintage manner applying her lipstick by using a knife as a mirror." 

While trying to determine what fashion era on which she wanted to focus, she remembers: "That's when I realized my creations could be timeless, that I could pull from designs across the entire timeline of fashion."

She says it took her three full days to install the resulting work, which to date, represented the most number of her pieces in one spot and the most public exposure she's had as an artist. 

JoAnn says she decided to be an artist at 10 years young.

She earned her bachelor's degree in fine arts from the University of North Dakota via art and Native American scholarships, as a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. "My favorite mediums are charcoal, pastel, ink, acrylic and watercolor," she shares. 

She has amassed a diverse portfolio, ranging from commissioned pet portraits to a series of black and white word paintings, and more recently theme-based collections. "I work from my dream studio in my home, choosing inspirations I connect with and making pieces I'd like to hang in my own home," she says. 

Additionally, she works with her husband, Andy Rudman, in operating a regional custom screen printing and embroidery shop based in St. Peters called Shirt Kong. Andy says they specialize in custom T-shirts and apparel design for all occasions. 

JoAnn also has had artwork available for purchase at Stone Soup Galleries in Chesterfield in the display titled "Artistic Visions of the American West."

"I'd love to make Butter Knife Girl a traveling exhibit, even taking it into pop-up places in other cities," she says. 

A 10-year history of her drawing phases can be viewed on her Instagram @joannhoule. "Art is a lifelong journey for me, with my style evolving. I do it for mastering new levels and dimensions."


"Drawing never feels like work. I've drawn and painted for decades, and now drawing digitally on an iPad slaps different. Digitally, there’s no commitment to anything I lay down, should I decide to change it: endless redos and adjustments. It feels carefree. I do miss the feel of charcoal pressing into soft newsprint paper as I drag and twist it to get the line I want; that connection is special."

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