I was delighted to meet fine artist, Wendy Wirth and view her beautiful, luminous Acrylic paintings at the 2013 Festival of Arts®/Pageant of the Masters®, Laguna Beach, California. I had to learn more about this artist and her work. From her website, www.wendywirth.com I learned that Wendy is originally from Montreal, Canada. As a CSU Fullerton graduate, and following a 20-year Illustration and Graphic Arts career, Wendy is now a professional full time painter. She is involved in creative groups including SOCALPAPA (Southern California Plein Air Painters Association), LPAPA (Laguna Plein Air Painters Association), the California Art Club and the Artists Fund.
Wendy graciously agreed to an interview for Pastimes for a Lifetime’s blog. Enjoy getting to know this remarkable artist.
Q. Wendy, is this your first year exhibiting at the Festival of Arts? If not, how many years have you exhibited?
A. This will be my fourth year as an exhibitor here at the Festival. It is a very prestigious show, and I am very honored to have been juried in with my work. There are 140 artists on the grounds, so my summer is spent meeting them, admiring different styles and viewpoints on art and getting to know new people with a deep appreciation for art, like yourself and your audience!
Q. What is your style of painting referred to? For my art students, would you please describe what this style means or represents?
A. For the most part, I am a landscape artist, and would probably be considered halfway between realism and impressionism. I prefer to begin painting my works plein-air, which is a French word for painting outdoors and from life. I take all my art gear out, scout the scene and then record in paint my impression of the landscape before me. It is a very old tradition from the late 1800’s of outdoor painters of which I am proud to be a part. Then after the light has changed and the shadows creep out of view, I return to my art studio and finish the piece. I take digital photos at the beginning and end of each session that I can use for reference.
Q. Much of your recent work show nature. What is the story or inspiration behind your choice of subject matter?
A. Yes, nature is a constant inspiration! And I really enjoy doing local scenes from the coast and historic sites that OC residents will recognize. This season I also have quite a few paintings of Paris that I made from a big trip in February. The Eiffel Tower and its environs greatly inspired me to capture that grandeur, along with other iconic images.
I particularly enjoy painting the landscape with man’s presence in them – even if just telephone poles or roads. That modernizes and humanizes the landscape.
Q. My students are interested in the latest tools of the trade. You had mentioned using Golden® acrylic paints. May I please inquire if you use any other acrylic glazing products or grounds? Is your work on wood panels or canvas? What brands and types of brushes work best for you? Do you ever make your own paint or have custom pigments made to order for any of your projects?
A. Yes, I do use Golden® brand acrylics, and consider them the best. There are two types, and I most often use the “OPEN” version, which allows for a longer working time. They stay blend-able and remain wet on the palette so your mixed colors are available longer. I only use panels to paint on, which are a pressed wood/Masonite-like product, and prepare them myself with layers of gesso so they will accept the pigment. Panels allow you to give more detail as opposed to canvas, which has a tooth. Sable or sable-like soft brushes are best, and you must always keep them wet and not let the acrylic dry on the bristle. I just use the paint, sometimes barely thinned by water and do not often use medium, but they have a re-activator type of product that thins the paint that I utilize. Acrylics are sort of like using watercolor that is opaque. I consider acrylic the best of both worlds, a cross between watercolor and oils.
Q. At what age did you realize you were an art spirit?
A. Second grade, when we made our own name tags for a field trip to a local dairy! I understood then that some kids could not translate the image in their heads onto paper. My teacher made me go around and help others imagine that little cow cutout with their name on its body. I still have that to this day! It is one of those “aha!” moments…..
Q. Did anyone try to talk you out of fulfilling your dream as an artist? If so, how did you handle it?
A. No, I was always encouraged as a young person, and all through grade and high school I used my talent. I worked in graphic design and illustration for twenty years before I pursued my fine art career.
I would say that you are your own limit-setter! When you reveal your work to others, submit art to contests and galleries, you need a mental backbone. Not everyone will be enthralled with your work. But if you strive to be your best, put the passion into it, and get in your “brush mileage,” hopefully others will see and appreciate your talent. It is very rewarding and not everyone will participate at the highest levels. Some will only be hobbyists and still greatly enjoy it. But if you are creative in your soul, it HAS to come out somehow. It is what you are meant to do! Don’t waste talent. That is sad.
Remember, art is a very personal outpouring, and it can be discouraging without other Artists in your corner. They are your best cheerleaders, even as you are usually your own worst critic. Art friends are your lifesavers! Bond together.
Q. How did Studio 7 Gallery and you become acquainted? Did you seek them out or did they find you?
A. I met the principal Gallery member at the Festival of Arts my first year, 2010, and he invited me to join the group. He was also an exhibiting artist, and thought I would be a good fit with the other artists there.
Q. What tasks does a gallery like Studio 7 handle on your behalf?
A. Actually, it is a co-op Gallery, which means there are multiple artists that show their work and contribute to the running of the Gallery itself. We divide up the work load into our best skills – marketing, staffing, promoting, selling – and run it like a team. Each person pays a monthly fee for our art to be shown on the wall. This saves us from giving about half of our sale away in commission fees to a regular owner. It has its benefits and drawbacks, the biggest being you have really gotta like your partners and their work!
Traditional galleries will do all the promotion and marketing for you, but it comes with a high per-sale cost, usually 50%. Some prefer this method, so they can concentrate solely on their artwork and not deal with the sales aspect. A great representative-style gallery can really make or break your career, and to most artists, it is the highest compliment and denotes top-notch work. It means someone believes in the strength of your work enough to take a risk on you and represent you to the marketplace. But they also have a great responsibility to their represented artists to bring their best sales skills to bear for your product.
Studio 7 Gallery in Laguna Beach has a great reputation for strong artists and is located in the heart of an amazingly creative town, known for its painters. I have enjoyed being a part of the organization for three years and hope to eventually gain representation by a national gallery. We all want to superstar painters, right? : )
In closing, I would like to share a quote from Wendy: “The elusive light of nature is a constant inspiration. That’s what keeps me out and about, trundling through the countryside – paints in tow! I hope you enjoy my art as much as I enjoyed creating it…..”
Thank you for your gracious time and opportunity to interview you, Wendy. We look forward to seeing more of your work at future Laguna Beach Festival of the Arts showcases!
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