360: You wear a lot of hats as both a painter and gallerist out of Rochester, MN, which role came first for you?
W.W: Painting! I hadn’t really thought about opening my own gallery until a few years ago.
360: Are you formally trained or self taught? How long have you been practicing?
W.W: Some of each. I have an associates degree in studio arts from back in the 90’s and I’ve continued to take classes and workshops. What I’m doing now, large scale acrylics and oils is mostly trial by fire but of course everything I’ve learned builds a foundation for the next steps.
360: How did you come to paint botanical imagery? Are you a gardener as well?
W.W: Like a lot of other artists some of my first paintings were of flowers. They are a popular choice with beginning painters because of the pleasing colors. My dad was an avid gardener and he loved his flower garden! The more colorful the better. I appreciate a lovely garden but I’d rather spend my time painting.
360: Your paintings have very prominent patterns running through them, almost abstract at times. Do you paint from life or do you distill the plant forms down into your own visual language to describe the seed pods, floral sprays and foliage in your work?
W.W: Thank you! That’s exactly what I’m trying to achieve. When I first started painting my goal was to capture an accurate likeness. These days I find it much more interesting to use a reference photo as a jumping off point. There are many artists who do an amazing job capturing very realistic likenesses. Personally I’d rather view or paint an image that reveals something about how that image was interpreted.
360: You have a great sense for color, do you consider yourself a colorist? How do you develop your pallette?
W.W: Thanks! Yes, I love color. It’s probably the first thing I’m attracted to in a painting. I have my favorite colors of course but I’m always looking for new combinations to use. I read of one artist who when she couldn’t decide what color to use mixed up the ugliest hue she could think of. I think that’s brilliant. Very often I find what’s needed is not more intense color but more grayed and muted color. It makes the jewel colors pop.
360: Are there other botanical painters you look to for inspiration? Are you influenced by the impressionists at all?
W.W: I really love the paintings from the abstract expressionist period. Some of my favorites are Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler and Mark Rothko. There are many fabulous contemporary painters as well. I love the way Corre Alice, Carlos Ramirez and Sophie Tschiegg interpret growing things.
360: Does your imagery change with the seasons, given how much the botanical landscape changes?
W.W: Not really, although I’d say every year around February I feel the need to paint something with pinks, oranges and yellows just to combat the winter grays.
360: What thoughts or feelings do you want the viewer to take away from your pieces?
W.W: I hope people feel a sense of familiarity and well being from my paintings. Most of what I’ve painted for this show is based on very common images a person might see every day, like shadows on the sidewalk or tree branches. I’m trying to pump up those images with scale or color so people see them a bit differently.
360: What is unique about the body of work you currently have on display at Gallery 360?
W.W: There is a wider range of colors and sizes than in other solo shows I have done. It was a great pleasure to work with owner Merry Beck to tailor a show for this space.
360: Is there any advice you would give to emerging artists trying to make it in the field today?
W.W: Join an artist’s group. Making art is a solitary endeavor so finding a group of like minded artists is vital. Find a group specific to your medium, watercolor, pastels etc. and make an effort to get involved. There are many opportunities for classes, workshops, and shows. If you can’t find one then start your own. Enter shows. It may be intimidating but there is no better way to see how your work stands up to others than to put it out there.