Getting to know Wendy Westlake

May 9th, 2019

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Who is, or has been, the biggest influence on your art?
Perhaps it's strange but my non-artist husband, Eric, has definitely had the biggest influence on my art career. He doesn't say much about the actual art but over the years he has helped me build  studios, hauled paintings, attended shows and been very supportive. If not for him, I would not be doing what I am now. 

What inspired you to study to become an artist?
I knew at a very young age I wanted to be an artist. I was always drawn to art classes in elementary school. When it came time to pick a major in college I had heard all the jokes about artists not being able to support themselves and make a living.  But art was too much a part of me. I couldn't not study art.

How long have you been working with your medium?
I've been familiar with acrylics for many years. I've been committed to exploring acrylics and unique textures with acrylic mediums for the last four years.

Where do you get your inspirations for your work?
I'm inspired by nature and the created world. The variety of color, pattern and texture are endless.  

What is your creative process like?
I usually begin with a sketch of some kind. More often I am using my computer to generate these. I like to challenge myself with regard to color and spatial relationships and the computer helps me explore options much quicker than hand rendering. Then when I am painting the actual piece I sometimes abandon the sketch in favor of what is happening on the surface of the canvas. Sometimes what looks right on a small sheet of paper just doesn't work as well when sized up large scale.

 What are the most important factors you consider when you create your work?
 I constantly ask myself, "Is it interesting?"  and "What if I did...?" For me this keeps the work fresh and keeps me engaged. While overall aesthetic and beauty are important I find myself less interested in achieving those goals and more motivated to pursue the unique and interesting.

How has your practice changed over time?
Well, I have a studio space that is 25' x 50' so I have LOTS of space. It comes in handy when painting (and storing)  large canvases. I used to paint watercolors on my kitchen table. It would be hard to do that with a six foot canvas!  I'm definitely interested in large-scale paintings. I like seeing them and I like painting them, so a large studio space has been crucial to that aim.

What do you think is the most difficult aspect of making work? Why?
I think it's difficult to really know yourself as an artist, at least it has been for me. There are so many voices that an artist hears about what is "good art" and what "might sell" and what "has been done before" and what is "significant art" that it can be almost paralyzing to move forward. There's a lot of anxiety for most artist when putting their work out there especially when just getting started. It's a very vulnerable feeling. To move forward confident of my own voice has been a difficult journey. I feel I am just finding my voice and it's very exciting! 

Which of your works is your personal favorite and why?
I don't mean this to sound cliché, but it's the one I'm currently working on, whichever that may be. Each one is an exploration and in some way new territory, an exciting journey of it's own. 

Of all your travels, which city or place inspires you the most? Why?
Four years ago some friends and I went to the art and design district on Dragon Street in Dallas Texas. There were so many fabulous galleries just steps away from each other. The first one we visited had these huge canvases twelve feet by nine feet plus with waves of thick vibrant oil paint swirling across it.  Another gallery displayed a super large-scale contemporary painting of an artist I'd been following for years. They hung it outside their front door in a sheltered entry area. These paintings just grabbed me. Their scale alone was so engaging and to see all these galleries celebrating and selling gorgeous contemporary large-scale art. I just wanted to experience that for myself. 

What is something quirky or unexpected about you that most people don't know? 
I play the violin with our church praise band. My three older sisters all play instruments too. Sometimes, not as often as we'd like, we get to sing and play together.

Also, I can tell the colors/ flavors of all four Swedish fish with my eyes closed. My husband didn't believe me so he put me to the test. I went 10 for 10.