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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Wendy Artin. Interview. Feb.,1, 2012

Born in Boston, Wendy Artin currently lives and paints in Rome. She has been invited to be Artistic Advisor to the American Academy in Rome for 2011-2012.

All of your works some or other way connected with antique aesthetics. When you got this interest to ancient art and it`s values?
As a child I used to wander through museums and draw, to keep myself entertained. It was a wonderful way to spend a long time looking at one piece. My interest in ancient art, and sculpture in particular, was that I found it stimulating and challenging to draw.

Wendy Artin. Scketches.

There is a big difference in approach when you paint live model and the ancient sculptures. Does it help to see movement behind static figures of frieze? 
I have always imagined the live model who posed for the sculpture, the sculpture animated and breathing. I like that imagined animation combined with the silent stillness of the stone. As for my approach, it is quite the same regardless of whether I am painting statues or figures: I look for the shadows and try to capture them with the most simple precision I can muster.

Wendy Artin. Belowing Bull. 103x132. 2011

What light do you use for your painting: for models, for work? 
I use daylight coming in through the window until it is too dark, and then I use bright lights, both for illuminating the models and for illuminating my paintings.

Wendy Artin. Antinous. 76x56. 2010

When you work with live models, do you make a drawing or you keep the whole thing in mind? 
I paint directly from the models as they pose. The poses vary from 30 seconds to a half hour. The large charcoal figure drawings I made using photos that I took after meticulously combing through my paintings, selecting poses, and carefully recreating the poses with the same light, same model and the same angle. So I worked from the original watercolors and used the photos for additional information. I find that real life contains far more information than my visual memory.

Wendy Artin. Aura Arms Locked. 30x20.2004

Your models seam to dance. Do you really paint them in movement? 
My models are quite extraordinary, but no, I am not capable of painting them if they are moving. They take the poses, and sometimes need to get out of the poses and then get back in. At that point there is always some difference in the pose, but I find that if I start and work very quickly on the part of the body that is most likely to move, I have finished it by the time it does move. However, the fact is that quite often it doesn't work out, and then I just don't show that painting!

Wendy Artin. Tamara Touching Her Toes. 20x30. 2002

Do you always work with the same models? 
I often work with the same models, of whom I never tire, but I am always happy to try out a new model.

Wendy Artin. Zucca. 20x20. 2000

You have a lot of monochrome paintings but in different colors. How do you decide which color is suitable for a certain object? 
I never actually decided to paint the different subjects in different colors. Originally I painted landscapes using black, but that was too dark and cold for the Roman light, even when I added plenty of water. Sepia seemed to give the right luminosity. I then tried sepia for the models, and it was too somber and cold, so I added the red madder. When painting the Parthenon Friezes I had discovered a very nice reddish black to use, that makes very warm grays: it did not even occur to me to use sepia, or red. However in the past I often used sepia for outdoor statue watercolors in Rome.

Wendy Artin. Church at Circo Massimo. 35x50. 1999

Do you wet the paper from the back side or you only paint some areas in wet when you work on a big size painting? 
I have never wet the paper from the back side, may give that a try soon. With a large painting I work on one area at a time, spreading outwards from the painted area.

Wendy Artin. Columns. 48x76. 2006

Could you tell about your paper choice? 
I love the handmade cotton Khadi paper, despite its various difficulties. It breathes organically, it absorbs unevenly, has a beautiful tooth so that when the brush slides over the surface it makes a wonderful brushy stroke, and then in dark areas the watercolor becomes velvety. For small works I find the Khadi paper too complicated and uneven, and I love Arches watercolor paper. Fabriano is also excellent paper. For quick life drawings I use either Fabriano Ingres, which I like because I like the lines of the laid paper, or if I cannot find it, Canson mi-teintes which have many lovely colors, although a harder pebbly surface which I like less than the laid surface of the Fabriano. For longer nudes I use Rives BFK paper, which gives a softer look. These are the papers that I use here and now, since they are available to me here and now. I am sure that in other places there are fantastic papers that I have never tried: the important thing is to learn to work with the paper you have available to you. I find that once I am used to a certain paper, it is quite time-consuming to change and learn how to use a different paper.

 Wendy Artin with Khadi paper

Can you work continuously on a painting or you try to finish it in one go? 
I usually work on a painting until it is finished.

Wendy Artin. Lemon. 20x25. 2008

Does it make difference where to paint? For example, is it easier to paint ancient frieze in Italy than in US? 
I do not think it makes a difference where you paint, but the lighting conditions and size of your surroundings certainly make a difference!

Wendy Artin. Panorama. 30x76.part. 2008

Do you consider yourselves a spontaneous or a person who acts according to exact plan? 
A curious question. I think that we all hope that we are spontaneous, and that however to do things well probably we are all repeating an exact plan within the new circumstances.

Do you teach your methods? 
I do not presently teach, since I have two relatively small children and always want more time to paint. But when I did teach, I loved it, and I love to watch other people paint and draw.


  1. Wendy Artin seems a wonderful watercolorist!!!

  2. This is a great interview - such amazing pieces of work which have so much movement. Beautiful, just simply beautiful.