Saturday, December 1, 2012

Artist on Artist: Interview with Annie Wildey.

A little introduction to how I discovered the paintings and prints by Annie Wildey. It was during a visit to the Velvet Mill Studios of Stonington CT, about this time last year. Wildey had just moved into a new studio space - I walked into her studio space; Wildey was very welcoming, there was music playing, her paintings and prints were everywhere, and I was immediately drawn to the energy, the strength, and level of maturity in her work!

Today, it gives me great pleasure in welcoming Annie Wildey to my studio blog. Wildey has graciously agreed to an 'Artist on Artist' interview and feature some of her work here. Thank you, Annie, for these glimpses into your life and work!

Ocean 0059. Oil on Canvas. 32" x 32".

Here is some preliminary background information on Widley as quoted directly from her website,

Annie Wildey is a British painter and printmaker. She received her MFA from The New York Academy of Art and BA from Kingston University, UK. She has received numerous awards including a Post-graduate Fellowship at the New York Academy of Art, is a two-time recipient of a Prince of Wales Scholarship, and was a Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Grant nominee. Residencies have take Annie to Normandy, France; St Barthelemy, in the French West Indies and most recently to the East End of Long Island where she was a two-time recipient of the one-year residency at the William Steeple Davis House, Orient, NY.

Annie has had 5 solo shows, which include the British Consulate-General, New York and has exhibited in over 60 Group exhibitions in the US and the UK. Some of these have included: The Guanlan International Print Biennial, Guanlan China; The Discerning Eye, Mall Galleries, London UK; The Long Island Biennial, Heckscher Museum, Huntington, NY, The Patchogue Biennial, Patchogue Fine Arts Center and in Galleries in New York City at Flowers Gallery, The Forbes Galleries, Sotherby’s, DFN Gallery and is included in The Drawing Center’s Viewing Program. Her work can also be found in the book: Drawing Space, Form and Expression by Enstice, Wayne and Melody Peters.

As a printmaker Annie is a technical and teaching assistant to Dan Welden, the pioneer of solarplate printmaking. Her painting and print studio is at the Velvet Mill in Stonington, CT.

She is currently represented by Kathryn Markel Fine Arts and Cate Charles Gallery."

Annie Wildey - Painter and Prinmaker.

And now without further delay, I will start the interview with Annie …

Polly: Would you describe your earliest memories as an artist?

Annie: I have always drawn, as all children have, but I guess I never stopped. I would occupy myself for hours, I was obsessed with drawing eyes and faces. In my early teens, I loved my set of Derwent graphite pencils. I copied a lot of album covers, and made photorealist drawings. I would also draw family members while they watched TV. I think both experiences served me well, in my control of tone, hand eye coordination and observational skills.
125th Street. Oil on Canvas. 48” x 70”

Queens Underpass III. Monotype. 18" x 24"

Polly: Would you describe your style and methods?
Annie: These differ depending on the subject matter and the medium. As a painter and a printmaker, I think it is accurate to say that I work very directly and in a painterly way in both disciplines. I don’t do preliminary studies, and depending on the scale, the majority of work is done in one session, occasionally I will go back in and tweak, but I prefer to work things out in the process of creating the artwork. I think it keeps it fresh and alive. Much of my subject matter and themes involve capturing and conveying a moment, an experience, which can be brief and fleeting, so I like to echo that experience in the process.

In painting I work primarily in oil, in print, I favor a monotype method and approach but use Solarplate for editions. Solarplate provides me with the technical freedom of a monotype plus the opportunity for editions and further exploration of the image. It is also environmentally friendly using sunlight or artificial UV light to process a plate, eliminating the need for toxic acids and solvents.

 'Loves Me, Loves Me Not.'
Solar Plate Print. 10" x 8".

Solar Plate for 'Loves Me, Loves Me Not.'

Polly: Many people love to know what materials an artist favors. What paints, brushes, supports, materials, and mediums do you prefer?

Annie: I’m not faithful to one brand of paint for all my pigment, but I do love Williamsburg paints they are so creamy. Old Holland is also another favorite. I’ll use specific colors e.g. Old Holland’s Old Delfs Blue and Magenta and Williamsburg Raw Umber, Kings Blue, and Titanium White. I used to love Windsor and Newton’s Payne’s Grey in watercolor.

I use a lot of house painting brushes from the hardware store and have quite a few palette knives, I’ll try anything that will give me the mark I am looking for. I like to keep things simple, so I don’t have any great recipes for mediums, I use Windsor and Newton Liquin, it is fast drying and has a gel like consistency.

I go back and forth from working on panel or canvas, size is often the deciding factor, large canvases are much lighter, but I do like the firm flat surface of panel.

In printmaking, I love Hannemuhle paper, the surface is like velvet and needs very little soaking. I don’t do a lot of color work in printmaking so I use Graphic Chemical Bone Black. I have had some success with Akua water based inks - cleaning up is so much easier with water based, but I miss the rich velvety blacks of oil ink.

Cape Memory. Solar Plate Print. 10" x 8".

Monoprint. 5" x 8".

Polly: What has been most challenging for you as an artist?

Annie: Hmmm, self-doubt, isolation, networking. All three have positive and negative aspects. Self-doubt can be debilitating but self-questioning is necessary to do your best work. Isolation is essential for focus when working, but too much can make you a little crazy or too self involved. Networking is a great way to meet new artists, clients, friends, get feed back on your work, but as a self confessed extroverted introvert, sometimes I just want to hide in my cave!

As an artist one wears many hats and tries to keep a lot of balls in the air at one time which I often struggle with. I attended a professional practices seminar a few years ago given by Sharon Louden at the New York Academy of Art. I was amazed by two things 1, just how busy, active, successful and generous Sharon was as an artist and educator, and 2, her recommendation that your studio practice has two main components which should be split 50/50 in terms of your time. 1) Creating: actually painting or making the work and then 2) The Business of Art: finding opportunities to show, photographing work, researching grants, networking, updating your website, book-keeping etc. It shocked me that 50% of my ‘art life’ should be spend in the business aspect of art. She also stressed the importance of developing a network of artists, supporting one another, being generous with other artists, and last but not least, be easy to work with.

Water II. Monotype. 12" x 12".

Polly: What interests you most (in terms of subject and theme) as an artist and why?

Annie: This has changed over the years and I’m sure it will continue to shift. For a long time I would have considered myself a figurative artist, and in fact at 40, I went to a school for my masters degree that specifically focused on the figure. While I learnt skills in the program that serve me well, I ended up focusing more on landscape – go figure! That said, sitting in my studio as I prep work for our open studios next weekend, I am looking at ongoing bodies of work that are both figurative and landscape. It really depends what I am working on at the time and what I want to convey.

First and foremost I make art, because I am moved by something. This might be found in a rusty urban underpass, a seascape, the fog, the figure, a child. I tend to be drawn to moments and experiences, capturing the mundane, the overlooked, finding beauty in the banal, simple everyday moments or the force of nature. Each in some way provides an opportunity for meditation, reflection, and rejoicing.

I’m also interested in the technical narrative, ways to express a feeling or an experience rather than mere rendering. For example some of my ocean paintings from a distance look realistic but up close they are often a collection of marks that are quite abstract.

With the ocean series of paintings specifically, the process of applying paint is very fluid, with many parallels to the subject, constantly in motion, changing, being pushed, pulled, wiped away and recreated. The experience of the process is like a tug of war, where the paint seems to want to push towards chaotic abstraction, but the image pulls back against that force toward representation. This battle between freedom and control, abstraction and representation, keeps the image and the surface activated and alive. It’s this battle or dance that I flirt with in all my work and I’m interested in pushing this idea much further.

Ocean 0138. Oil on canvas. 9" x 9".

 Ocean 5535. Oil on canvas. 24" x 24".

Polly: Who has been the greatest support to you as an artist and how?

Annie: That would be my high school art teacher Chris Welsh. He spotted my artistic abilities early on and encouraged me to go to art school. No one in my family had gone on to further education after high school, so he was an invaluable mentor and advocate. We have remained life long friends, and now support each other’s artistic careers - he left teaching in his early forties to pursue art full time.

An essential support has been my creative/life coach Sali Taylor (also a visual artist). Although I had studied art at university, when I moved from the UK to New York at 24, I found myself working for the British Government, and for many years Art was a part-time endeavor. In my late 30s I needed Art to have a stronger presence. So with Sali’s support and guidance, I left full-time employment in 2006 to study an MFA. Now 6 years on I still work with Sali and find our friendship and relationship invaluable.

I would also add Dan Welden. A few years ago when I was doing a residency on the East End of Long Island, I took a Solarplate workshop with Dan Welden. I wanted to learn the process more and Dan was looking for a studio assistant, so I began working with him part-time, doing a whole range of tasks from photographing and cataloguing his works, creating his website, submitting his work for competitions, packing and shipping work, liaising with galleries and workshop organizers, assisting him in Solarplate workshops for educators, children and artists in the North East - a little bit of everything really. Dan is such a generous person and artist. He is always open to taking talented motivated artists under his wing and finding ways to help them along in their journey. I learnt a great deal about being open, being positive, trusting in yourself, not to mention the experience of watching how an established artist lives and works. He has become a great friend and mentor.

And of course good friends and my husband and family, who believe in me when I don’t, and support me when I need it.

Wetlands Mist. Oil on canvas. 18" x 18".

Snow I. Oil on panel. 12" x 12".

Polly: Please share with us some information about your influences.

Annie: As a teenager and in my 20s I loved to sketch and work from life. Early influences were David Hockney specifically his line drawings. Lucien Feud’s paintings, blew me away when I saw his retrospective at the Hayward Gallery, London in ’88. This man could paint and paint flesh like I’d never seen, it made me salivate - I wanted to paint like that! I was also a big fan of Egon Scheile, the quality of his line and the raw emotion in his work, left a pit in my stomach. There are so many others: Sargent, Andrew Wyeth, Hopper, Homer, and Degas the list goes on.

Today I would add to the list: Jenny Saville, such a tour de force. Anslem Keifer in awe of his immense landscapes, the scale and the rich chaos of his surfaces. Eric Aho’s paintings are full of rich marks, texture, color, and energy. I think of him as drawing in paint.

Influences in printmaking in terms of content and or techniques are: Kathe Kollwitz, Sue Coe, Norman Ackroyd, Michael Mazur and Dan Welden.

Damaris. Charcoal on paper. 96" x 42".

Polly: Why do you make art? Why is it Important? Why painting, printmaking?

Annie It is something that I excel at, a lot of people struggle to find what they enjoy and what they are good at, it is therefore a gift and one that I shouldn’t squander. It also brings joy to me and to other people. It’s an important way for me to communicate to express and share what interests and move me in way that words cannot.

Truth be told, I need to create for my sanity and well being– if I have a long period without making art, I feel out of sorts and tend to be grumpy or melancholy. So I need to create whether I like it or not – I’m not always in the right frame of mind though, but then I need to create to be in the right frame of mind – it can be a Catch 22!

I think painting, drawing, is a fundamental form of expression for humans. As children we have an impulse to make marks, it is expressive play. I like to play with paint, it’s messy and fun!
On the Rocks I. Oil on canvas. 12" x 12". 

Polly: Could you tell us about your education and training?

Annie: After high school in 1985, I did a bachelor’s degree in Illustration and Design at Kingston University in the UK. When I moved to the US after University, I often dropped into to life drawing classes at Spring Street Studio in Manhattan. I didn’t do any other formal education until ‘98 when I did an art education certification course at SVA. Then in about 2003, I rented the back room of my friend’s health food store and yoga studio on the East End of Long Island. I would go travel out there to paint on the weekend, while I continued to work full-time in Manhattan.

It was during this time that I really started to develop a semi regular studio practice. I had one or two open studios, sold work and got great feedback from the public. A turning point was when a friend’s parents were building a vacation home and commissioned me to do a series of paintings for the property (at this point I was working in watercolors). Interior specialists designed the rooms and specific dimensions for the artwork that I was to produce - 20 pieces in total. It was intimidating but really gave me the confidence to believe that I could consider doing this as a career. A couple of years later I enrolled in a full-time MFA program at the New York Academy of Art. I was fortunate to receive a prince of Wales Scholarship and scholarships to do short-term painting residencies in France and the French West Indies and take master classes with William Beckman, Eric Fishl, Amy Cutler, and Sue Coe in addition to learning from a fabulous group of talented full-time faculty and visiting artists. After graduating I was awarded their one-year Fellowship, which provided a studio space in the school and a stipend and an exhibition opportunity at the end of that year. From there I moved to Orient, Long Island to do a one-year residency at the William Steeple Davis house and ended up staying for a second year. So I have been really fortunate to have what equates to three years of support after graduation to build a solid studio practice and develop my work further. From Orient I moved to Mystic, Connecticut and set up a studio at the Velvet Mill in Stonington, where I have been for the past year.

Wildey's Studio at the Velvet Mill.

Wildey's Studio with works in progress.

Wildey's Studio with Figurative Drawings.

Polly: And lastly, what words of wisdom would you offer to young artists?

Annie: I would say hold onto your dreams, study hard, learn what you can, what interest you, do what you love, be practical, seek out mentors. Find a way to pay the rent and support yourself that also gives you the free time to do your artwork. Know that your art life is long, you only retire when you die. You may have long periods in your life as I did, where you have little time to create but, the choice to create is always yours, it is always in you, waiting for you to let it out. Listen to, and follow your instincts creatively and professionally, be authentic, be open, be positive, be generous, be professional.

Join us for our
Holiday Open Studios & Exhibition
at The Velvet Mill
Friday Nov 30, 5-8pm
Saturday Dec 1, 11-4pm

Stop by my studio 4A to:
Preview new work fresh from the easel
Browse my retrospective wall of works
Enjoy some holiday refreshments!


To learn about Annie Wildey, please visit her website at:

Wildey is represented by ...
Kathryn Markel Fine Arts
Cate Charles Gallery

Wildey also has work on display at ...
The Cooley Gallery
Henry Luce III Center for the Arts and Religion

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