Studio Spaces is a collaboration between the Manning River Times and the Manning Regional Art Gallery featuring artists from the Mid Coast region. The project culminates with an exhibition, which opens April 2018.
Wendie Patch walks up the stairs to her art studio.
“I come up here and I put my apron on, open up the window and put on music, because I can’t work without music. I like it nice and loud.
“Then I will normally start to organise the room. I’ll change everything around to suit whatever I’m working on. I’ll play with the lighting and everything.”
Her studio is located on the mezzanine level of her business, The Other Side Art Cafe at Ghinni Ghinni.
What makes it different to many other artist studios is that it isn’t a private space but is shared with others and open to the public – just as Wendie always intended.
“I love painting on my own but I prefer to paint with someone or have that inspiration, because you just feed off each other.”
“I share my studio with Mrs Shepherd, who is a local artist, my eldest daughter and my best friend.”
Wendie said Mrs Shepherd is an inspiration to her and probably the only person she takes criticism from. “While I’m painting I’ll go, how’s this going and she gives such great advice.”
The space is also used for art classes on a Friday.
“Over the past 11 years I’ve had a lot of people come and paint here with us.
“The classes are really, really relaxed now. They just come up and it’s just more sharing a space more than me teaching them anything.
“Everyone’s painting their own different work. They’ve got their own ideas and styles and so it’s social and we sort of give suggestions and help to get where you want to go with your art.”
The sessions are for everyone. “I love beginners, they’re good fun.”
Mrs Shepherd has also held workshops for children during school holidays.
“So my studio’s used by lots of people.
“Customers come here for coffee and for a meal and then they’ll come up and visit the studio and go and have a look at the work. We might be working up there but we welcome everyone up there, so it’s really good.
“The only thing is you lose your privacy a little, but if you’re working on something you don’t want somebody to see you just pop that away. But it’s nice.”
Wendie, who first picked up a paintbrush when she was 10, loves to paint portraiture.
“People and animals, faces and eyes. There’s no real reason, it’s just my choice, I just love it.
“It’s fun too because once you start painting, they start to come to life and they jump out at you. I’ve been painting a lot of cows lately because everyone loves our cow out there in the paddock, Pearl. She’s very popular. I also do a lot of cats because I’m a cat person – the crazy cat lady.
“I have got a style, definitely, but I change it all the time. It just depends on how I feel.
“Sometimes I throw paint at it and other times I work more detailed. It just depends how I feel or how the painting’s going.”
When approaching a piece, Wendie looks for the negatives and the positives and starts by using cool colours such as blue and purple to highlight the negative aspects first.
At some point in the process she will spray the painting with water, which she said loosens her up.
“While the canvas is still a bit wet we can add some other colour and the paints can be blending in and it’s got some movement to it.
“It’s always a nice surprise spraying it and it being so wet because it comes out so different to how you put it on. You’ve got no control, it’s a little bit of experimental.”
She was originally introduced to the method at a Thrills and Spills summer art school in Bathurst. “The lady who taught us was the one who gave me the idea of spraying everything and just watching it all run and see what you come up with.”
I have got a style, definitely, but I change it all the time. It just depends on how I feel.Wendie Patch
When she’s ready, Wendie starts adding in the warmer colours to the negative colours. “With all cool colours nothing is coming forward. We need to put some warm colours to it and it will just come to life.”
She uses an old cloth to wipe off what she doesn’t like or to draw into the painting if she wants. “You can draw with anything.”
If a work doesn’t work out she will just paint over it with something else.
Wendie works off photographs she loads into an iPad, which sits on a stand by her canvas. “I can walk back and I can look at my painting and I can look at my picture together.”
In the past she would print out the photos she would work off, but now they are digital she can zoom into sections to make it easier to work on sections, as well as playing with contrast and colour. “I can design my painting completely in front of me.”
Although she has been painting since she was a child, she didn’t have any formal qualifications for many years. “In my younger days I was going in art competitions and enjoying that side of it, exhibiting, and everybody seemed to have their diplomas and everything and I thought, I haven’t got anything. I went to TAFE in my 40s as a mature age student and I got my arts diploma then. It was great and I enjoyed it.”
Wendie has entered numerous works into the Archibald Prize.
A lesson in painting Pearl
Jersey cow Pearl is popular with visitors to The Other Side Art Cafe, especially children. She also happens to be one of Wendie’s favourite subjects to paint.
“Just about any painting I do I see the negative as well as the positive in the painting,” Wendie said.
“So this particular one of Pearl, because it's silhouetted and it’s got all the sunset in the back, I can see the beautiful negative shape behind her.
“I start off with the blue and I work in a really wet paint and I draw with my brush. When I’m drawing I can see that negative shade so I concentrate on that more so than the positive and just see what I come up with.
“The beautiful thing about paint is that I never worry too much about whether its working or not really. It’s just the fun of putting the paint on the canvas. With paint you just paint over it if it’s not right. You just grab a colour and paint over it.
“I like to work with blue because blue is a cool colour and it will push back so it will go into my background as I apply other colours to my painting. You just go with your gut feeling. I’m doing Pearl the cow, but I’m really looking at different shapes and lines, looking for the lighting and shadows.
‘I’m not terribly worried about it, putting paint there if it feels.”
Wendie always gets to a stage when she’s painting where she will spray the work with water. “I don’t know why but it just liberates me. Stops me from getting too much detail.”
While it’s wet she adds some other colours. For this work she adds white and the colours start blending.
The next step will be to add in the warm colours to bring elements of the painting forward.