Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Alyssa Wendorf - Watercolor Artist

What We Do When There Is Nothing To Be Done

Alyssa Ann Wendorff

B.F.A - University of Minnesota, 2005 Alyssa on Facebook

Proud to be a regional artist, Alyssa Wendorff was born in Rhinelander, WI and raised in Madison, WI. Having attended the Univ. of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, Alyssa now lives in St. Paul, MN where she continues to explore notions of site and place. Her work focuses on the shape, experience, and memory of the Midwestern landscape.

"Landscape is the shape of the world. It is the place where experience begins and returns. For me, Landscape is also the shape of memory. It is the place where my mind rests, obsesses, and remembers." - Alyssa Wendorff

Blowing Through

What are you currently working on? How is this different from past projects?
• My latest work is taking a more linear turn. My compositions are becoming spare, and color is taking a backseat role. Basically, I’m trying to simplify for a while and see what happens. At the moment I’m working on a group of larger-scale line drawings based on horizon. I also recently tried my hand for the first time at water based Japanese-Style Woodblock printing, which may be fueling this fire.

We are Not Separated From the Sky

Tell me about your working space and your creative process?
• My workspace is very small. I live in a studio apartment and work there as well. This has definitely limited my scale and choice of media. In college, when space was never an issue, I was working on large paintings, pouring watered down acrylic onto canvas on the floor. Now I work mostly with watercolor and drawing materials, on a much more condensed size of surface, usually paper or board.

My process is pretty straightforward. I don’t journal much or use my sketchbook as much as I probably should. I do take photographs occasionally, though I rarely have them out when working on a piece. Instead, I work from impressions I’ve collected and stored away in my mind, of place, shape, color, atmosphere, etc. I start with one mark, maybe a line or blob of color, and build from there. The process of working with the image as it evolves, as opposed to against it, towards an unforeseen end is what interests me most. I might be most of the way through a work before I even realize what the end result is going to be, or what the image is going to ultimately represent. It is rare that I start a piece with a preconceived notion of what it will be in the end. If I do, it usually turns out to be a disaster.

Stripped Away

If you could excel in some different artistic arena, what would it be and why?
• Music! I love music. I love to sing, and I have always wished that I had stuck with those piano lessons I hated practicing for so much when I was a kid. I wish I could play the banjo.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
• This came from my mentor in college, and he heard it from his. He warned me that once I graduated from school and was no longer paying people to do it, that no one would care if I ever made another painting. This really hit home with me, and he’s absolutely right. It’s a hard old world out there for creative minded people, and there is certainly no clear path to professional success as an artist. You can’t just apply for three or four jobs as painter, and choose the one with the best benefits package. An artist must be prepared to be ignored and undervalued at every turn. To be successful, you have to believe in the validity of what you are doing, and continuously find your own reasons to keep working. The only way anyone will look or listen is if you make them, and if you don’t have the toughness and motivation to take the knocks, it won’t be long before you’re working as a banker and painting as a hobby, if at all.

How important was your formal artistic training in your development as an artist?
• Extremely. It loosened me up and gave me perspective. It also beat the ego out of me, “You might be best representational artist in the room, but who cares, what else do you have to offer?” Good point…

Should You Ask Me Whence These Stories, I Will Tell You

What opportunities have you found for displaying your work in Minnesota? What have been your best resources for identifying these resources?
• Other than online resources such as Spring Board for the Arts and, I’ve had my best luck through word of mouth or friends, and friends of friends. Though I’m not so good at it, it’s true what they say about networking. I’ve also learned the truth of the adage, ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained.’ Don’t sell yourself short, always apply for opportunities you think sound promising, never sell yourself short: You never know when you may get a chance you didn’t really think would come your way.

Which Minnesota artists do you enjoy?
Alec Soth is far and away my favorite Minnesota artist. His photos manage to capture such a poignant feeling of person and/or place. It doesn’t matter how many times I look at one, it will always make me feel something new.

If I were to follow you around on an “art day” in Minnesota, which places would we go? What would we see?
• I can’t help it; I love the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. There’s something about big old art museums with such a wide range of work: I could wander around for an entire day and be perfectly absorbed. And I can go back anytime, it’s like visiting old friends. Going there brings me to my artistic center.

Washing Away

What was the last exhibit you saw and what were your impressions?
• I was recently in NY City, and went to the Guggenheim. First let me say that the building itself is an inspiring place to be. I’ve never been in building better suited for viewing art. There I saw and exhibit of multi-media paintings by Julie Mehertu that were extremely striking. Her work is so energized and full of subtle layering: Seeing them in person (they are HUGE) was awe-inspiring. I’m a landscape-based artist, and so is she, I suspect, and it is interesting for me to see divergent points of view within the same general genre that I’m working in.

Where do you go online for good art resources, whether to find a new artist, or to see what is going on in the art world locally and otherwise?
Springboard for the Arts and are always good jumping off points. I like to search for random terms in Google Images, and follow artists’ blogs and random trails of thought to all kinds of strange places: You never know what you will stumble upon in the early morning hours. Also, I am addicted to Etsy. I fiend for good craft and design: Color and texture are big inspirations for me.

Do you have any exhibits or any interesting things going on in your life or coming up in the near future?
• I am just ending a three-month, one-woman show at Emmons & Olivier Resources Inc., a local environmental firm. There are quite a few corporations in the Twin Cities area that have their own art collections and art directors, that also sponsor rotating shows for local artists at their offices. This is a great opportunity for artists to sell their work, and for people outside the art community to be exposed to contemporary local artists that they may never otherwise encounter.

Alyssa Wendorff

Links to Artists and Resources:
Alyssa Wendorff ( (Facebook)

1 comment:

Michael McGraw - said...

I love what happens to the paint when it interacts with the salt on the paper. Very cool