Interview with Lauren Wilhelm and Chris Spiker

With just a few days until the 2018 edition of Margaret River Region Open Studios commences, the house (now temporarily “studio-gallery”!) is in complete disarray, a few pieces are laying around in various stages of “finished-ness” and big black bags are trying to take over my eyes!  

In dire need of a break, I’ve decided to sit down with a cuppa and reflect on how I got to this terrifying yet exciting point!

For four years now, I’ve been visiting artists during Open Studios, feeding off their passion and creativity as mine developed, learning from their methods, their tools and their ideas whilst trying to form my own.

A few of those artists I have come to love and respect, not only as creators of magnificent art, but also as people.   The following is a short interview with two of those incredibly creative humans - Chris Spiker and Lauren Wilhelm - talking about their own painting and Open Studios experiences.

What inspired you to start painting?

CS: I simply painted from childhood as many children do and dabbled over the years as an adult. I became interested in bird painting at a young age also but never really developed the skills until much later in life.

LW: I have always painted a bit but I found myself very inspired by an Australian abstract artist on a trip to Bali around 18 years ago, and I came back dying to paint. Gradually the painting took over from my graphic design company and I began to take on fewer clients. 

What interesting techniques/materials are you experimenting with at the moment?

CS: Not really experimenting at the moment just developing existing skills more.

LW: I’m interested in painting on different surfaces and seeing how the paint acts with the various grounds. I’m also experimenting with different mediums and brands of oil paint.

If you could choose to spend a day learning from a past/present/future famous artist, who would it be?

CS: Probably Andrew Wyeth the American artist. I love his work for the diversity of textures, mediums, detailing and compositions.

LW: There’s too many to list! Konstantin Bessmertny is someone I’d love to hear speak and watch work.

What does Open Studios mean to you?

CS: Firstly: A profoundly privileged opportunity to share art work. And secondly: it means a lot of very hard work and significant risk. Hard work because Open Studios is about sharing your space with visitors who have possibly travelled a long way or spent a lot of time to see your work and they deserve to see a significant range of (new) paintings in your studio at a consistently high standard, and risky because there is an investment of time, emotion and money which may or may not deliver a satisfying return.

LW: It’s a great way to interact directly with the viewers and buyers, in a way that the galleries don’t allow. It’s quite
enjoyable, once I get warmed up after the first few days, to talk about art with people and hear their impressions. It’s fun, to be honest. 

Follow Chris Spiker on facebook, visit his website or visit him at his home studio in Margaret River during this year’s Open Studios.

Lauren Wilhelm’s website has a great selection of past and present works or visit her “shed” studio at north of Cowaramup over 2018 Open Studios.

The Making of…

Over the years, by visiting artists in their studios and participating in classes, I’ve come to realise that every artist has their own individual process.

Some artists study their subject in detail prior to putting pencil to paper (or paintbrush to canvas) sketching copious drafts.  Others simply start drawing without too much thought, others again simply pull out a large brush and give the entire canvas a background wash.  I’ve seen artists that draw detailed ruler lines for perfect perspective and others collect materials and systematically store them for use in this or that!

The one thing I’ve taken away from all this is that there are no specific rules to follow.

Here’s a bit of insight into my way of doing things…

You can see the final product here.

To see all this in person, make sure you visit me at my home studio between 28 April and 13 May as part of Margaret River Region Open Studios!

Inspiration and Influence

It’s almost perennially windy in Margaret River!  That’s one of the reasons I’ve never really taken up en plein air painting since I’ve been here.  Instead I prefer to take photos wherever I go, of everything and anything, then use them as “spunti”; ideas for my paintings.

I have a massive archive… way too many external hard drives… full of images that date back to before I even owned a decent camera!  They’re a comprehensive history of my life and include copious sunsets and sunrises, rain, snow, magnificent trees, forests and bushland, flowers of all shapes and sizes, equally diverse animals - both two legged and otherwise (funnily enough, I don’t have many snake or shark photos in my archive!!), people wandering down the path walking their dogs/kids/bikes, people talking, eating, drinking, arguing, playing, musicians as they practice their tunes, performance artists as they act, sing, jump and dance… 

One of these days, I’ll get to cataloguing them all, and perhaps one day I’ll even print some!  But right now, they’re my biggest inspiration and influence in my paintings.

I take photos of photos too… from magazines and billboards or even simply scrolling through facebook.  It might be a pose, or a composition, or even just a colour combination.  Anything that catches my attention could end up in a painting somehow, some time!

So next time you see me with my camera in hand, make sure you “strike a pose” or wear something completely outlandish, and you might end up being the inspiration for my next work of art! 

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