In this interview with artist Wendy Cotton, we learn more about her creative journey over the past twenty years, her experience with maintaining the intrinsic joy in creating art, and more.
Read on to hear about Cotton’s practice, and be sure to visit her at the 2023 Open Studios event happening April 29 & 30. You can find her at Judith Road Studio at 45 Judith Road in Newton Center.
Tell us about your work and your process. What do you make and how do you make it?
About 20 years ago I began my creative journey. I told myself, “If not now, when?” I took a deep breath and signed up for a beginner’s painting class at Newton North High School and it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the process. I continued taking classes in various mediums and venues. I changed my dining room into my studio and began to passionately explore a new world of art and creativity.
I’ve always loved and appreciated all forms of art but never formally studied. I am a self-taught artist, and I am often inspired by the work of others. My favorites include Henri Matisse, Jane Davies, Romare Bearden, Cordula Kagemann, Andrew Steinbrecher, Lissa Hunter, Andy Goldsworthy, Anne Moore, and Cynthia Packard. Being part of the Newton art community has also encouraged me on my journey as an artist. I find I am constantly learning new ideas and techniques as I enjoy the work of others.
Tell us about how your journey as an artist started. What is your background and what inspired you to commit yourself to a creative practice?
While working intuitively, I become aware of powerful emotions, and I wish to share these sensations with others. In my constant search to express myself without words, I seek to elicit a sense of quiet reflections and vibrant playfulness. I build layers by adding textures, markings, and papers, creating a sense of depth that awakens curiosity, inviting viewers to respond and engage with my creative process. I add to my creations my long fascination for colors, patterns, and details that continue to inform and enlighten me through my work, which includes painting, printing, and collage.
Using acrylic paint and a gelatin plate I create unique prints that are either colorful and energetic or muted and serene. For my more vibrant work I begin my process by making prints with many layers of various colors and patterns. I then determine, as a quilter does, which pieces work together and how best to arrange them for a successful composition. For my monoprints I use one sheet of paper, work at a much slower pace and am more deliberate in my choice of colors and markings. The print must succeed on its own and not depend on added embellishments. It is treated as a painting.
Tell us more about how your practice has evolved. What are some creative accomplishments you are proud of or milestones you have reached along your way?
My first milestone was in 2005 when I first participated in Newton Open Studios. I set up my work with very low expectations and little confidence. To my amazement, a woman approached me to purchase one of my works. My knees literally started to shake. This was the first time I felt validated as an artist. It was a remarkable moment that has stayed with me. However, this led me to painting with a motivation to sell and I began to lose the intrinsic joy in creating art. It’s taken many years and exploration to reach a point where I create my work for the sheer pleasure of expressing myself without the concern about judgment or praise.
Tell us about your creative community. Are there any friends, collaborators, teachers, patrons, or organizations who have supported you along the way?
I had a fabulous teacher, Pat Mattina, who is both an artist and creative process consultant. Her teaching was a multisensory approach that helped me bring passion and emotion to my work. An informal community of artists offered support and encouragement as well as life long friendship. Participation in Newton Open Studios has given me a platform for sharing my art. I find it a privilege to have known so many wonderful artists and teachers over the years.
Describe a particularly significant artwork you have created. Why was that piece significant to you and how did it impact your art making practice?
After painting on canvas for many years I began exploring different mediums for creating art. I was searching for ways to find “Beginner’s Mind” again in order to capture the joy I felt when I painted. I dusted off an old gelatin plate that I had learned how to use in a workshop years before. Suddenly I realized hours had gone by and I was in a powerful creative zone. The work I created that day may not have been my best but it started me on a path of developing my own style. The element of surprise and delight I continually feel when pulling a print off the plate is undeniable.
What’s next for you and your artwork? What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Printmaking and collaging continues to captivate me and I know I still have more to learn and explore. I want to get more experience with monoprinting and making collages with a more minimalist type of composition. I look forward to seeing where my creative journey takes me.
Casey Curry is a writer and curator guided by the belief that the transformation our world so desperately needs can only come from deep cultural shifts sparked by visionary artists who make fundamental change irresistible. Her research is rooted in thinking creatively about arts administration to uncover what is possible when visionary artists are not just supported by administrative allies, but truly understood and valued by co-creators with complimentary skills that level bureaucratic barriers to societal impact through art.