I made the acquaintence of Wendy Hultquist during the pre-tour for the artists participating in the Long Beach Open Studio Tour. That pre-tour takes place the weekend prior to the actual tour, to give us artists the opportunity to see each other’s work and work spaces.
In her work, it was exciting to see the Impressionist style applied to various familiar, local scenes. My particular favorite of hers is the one she did of El Dorado Park, which we featured on the front page this week.
After a childhood in England, Hultquist moved to France and then the US. She experimented with various art forms as hobbies while she raised her family and pursued a career as a registered nurse. It was upon her move to California in 1990 that she found “the brilliant light an invitation to oil painting,” which has since become her passion.
Hultquist has lived in Long Beach since 2000, and it is here and in the South Bay in general that she uncovers her subjects, which she says include scenes that others might pass without a second glance– ones not generally experienced as “spectacular” but which she enjoys highlighting for others.
Her body of work includes the Trying to be a River series, through which she hopes that, by illustrating portions of the LA River that still bear some passing resemblance to their former natural state, she can lend support to the movement to return it to “an appealing community resource instead of a barren channel of concrete.”
Though, she says, the clock cannot be turned back, she hopes to engender preservation of what she calls the “many treasures, natural and man-made, that remain of our Southern California legacy.”
In 100 words or less, what you do as an artist?
I am principally an oil painter, although I sometimes venture into acrylics, watercolor, or pen and ink with watercolor. Landscapes are my favorite subject, but I also enjoy painting portraits of people and animals. My art education comes from over 20 years of serious study, including numerous classes and workshops and voluminous reading. I would describe my style as impressionistic realism.
What motivates you to create art?
I am profoundly excited by the beauty I see in my surroundings wherever I go. I seek to preserve the images stored in my mind’s eye so that others can experience them.
How has your practice changed over time?
When I first took up oils over 20 years ago, I was a very tight painter. Since then my style has evolved to a looser one often incorporating palette-knife technique.
Do you ever get artist’s block? If so, how do you combat it?
I have to say I never seem to have difficulty getting inspiration for paintings. In fact, I always have a backlog of subjects which would take several lifetimes to complete. I do sometimes encounter a sticking point partway in the course of a painting when I am unsure how to proceed. Rather than beating my head against the wall, I set it aside and move on to another. Invariably my subconscious will eventually provide me with a solution as to how to complete the work.
What do you think your life would be like if, for some reason, you could no longer create art?
If I could not create art, it would be as if a part of me had died. It has been an integral part of my existence in some form since I can remember. No doubt I would try to continue enjoying the other aspects of life that I do now, but my sense of purpose and joy would never again be complete.
What role does the artist have in society?
Art is a way to communicate ideas, feelings and reactions to life and the world we live in in a form that transcends language. While social commentary has not been a prominent part of my own work (beyond an encouragement to recognize and preserve natural beauty), I respect the power of the message sent by those artists who do.
How do you feel when people ask you to explain the meaning of your art?
Because my art is representational, viewers do not have difficulty understanding it. They more often fail to grasp the value of interpreting reality in such a time-consuming way rather than, say, purchasing a mass-produced version or taking a photograph.
Have you ever been banned or censored to any degree as an artist? If so, how did you react? If not, how do you think you would react in that situation?
I have never been censored as my subject matter is typically non-controversial. However, I have been warned, particularly when exhibiting in a municipally sponsored venue, not to include nudes. It does bother me that depictions of the beauty of the human figure can be considered inappropriate.
Does your artistic life ever get lonely? If so, what do you do to counteract it?
Actually my life is so busy that my more frequent complaint would be not getting enough alone time to focus on my art. I do enjoy going to a painting group to be stimulated by the work and input of other artists.
What do you hope to achieve with your art?
I want to leave a tangible record of the pleasure I have experienced viewing the world so that others can continue to share my vision. Particularly, the landscape of California with its vibrant colors and dynamic forms, after a life spent in cooler, greener climes, has compelled me, from my first glimpse of it over 20 years ago, to depict it in oil paint.
What are one or two primary areas of fear for you as an artist?
Beyond my answer to your fifth question, my biggest fear is being close to the completion of a work with which I am very happy and have it destroyed by some accident. I once ran over a successful plein aire painting which I had forgotten I had leaned against the wheel of my car. Fortunately, in this instance, I was able to paint out the tire marks!
What are one or two factors that, when they’re in place, enable you to really flourish artistically?
1. Adequate sleep. I need to be well rested to be at the peak of my creative form.
2. Personal peace. It’s hard to paint well when in the midst of a stressful life situation. (I guess my answer to this question affirms why I would not have been suited to commercial art!)
What jobs have you had other than being an artist?
Though I have sold a fair number of paintings, I have never supported myself with my art. I paint for the pleasure of it. I had a career as a registered nurse for many years until my recent retirement. Art nourished the right side of my brain.
What’s your favorite color?
I love color– all colors, with the possible exception of brown. Though I mostly stay with the same palette of colors, I enjoy experimenting with new hues I encounter and will incorporate them into my palette temporarily or permanently. My current favorite is Shiva Citron Green.
To view more of Hultquist’s work, visit wendyhultquist.com .