Just because someone makes art, does that make them an artist?

Wanda in her studio, May 2012

After finishing art school at Emily Carr College of Art and Design in 1992, Wanda moved back to Kelowna and became the manager of Opus Framing and Art Supplies, where she worked for 12 years.  In 2006, Wanda decided to work on being an artist full time and left her job to work in her studio.  Wanda noticed that in the environment of the art supply store, people would call themselves artists all the time, and there was an assumption that you would have some sort of kinship with all artists everywhere. Wanda however did not feel the connection. She did not call herself an “artist”. What does that even mean? This is not to say that what people are making is not creative, or has merit; it’s more to point out that if everyone calls himself or herself an “artist” this dilutes the meaning.  So what is the difference between someone who makes art and an artist? “…it’s not just about painting a picture, it’s more about being intuitive,  and its not that you have to do it full time or anything, but if you are always being creative, you still make time to fit it in even if you are working full time and have other life things to do; that is more what an artist is.” Wanda admits that she does not have all the answers, and this is likely a question that will never be answered, this is just one of the things she thinks about in her studio.

Domestic Chores in Rooms Without Windows (Discarded Furniture in Forgotten Rooms), Oil on Canvas 24X36”, 2012

About 2 years ago, Wanda read an article where the writer talked about artists and how they are self indulgent, and only create work about themselves, and how they are self important– it’s all about me. The article went on to say that art should reflect what is happening in society, and that artists are not looking outside of her personal space. This was a wake up call for Wanda as she does not want her work or her as an artist to be thought of that way. This spurred the current series of drawings she is working on entitled “100 Drawings to Contemplate”. These mixed media drawings are a documentation of what she sees around her, conversations she hears – the humour and sadness of relationships. Each drawing is of a person that she has come in contact with, not necessarily friends or people that she knows well, but people that she has brief encounters with. The drawings are her observations, while she is trying to be distant, and only record what she sees or hears, she admits that what she is drawing is really from her point of view, and therefore is also about her. Which brings us back to the point of the article – artists are self indulgent. “I was paranoid about being self indulgent, I feel that I have come full circle trying to steer away from what the article was saying about artists, and then started doing these drawings which I now realize were also about me.”

Wanda’s studio

Wanda is in a fortunate position to be able to work in her studio almost every day, and works very hard at what she does. Wanda has a few galleries that carry her work, including a couple in Canmore and Edmonton. Over the past few years she has been quite successful in selling her work, and continues to send out proposals to other galleries as well. Wanda is also very cognizant of the fact that having your work in commercial galleries can be tricky in that there are trends, and she is careful to make sure that she is making the work that she wants to make, that she is not being “commercial” with her work. This sometimes translates into not selling work, but she is not willing to compromise her work. Another artist once told her “The worst thing that can happen to an artist is that you sell your work, and then you get a taste for the money.” This can create your creative process to become stunted.

Wanda in her studio, May 2012

Now that Wanda is able to spend more time creating her art, she is able to go further wither, before she only had a limited time to work in her studio, but now she can delve deeper in the subject matter and meaning of the work, “I now have more time to make mistakes and fine tune my work,” says Wanda. Hearing other people talk about their work, Wanda notes that other artists often talk about being inspired, and having fun making their work, this is not something that Wanda can relate to, as she does not work this way. Sometimes working in her studio is hard, sometimes it is sad.  People say that Wanda’s work is whimsical, but often her work is about very dark or sad things. “I use humour as a way to make light of the subject; this creates a way to have a dialogue about the work.”

Apart from working on her own work, Wanda is exploring the idea of working with other female artists on a larger project. Wanda is looking to create a dialogue with the larger public – the idea is to have the artists work printed in a large format, then pasted and layered somewhere in the public – taking it out of a gallery space, and having it in a place so that people can reflect on the work in a different way. Wanda’s hope is that this will bring the work out into the public so a larger demographic will see the work and be able to be apart of it, to respond to the work – people who would not normally go into a gallery space. “I would love to see some graffiti added to the work. If artwork is supposed to be about ‘YOU’, then it should be out there in a public space so ‘YOU’ can reflect on the artwork.”

To find out more about Wanda and her artwork, visit her web site at www.wandalockart.com

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