Published in The Condition Report, June 2014.
Wendy Loefler is an artist whose main practice is drawing and whose primary interest is landscape. Her work essentially investigates space, however areas of fine detail demonstrate an innate feeling for nature. She travels and camps out in the Australian desert while conducting research for a project and later develops her large works in the studio in Sydney. A trip to Antarctica in 2012 resulted in a series of dramatic panoramic works.
Could you tell us how you came to be a practicing artist?
From a young age I showed an interest art and an aptitude for drawing. I have practiced and studied art in one form or another all my life. I began working full time in 2003, after graduating from the National Art School (B.A.F.A. honours).
Which core ideas inform your work?
My work is a response to the world around me, in particular the natural world.
I am especially intrigued by the power and grandeur of places which could be defined as wilderness and where there is a sense of vast space. I therefore feel an affinity for the tradition of the landscape sublime. Although this kinship is infused with my fears about environmental degradation, my artistic concerns have many connections with the Romantic tradition. My current work is quite realistic, but I do sometimes work in a more abstract way. I try to be true to myself and my intentions.
How important are the materials you work with and how particular are you about these aspects?
My first language is drawing. I love all forms of mark-making. I find willow charcoal to be the most versatile and expressive drawing medium. Sometimes I collect charcoal, at camp sites for example and enjoy using it for its unpredictability, subtle hues and textures.
In general I take great care selecting my materials. I work on paper a lot and select paper for its texture, tone and strength. A good drawing is lost on unsuitable paper. I struggle to find paper for working on with wet media, such as washes, as I like to work large, but wet paper swells and bulges and is very hard to draw on.
For smaller en plein air work I find the most expensive watercolour blocks (e.g. Arches) are the most practical to work on and to transport on bumpy roads.
What materials do you use?
I use charcoal, pencil, pastel, found ochres, pen and ink, watercolour, gouache, oils, acrylics, canvas, board, paper and lots of fixative.
When choosing materials to use do price, brand, quality and range affect your selection?
Yes, I do consider all the above to a certain extent, but when it is really necessary I select the very best for the job, regardless of brand or price. I mix brands without concern. Light-fastness is important.
Do you consider the longevity of your artworks when creating them and making choices about materials and techniques?
Yes, except with drafts, experiments and quick studies.
In your practice do you work on one piece at a time or several?
Do you revisit old works and make changes?
Yes. I’m not good at throwing things out. I’m also determined to solve problems, so I store unresolved works for a later attempt. Perhaps this is a waste of time, as I can end up going round in circles. I realise too that I can’t always remember what processes I used and that the added later work may not be sound or safe from cracking, etc.
How do you document your art practice and body of work?
I keep a visual diary for recording the planning and progress of works, sizes, processes and materials. I write down ideas, goals and brain-storms. The journal is where I express my work-related frustrations and insecurities and clear my head.
I have big plan drawers where I keep numbered folders of large studies and gridded-up drafts for major works, both of completed works as well as proposed works. I make photographic records, but I employ a professional photographer to take photographs of major works. These I keep on disc and back up. I also keep picture and document files on my computer.
If one of your artworks was damaged, would you want to repair it yourself or would you prefer/be happy for a trained conservator to make the needed repairs?
The latter. All my attempts have been a disaster.
Do you know much about conservators and the work they do?
Do you think the knowledge conservators have about materials and techniques could be useful for practicing artists?
How do you think the relationship between artists and conservators could be improved?
What comes to mind is that conservators could improve their profile by advertising and by writing about what they can do to help and advise artists. They have a wealth of knowledge and skills.