(Text and photos by Marie-Helene Morell)
“My father was a printer… there is ink somewhere in my bones.” – LW
Lynn Wigginton sees beauty in everything, from sweeping panoramas to the minute details of an antique doorknob. She conveys that beauty to canvas using a practiced eye and hand with breathtaking results, having gained quite a reputation as a serious artist in doing so. Lynn is of the class of artists that somehow manage to take an image and make it more real. Using acrylic and oils to create beautiful landscapes and detailed architectural scenes, there is an intricacy to her work that is reminiscent of print, her first love.
For Lynn, art is as natural and necessary as breathing. Even when her kids were small (I know what that’s like!) she says she still tried to make time to draw or paint every day, even if it was just for five minutes. They say practice makes perfect and those minutes and hours of dedication have added up over the years to yield the consistent quality of work Lynn has and continues to produce. She is the epitome of a professional artist, both in work ethic and in aesthetic quality.
I met Lynn the day of my visit with Suzanne Hill. Their studios are on the same floor and Suzanne just walked me down the hall and introduced me to her saying “you two should talk!” I’m finding this is the best way to meet someone new, much preferred over a cold call! Lynn is a gentle soul, very down-to-earth and easy to talk to. Since we met it seems like her name just keeps popping up! A few weeks later I came across a tome at my in-laws’ cottage called “On earth as it is in heaven”, by Gregg Finley and illustrated by Lynn Wigginton; I recently saw a beautiful piece of hers depicting the Reversing Falls bridge at the Museum, and in September she was nominated for an Original in the visual arts category, which is no small feat!. She also painted the well-known “Doors of Saint John” and the lesser-known but still lovely “Windows of Saint John”. The windows were less popular than the doors for some reason. “I figure people didn’t like feeling like they were looking into someone else’s home”, said Lynn. Fair enough, but I was happy to get my hands on a print of said windows.
I returned to have a real sit-down chat with Lynn, and it was like meeting an old friend. We talked easily and freely and I walked around her small studio and took photos and asked questions. She pulled out her knitting to show me what she was working on (a Christmas gift, shhh don’t tell!) It was in Lynn’s studio that I realized just how much the colours found in an artist’s workspace really express their identity. All the colours in Lynn’s studio are found in her paintings. Of course in the paint itself, but also the walls and the furniture! Even her work apron manages to capture the essence of the artistic process and the history of what she has been working on. It just goes to show that if you really want to know an artist, visit their studio. You will get a visual representation of who they are, and hear the voice behind the hands that make the art.
How did you become an artist?
I’m not sure how it happened, it just did. My paternal grandfather always carried a sketchbook
with him so I was quite accustomed to him taking out his book from his shirt pocket and a pencil
and sketching whatever caught his interest. I also had a spinster maternal great aunt who would
visit us from time to time with her canvases, oil paints and an easel that she would set up in our
sunroom. Both my grandfather and my aunt made me realize the production of images was
something that was perfectly acceptable to do. As a young child I saw the magic of images being created, and I wanted to do it too.
I graduated from Mount Allison University in 1970 with a degree in printmaking. I’ve gone from print to drawing to painting, it’s been a bit of an evolution. I started using oil and thought “this is exciting, this is fun!” Recently I’ve started doing printmaking again, so I’ve come full circle.
Describe the process from the idea to the finished work:
Sometimes an idea for a painting will be with me for several years while I try to figure out the
size and composition of the work. Other times I will be excited about an image and can hardly wait to get the paint on the canvas. Usually I have several pieces “on the go” at the same time, often of varying sizes. That way, when I hit a wall with one piece I can set it aside and work on another piece and have time to work out in my mind the solution to the first piece. Sometimes the solution will take weeks, even months, to become apparent to me.
Like most artists, I work out a rough sketch, or sketches, of what I intend to do. Then I transfer the sketches to the painting surface and do an underpainting. Because I worked for many years solely in acrylic, I find this the easiest medium to work in for the underpainting. Its only in the last 10 years that I have started painting with oils. I am always amazed at the depth of tone and colour that I can achieve with oils and they really are “the icing on the cake”. I can achieve so much more depth with oils than I ever could with acrylic paints.
How has your work changed over the years?
When I studied fine arts at Mount Allison University I majored in printmaking. I was drawn to
the fact that with a print you could make multiple copies of an image. At university I did not enjoy painting. In fact I dropped painting as an area of study as soon as I could. However, after graduation from university it soon became very apparent that having access to printmaking facilities was not easy. Nor was it wise with a young family to be working with the caustic acids and chemicals that were a part of the printmaking processes 40 + years ago. That was when, in desperation, I took up my paint brushes. I very much wanted to continue to produce images, but it was obvious that I was going to have to use a different medium to do so. I feel my work has evolved over the years, as it should. I see my work as a constant exploration of the medium that I’m working in, as well as the values that I hold important in my work – the sense of space and depth, the sense of history and time that go hand in hand with the subject matter that I select. One constantly needs to question what you are doing, and why. If not, then the work becomes stale, without any energy.
How have the events in your life shaped who you are as an artist?
I think the accumulation of all your life’s events, big and small, make you into the person you are, regardless of what you do. Of course there are pivotal events that shape you more than other others: Living in an isolated Newfoundland outport for 2 years has certainly coloured my outlook on the world. There was a population of 250 people, we had no running water, no phones, access only by boat… We were very close to nature! It was a pivotal event in our lives and since then we don’t take anything for granted. In terms of my art, the ongoing support and encouragement of family, friends and the community, locally and beyond, has been essential not only to the production of my work but it has pushed me to constantly reevaluate and question my work. I believe this symbiotic relationship has been invaluable to me as an artist.
What does your studio space mean to you?
My studio is my “office” and my “refuge”. It is here that I can work on my art, make mistakes,
make a mess (which I do!), and no one needs to know about what I’m doing unless I open my door and invite you in. For many years I worked in a designated space in my home and that was fine, and even now I will do some work at home, like sketch and paint the first layer. Having a space distinctly separate from all the domestic issues that everyone needs to deal with is a great privilege and one that I truly treasure. This space is mine. I am somewhat of a workaholic but my husband helps me keep a balance. My son used to share my studio and he would bring his weird funky music… I miss that.
How do you see yourself navigating the art world?
Like many artists, I work mainly in isolation. Living in Saint John, New Brunswick I am far removed from the art that is happening in the major art centres. The internet has truly opened doors for artists, allowing us to be aware and informed of ideas and practices everywhere. As an artist it is possible to pick and choose your path and for young artists beginning their careers “the world is their oyster”. I will continue to work as I have in my studio, head down, and do what I have done for over 40 years now, to the very best of my abilities.
You paint many beautiful nature scenes. Can you tell me about where the inspiration for this comes from, what you are trying to convey?
I have always tried to convey in my art a sense of depth and space using tone, colour, line and texture. This is obvious in my architectural studies, but is equally important in my landscapes. As well, there is an historical element to my work, again clearly indicated in my architectural studies. If you delve into the history of the landscapes I portray, what appeals to me is not just the visual impact – the composition, the colour, the light and texture but also the “story” history – behind a particular place. Which raises the inevitable questions : “ What will this place be like 10, 20, or even 100 years from now? What is our commitment to this place as it exists now?”
What is your greatest joy?
I just love coming here and painting. Being here and doing that is my greatest joy. For so many years I dreamed of having a studio, now I am living my dream.
Thanks for the lovely visit Lynn!
Find out more information about Lynn on her CreatedHere bio page
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