Up and Coming Artist: Wanda Pépin, Nature Lover and Artist Mentor
Forget everything you know about nature paintings and landscape scenes. A rising artist named, Wanda Pépin is breaking the mold and enjoying more than moderate success with nothing more than a canvas and a palette knife. Internationally collected, her pieces reside in private galleries from Cyprus to Australia. And with a mere five years as a professional artist, the world is only beginning to see the influence of her work among her peers.
To the casual observer, natural art tends to be relegated to novices, and people with a paint brush and a Bob Ross DVD. Painting professionally for 5 years, Wanda’s work surpasses this in the way that a Gauguin makes a kindergarten finger-painting look elementary. It would be a sin to think of Ms. Pépin as anything less than the next incarnation of the impressionists that the world has come to know so well.
Looking extensively at her work, it brings to mind the lines of the Robert Frost poem “Birches”. In that poem, Frost opens with lines on paper that Pépin has put on canvas, “When I see birches bend to left and right across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them. But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay.” These are the images that one gets from Pépin’s Autumn Collection.
In one of her more striking examples, Wanda has painted the side of a hill in the woods. What makes the vision itself striking is that she has captured the illusion of standing at the bottom of the knoll, looking up at the trees. You don’t so much see the picture as you feel as though are getting ready to climb that hill. Her use of perspective is phenomenal and her ability to capture the moment unprecedented.
Perhaps it is fitting that such beauty can be attributed to her surroundings. Wanda works out of her studio in Southern Oregon. Much of her work is a direct corollary to the world around her. It is obviously a result of her artistic philosophy. Her website says, “Nature is the greatest artist there is. My favorite thing to do is to spend time surrounded by nature, soak it in & let it inspire me.” This is completely apparent in a piece that was recently for sale on her blog called The Wave. Inspired by a Christmas trip to Southern Utah, Pépin utilizes impressionism and modern abstract styles to create an image that almost sets one among the mesas. It is a depiction of a “slickrock” and the use of color and texture allows one to become completely lost in “the wave” itself. Another piece from the same trip called “Slot Canyon Light” uses similar texture to create the three dimensional illusion that you are actually standing in the opening of a canyon and perhaps preparing for an adventure of unknown origins.
Throughout her collection of work, the textures and dimensions set off her art on a grand scale. This is particularly true in her piece, “Autumn Row”. The texture in the bark and the brilliant foliage depicted are utterly amazing, but the dimensions are truly what make this piece rise above so many, even in her own body of work. In Autumn Row, one views the base of the forest at an angle. The woods slope away from the viewer, widening into an expanse that is covered with the beauty of autumn waning away. Once again, the eyes are drawn into the painting as if you were transported to that day standing in the forest next to Wanda as she captures the wonders of nature’s life cycle.
It is for this reason, among others, that Wanda has been transformed from artist to being a mentor herself. Recently, students of the Chadderton School near Manchester, England have taken to studying Ms. Pépin’s work and using it as a stepping stone to their own creative careers. According to their teacher, “We are in the early stages of the theme, pupil’s homework was to research and find information about you and your work. The course requires pupils to have a very strong understanding of context and this must be shown through their final outcomes. I have been speaking to our IT specialist and it may be possible to connect you to our internet study centre named ‘study wiz’ (this is new to us this year), that would allow discussion groups to be formed, which would be fantastic! We would love to have some form of contact with you in that way, also you would be able to view pupils work and their personal responses. We would appreciate any input you are willing to give. At the moment pupils are studying primary and secondary sources, they will then explore media and study your techniques, we are hoping to combine the nature that has inspired them with some of your techniques. All pupils have a personal response, we believe very strongly in the individual as an artist, therefore some may even branch into weaving, or 3D or creative textiles. Their personal journey is important to us and vital in their development as artists.”
This study speaks volumes about Wanda and her work. It is easy to categorize many artists and compare their styles to their mentors and teachers. Fortunately for the art world, Wanda Pépin describes herself as a self taught artist who learned through doing it. Even through the trained eye, one can see that she has many influences that affect the imagery that she brings to the world. Though she has an extensive background in graphic design and marketing, her work is anything but corporate.
There is an excerpt from a newspaper article that seems to fit Wanda as well as any description available based simply on her work. The Blossom Valley Times wrote, “Early morning finds her standing before her easel, painting a leaf she found along a path, using the natural light. The walls of her home are alive with colorful blossoms, branches, fall foliage, and texture. She even surrounded her fiery maple and oak leaf canvases with small spackled leaves embossed directly on the wall.” Judging from the art that she has given to the world over her years in the studio, it only naturally comes from a setting like this. The world can only hope to see much more from her palette knife in years to come. For more information on Wanda, or to purchase one of her pieces log on to www.wandawonders.com
Written by Wendy Innes