“Out of Africa”: artwork by Wendy Gordon

Wendy writes: To me this artwork is still very rough and unfinished. But l can see the potential. Everyone else loves it. At first I questioned whether I could even do the artwork, but I just took it one small step as a time.

This article begins with an apology.

I owe Wendy Gordon an apology. When she attended my 2 week course in Auckland years ago, and really struggled to learn the rendering systems, I think I just dismissed her as a “little old lady that would never continue on and bring the skills that I teach, to life”. Boy was I wrong, and boy did I miss judge the situation. Wendy reinforced the very valuable lesson – to not be too quick to judge a person . . . and always keep an open mind about what any person is capable of. I am sorry Wendy. You consistently impress me!

This is a short article about a person, rather than an artwork. The story is about Wendy Gordon. Wendy lives on Waiheke Island off the coast of Auckland in New Zealand.

I worked on Fabbriano 630gsm water colour cotton paper. I don’t use any adhesive stencils. All masking is done with pieces of paper that I hand cut on the spot. I use the Airbrush Supply Network “O” and “T” inks.

Getting to class meant taking a ferry to a car on the mainland and then driving across Auckland to class. Wendy is a quietly determined person about the things that matter to her.

What I didn’t know at the time is that Wendy has Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. Most of you will have heard of Dyslexia, but Dyspraxia is not a well known condition. I am not going to explain the condition here, but it makes creating artworks significantly harder. Think of how hard you had to work at your airbrushing to become good . . . imagine having Dyslexia and Dyspraxia?

After the line drawing, I start with light airbrushing to get the base shapes and tones, and then I work with pencil, and erasing, and maybe some brush work . . . and then cycle through the process. With each cycle of layers, I add more and more detail.

Wendy writes . . . “so it takes me quite a bit of work to manage an airbrush and many corrections to get where I’m going. I don’t like to be bound by labels . . . but it does mean extra challenges. Every artwork is a long slow process for me and there is always a deep sense of being unsure about my ability to do an artwork properly.”

Q: Tell us about the artwork?

A neighbour had an Out of Africa party on her property to which we were invited. This is the sort of party that guests come by helicopter; a grand event.

The African woman was on the cover our invitation booklet & also on our coffee table gift book we received as a record of the party. I loved the photo & decided to see if I could paint it. Probably the most complex piece I’ve tackled. I’m pleased I made the decision to paint it and persevered.

There’s a fair bit of airbrushing gone into it, but also a lot of black & white pencil work and a wee bit of brush work. I like to use pencil with my airbrushing; it has become my default process.

Thank you Wendy for letting me write about you and your art.

You will see more articles about her work in coming years.

If you would like to see more of her wonderful artworks click here.

Written by Tony Vowles