This is an interview with Wayne Malkin. He’s not only a renowned seascape painter but also a co-owner of the Montville Art Gallery in Queensland, Australia. I’ve been visiting this gallery since I was a child alongside my parents and now as a parent myself with Elora. With each visit, I’m reminded of how many great artists there are in the world. I’m pleased to have Wayne answer a few questions about his art, his life as an artist and as a gallery owner, and how he goes about balancing it all.
(Before diving into this post, make sure to download a free copy of my Beginner's Guide to Painting.)
Q: How did your passion for art begin, and who or what were your earliest influences?
I started drawing at an early school age and found that I could express myself and reproduce what I saw fairly easily, which I think is a typical start for most artists. As I got into my teens I started to be transfixed by the skills of the English watercolourists, then the French Impressionists.
Q: How has your artistic style evolved over the years?
As my interest in the art world developed, my tastes and interest changed and matured, and whilst the impressionists still had a hold of me the historical developments which followed them in art became a fascination. So with my own art, I started out copying what I saw in watercolour, and then changing to oils, and began to explore the various stylistic interpretation of whatever I painted. At various times trying out most of the ‘isms’, pointillism, fauvism etc, eventually clearing from my head any stylistic interpretations and painting without any of that baggage. What emerged was a brush handling and colour mixing method which became my own ‘style’.
Q: What themes or subjects do you find most captivating, and why do you feel drawn to them?
Water is a very common theme. I am drawn to painting water by its endless variety of colours, reflections, movement, and translucency. I never become bored with painting water.
Q: Which of your works holds the most personal significance, and can you share the story behind it?
The paintings which have the most significance to me have been the breakthrough paintings which may not appear significant or exceptional to the viewer, but to me represent a revelation in the way my technique changes or colour mixing improves or brushwork handling improves. Just the tiniest experimental changes can open up a whole new level of quality in my painting results. Of course, the vast majority of experiments fail miserably, but it is always worth taking risks in painting.
Q: I understand you and your wife Tracey own and operate the Montville Art Gallery. What prompted you to get into the gallery business?
We had started and run a previously successful business for seventeen years, and were looking for a new challenge when Montville Art Gallery became available. The previous owner had run it for 27 years and we could see a huge opportunity. So we took it. We had a business and art background so we just combined what we already knew. Tracey is an outstanding administrator and I had art and marketing skills.
Q: How have you balanced your time between the gallery, your own work as an artist, and your personal life?
We have wonderful staff who help with days when we are not scheduled to be in the gallery. On our days off we often do some work for the gallery such as visits to the framer and deliveries/in-home viewings etc. but it never feels like hard work. I also find time to paint at least once a day. It’s like playing the piano, regular practice keeps you sharp.
Q: Can you broadly explain your painting process from idea to finished painting?
My choice of subject is based on identifying an atmospheric or colour effects, and the whole painting is built around that feature. It may be light through a wave, fog effect, shadow/sunlight combinations, or reflections. I never use drawing as the starting point of a painting, but working in oils, I block out an underpainting identifying the values (darks and lights). Then over the next ten weeks or so gradually add more layers putting in the detailed elements and fine brushwork last. I normally have four or five paintings underway at any one time at different stages of completion.
Q: Have you seen any interesting art trends as a gallery owner over recent years?
Over recent years there has been a trend for artists to exhibit and sell their art online which has led to a reduction in the number of physical galleries. However, this trend also means that the quality of art in the remaining galleries is better than ever, and the experience of seeing real art in person is a completely different experience to screen versions. This is why the big blockbuster exhibitions at the major public galleries are so well attended.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring artists who are just starting their journey?
There are three rules in my book that aspiring artists should follow, practice, practice and more practice. There are other tips of course. Read as much as possible about art, mix with other artists, try and achieve the very best quality, and don’t let anything leave your studio you are not proud to have produced and don’t be afraid to take risks.
Q: How do you stay inspired and motivated to continue creating and evolving as an artist?
Sometimes it can be a bit of a curse, but being an artist means you are always viewing everything you see as a possible subject. Consequently, I always have more painting ideas in my head than I have time to paint.
Q: How do you approach the business side of art (in relation to your own professional art career) and what challenges have you faced in this aspect of your career?
Art for a professional artist is always a balance between what you would like to paint and what sells. If the two are in sync, well, happy days. The constant challenge for artists is to continue doing what you love, along with the need to sell in order to continue doing exactly that. Sometimes there is the need to try something artistically new and I find that useful as when you return to your core practice it gives a fresh perspective. Trying a new medium like printmaking or sculpture can only strengthen your outlook.
Q: Looking back on your career so far, what achievements are you most proud of, and what do you hope to accomplish in the future as an artist?
I don’t really like looking back at any achievements and rarely list them, only when necessary. I’m not a fan of artist statements and prefer to let my art stand on its own merit. I’m asked from time to time what the best painting is I’ve ever painted. The answer is always the same. It’s the next one of course.
Q: Are you working on anything now?
I’m working on a number of smaller Sunshine Coast coastal scenes right now, developed from plein air works. I’m using a mixture of brushwork and palette knife techniques which gives me a pleasing loose finish. I also have large rainforest and surf canvasses in progress.
Q: Where can we follow you and your work?
Thanks for Reading!
I appreciate you taking the time to read this post. And thanks Wayne for doing this interview. It has been a pleasure to read your thoughts about art and your life as a gallery owner. What a dream lifestyle!
Draw Paint Academy