Saturday, April 30, 2011

Not Speaking with William Wernham

Kangaroo (skull), ink pen on 2 pieces of found paper.

Well, actually I speak with him all the time, we live together. This month, although I have a couple of interviews in the works, I was unable to get a finished one for the April 'Speaking with'. So I decided to do things a little differently, instead I am going to tell you a little about the art of William Wernham.

Some of you may also know Bill as my partner. We met during our Visual Art Degree at ECU in a first year Foundation Studies class. There were some drawings that I can only describe as intense stapled to a wall in a seemingly haphazard way (yet it wasn't) to which I exclaimed “Who did these awesome drawings!” and Bill mumbled “Um, I did.”, I said “what are they?”, he replied “it's a car alternator”, and that was about it. Well, the conversation went something along those lines and if you've ever tried to speak with Bill about his art you will also know that speaking about what he makes is not his favourite part about being an artist. Hence, I am “Not Speaking with William Wernham”.

There is few illustrators who can make the inner workings of a car look so extraordinarily interesting to the non-mechanical such as myself. In fact, I was soon to find out, it wasn't that Bill was interested in mechanical things either he just liked to draw things that most people overlook.

Pelican, coffee on 9 A2 pages.

Over the past few years Bill has been drawing a lot birds, often water birds but many other kinds of birds too. He has spent hours in the bird room at the WA Museum drawing the taxidermy birds there. He says he likes to observe the museum visitors too, to see which birds they are attracted to, which ones they spend the longest looking at. He told me that he thinks most locals will spend a lot of time looking at rare or extinct birds whereas tourists aren't as discriminant since they don't have the same familiarity with the common birds and this peaked his interest. Why should the common be any less interesting to look at?

A selection of water birds in coffee on A2 paper.

One of Bill's favourite quotes is from David Lynch talking about looking at a duck as a guide to film-making.
"I sort of go by a duck when I work on a film because if you study a duck, you'll see certain things. You'll see a bill, and the bill is a certain texture and a certain length. Then you'll see a head, and the features on the head are a certain texture and it's a certain shape and it goes into the neck. The texture of the bill for instance is very smooth and it has quite precise detail in it and it reminds you somewhat of the legs. The legs are a little bit bigger and a little more rubbery but it's enough so that your eye goes back and forth. Now, the body being so big, it can be softer and the texture is not so detailed, it's just kind of a cloud. And the key to the whole duck is the eye and where the eye is placed. And it has to be placed in the head and it's the most detailed, and it's like a little jewel. And if it was fixed, sitting on the bill, it would be two things that were too busy, battling, they would not do so well. And if it was sitting in the middle of the body, it would get lost. But it's so perfectly placed to show off a jewel right in the middle of the head like that, next to this S-curve with the bill sitting out in front, but with enough distance so that the eye is very very very well secluded and set out. So when you're working on a film, a lot of times you can get the bill and the legs and the body and everything, but this eye of the duck is a certain scene, this jewel, that if it's there, it's absolutely beautiful. It's just fantastic." David Lynch quotations

Duck, ink pen on A2 paper.

Coot, enamel on 6 A2 pages.

Lynch describes looking at an animal we are all very familiar with, the duck but really seeing the various textures, colours and even the motion your eye will take viewing it's form. The repetitive detail to which Lynch goes into during this quote reminds me of the way that Bill's art functions (especially the ink pen drawings). In fact, I think this quote is a good key to reading Bill's artwork since he encourages us to see the extraordinary hiding in the familiar, sometimes monotonous details around us.

Koala (wallpaper), photocopied ink pen drawing.

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