An interview with WENDY MASTERS

By Sue Wild

Wendy Masters is a painter, potter and sculptor bursting with energy for her art. She has enjoyed and gained much from working for several art groups in the region. Sue Wild talked to her in her home on the Kapiti Coast.


Wendy Masters is competent in a range of media. People are often taken by surprise. Someone who has come to love Wendy’s textured clay figures might be amazed to find an equally delightful sculpture in bronze of a tree set on a Coromandel stone, or a sparkling painting in watercolour. Her blue eyes twinkle as she describes her passion: ‘When I see beauty – often in simple everyday things – I think how shall I create this? What medium will I choose? I like all the painting mediums for their own characteristics, but watercolour most of all. Before starting I decide which to use and how I will go about it. To limit myself to one medium or style would be like cooking the same recipe every day. It is interesting and exciting to see how each work develops.” She paints to express herself. Wendy feels her wide range may confuse. People may wonder which is the real Wendy Masters. But, she asks, why should anybody use just one style? A buyer should be purchasing because they love the work, not for the artist’s name.


A foundation student of the new school of design at Wellington Polytechnic in 1959, Wendy spent one year gaining the New Zealand Fine Arts Preliminary Exam, then three years working for a Diploma in Graphic Design, continuing with the traditional Fine Arts subjects as well. She gained a solid training in drawing and composition and an understanding of tone and colour.

During these years she had drawings accepted for the New Zealand School Journal and for a book of dress patterns by Nancy King. Interestingly, among other jobs in the Auckland world of graphic design Wendy drew diagrams for the heart surgeons at Green Lane Hospital.


In the 1970s Wendy moved with her husband and two children to the Kapiti coast and joined the infant Kapiti Arts and Crafts Society. Already a keen painter, Wendy wanted to make some domestic pottery for her new house and learned to use clay at Kapiti College night classes, at workshops organised by Wellington Potters Association and at Kapiti Arts and Crafts Society. She was eventually producing enough work to sell and exhibit at several craft shops and galleries around the country, often as the invited special guest exhibitor.

In the 1990s Wendy turned her focus from thrown pots to clay sculptures, mixing pumice sands from the local beach with clay to give a textured effect. Her energetic output included a variety of media and she contributed to three or four exhibitions each year. 1n 1996, 2001 and 2007 she was among an elite group of New Zealand watercolourists who participated in the International Watercolour Biennial Exhibition in Mexico. She became a popular tutor, taking workshops for Watercolour New Zealand and other groups. She was one of 30 artists selected for the book “New Zealand in Watercolour” by Denis Robinson.

Over the years Wendy has given time and energy to the societies that have supported her ventures, especially the Kapiti Arts and Crafts Society, the New Zealand Society of Potters, the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts and Watercolour New Zealand.


Wendy was inspired by Tui McLauchlan’s watercolours – free, mysterious, with beautiful colours and sensitive lines. She has always loved the work of Raoul Dufy who spread a wash of unifying colour and then painted and drew into it. But she deliberately avoided being taught how to use watercolour. With a solid knowledge of drawing and composition, she was able to experiment and develop in her own way. She is still doing that.

Wendy has a number of favourite locations from which to paint the view toward Kapiti Island, perhaps from the hills or across an estuary. These are spots where the foreground offers interesting shapes and lines.

She already knows the view will make a good painting and that the scene will be fresh with differing weather, time of year or time of day. She uses a view-finder, often made with her fingers, to identify content and composition.

“You need to move around, move the view-finder in and out until you have the right composition.” Then she looks for a long time. “I psyche myself into it.” She looks for the shapes, the lines, how they intersect, where they enter and leave the composition, the tones, how the shadows run. She needs to know all this before she starts. And line is a characteristic of Wendy’s watercolours.

Sometimes she draws before painting, sometimes after; she might use fine pen, oil pastel, wax crayon, conté or a brush with Indian ink. Often the lines are a drawn as a part of the painting design in their own right; not to be coloured to. “All my works develop individually - like children!”

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