Emerging Artists | Wayne McKenzie

Spreading joie de vivre

Wayne McKenzie, Old and New, oil, 11 x 14.

Wayne McKenzie, Old and New, oil, 11 x 14.

This story was featured in the November 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art November 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Whether painting at a hairpin turn along a racecar track in Sonoma, CA, or working from plein-air studies in his studio, Wayne McKenzie views painting as a joyful and exhilarating process. The artist works with unfettered spontaneity, liberated by his own carefree mantra at the easel: “Don’t be afraid. Just paint—paint like a lunatic!” he proclaims. “I’d like viewers to say, ‘It looks like he really enjoyed painting that.’”

In July, the artist garnered two top awards at Telluride Plein Air, and earlier this year, he received second place at the Carmel Art Festival in California. His fearless, happy-go-lucky disposition has proved to be a boon for his fine-art career from the get-go. When he began painting in Telluride, CO, about 10 years ago, he confidently displayed his very first series of paintings in a local café, where they all sold within weeks. At the time, McKenzie worked as a ski instructor, yet painting wasn’t entirely new territory for him. Decades earlier, the native Australian had marveled at the impressionistic works of his grade-school art teacher Ken Knight. He started experimenting with oils independently, periodically consulting Knight for pointers. “I knew this guy was something special,” says McKenzie. “Later, when I got back into art, I found out he’s one of the top impressionist painters in the world.”

Today, Knight’s loose, vibrant style remains one of McKenzie’s greatest influences. As he works, the artist saves self-critique and fine-tuning for the end of his process, painting swiftly with both brushes and palette knives. “I want to see the different ways the paint was applied, scraped, and rubbed on,” he says. “I don’t want a look that’s overmixed and overbrushed. If my painting looks as good as my palette looks, then I did well.”

McKenzie splits his time between Telluride and Lake Tahoe, CA, and he reaps ongoing inspiration from the colors, moods, and rhythms of both regions. Within his oeuvre are portrayals of coastal surf flecked with wading beachgoers; skiers bundled in bright coats, lugging their gear to snowy peaks; traffic coursing through the vermilion towers of Golden Gate Bridge; and sloshing glasses of wine caught in the middle of a festive toast. “A still life is the antithesis of what I seek,” he says. “My subject matter has to be dynamic and joyous.” —Kim Agricola

representation
Elinoff Gallery, Telluride, CO; Lee Youngman Galleries, Calistoga, CA; Nancy Dodds Gallery, Carmel, CA; Main Street Gallery, Park City, UT; Dean Day Gallery, Houston, TX.

This story was featured in the November 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art November 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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