Spotlight on Painter Wendy Rouse


You don’t have to be an artist to appreciate. So if you’re ever looking for a form of cheap entertainment that will reward you for as long as you live, I recommend going inside some of the local art galleries from time to time. See what’s new. See what strikes your fancy. There are a number of places in Canal Park and downtown that are easily accessible.

It seems like several years ago that I first noticed Wendy Rouse’s work at Lizzards Gallery and Framing on Superior Street. Whenever I see things I like, I ask, “Who did that?” Rouse’s paintings are not only beautifully executed, they sparkle with imagination. Her joint show with Kate Whittaker at the Duluth Art Institute has undoubtedly brought her new fans.

EN: What can you tell us about your formal training?
WR: I graduated from UMD in 1982 with a bachelors of fine art. My education there was great for developing my individuality and creative thinking, but woefully short on any practical academic training. After UMD I worked as a watercolor artist, owned and operated a restaurant, and had a family (a wonderful life). Twenty years later I went back to school for the academic training I always wished I had. The whole family and I moved to New York City, where I earned my MFA in painting from the New York Academy of Art, which is where I learned to paint and draw in the realistic way I work now.
EN: Where do you live and where is your studio?
WR: My current home is 15 miles north of Duluth, out in the woods, close to Fish Lake. My studio is in Duluth on the East Hillside, a little upstairs apartment. One room is for drawing and watercolor and the other for oil painting. It is important for me to separate home from work/art. When I try to have my studio at home, the art takes over. I love to paint and once I start it is really hard for me to stop.

EN: How did you become interested in art?
WR: In high school I had an excellent art teacher, Mel Kumsha. He introduced me to watercolor painting and I never looked back. It was perfect timing, since I was headed in some wrong directions during my teen years. Art gave me something healthy to do with my energy. Art is a powerful positive force for the world. If people were encouraged to explore their artistic side, I am convinced there would be far fewer problems.

EN: Where does you inspiration come from for the images you create?
WR: The things and ideas I paint are very autobiographical. The boreal forest, my daughter, toys, private jokes, objects with personal connections, and my love and reverence for the natural world are all things I paint with great detail as a way to understand them and my connection to them. For several years now I have been assembling still lifes on a mirror, so I have the added subject of reflections. Reflections represent the still water of inland lakes. So you could say I am inspired by the things around me that are important to me.

EN: Any special favorite paintings?
WR: The paintings that feel resolved are my favorites, when I have a clear idea of what the story should be and how to paint it. My favorite painting right now is one I have at home. It shows my husband, daughter, and our dog in our New York apartment—they are all patiently waiting for me to finish painting. It was the first time I painted a fairly large interior with multiple figures, so it was a technical accomplishment, but more importantly it somehow captures my feeling about a specific time and place. Usually my favorite is the one I am about to start, when the possibilities seem endless.

EN: Tell us about your influences.
WR: The painters of the Renaissance have been a big influence for me, especially the northern painters who painted still life. The instructors at the New York Academy of Art were also a big influence, encouraging and pushing me to find my own unique approach to painting and to paint about the really big things in life: family, love, and death.

EN: Currently working on…?
WR: Currently I am consumed with relocating to San Francisco. My husband and I have purchased a small cafe there and I am excited to be taking on another project with him. After we are settled there, I am sure I will start painting again, perhaps with more of an emphasis on the human figure. I find my art training has served me well in life, giving me an ability to find creative solutions to problems.

EN: Where can people see your work?
WR: I plan to continue showing paintings at Lizzards in Duluth. I also have paintings at Stricoff Fine Art in NYC.  Right now, interested people can see a lot of my paintings at, which is a wonderful website for Minnesota artists. Unfortunately I will have to discontinue that when I move to California this summer. I was very fortunate to have a show this spring until the end of May—“Layered Transparencies”—at the Duluth Art Institute in partnership with painter Kate Whittaker. I also plan to show my paintings at our new cafe Farm:Table at 754 Post Street in San Francisco.


Ed Newman

Director of advertising at AMSOIL, Inc. in Superior. Newman is also an artist, a musician and author of four books. He has been interviewing interesting people for over 25 years.

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