Surprise and Delight: Interview with Ingrid V. Wells

Ingrid V. Wells has been painting for close to a decade and has shown internationally. She earned her MFA from San Francisco Art Institute. Her work fancies the fantastic and humorous in theme and the charming, the kitschy, and the celebrity in subject. Wells’ paintings investigate the world of gendered consumerism and the ethics of fascination. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post, Daily Mail, BUST Magazine, and Teen Vogue, among others. Wells currently lives and works in San Francisco. 


When did you first start exploring the playful and feminist subject matter through your paintings?

My time during graduate school reinvigorated my sense of urgency to make bright, engaging paintings about the female experience. With this in mind I opted for comedic portraits of chubby celebrity children riding unicorn flying pigs and watercolors of crying, bedazzled beauty queens. These paintings felt authentic to my observations of growing up female, which felt at times spectacular and ridiculous.


Tell us about your creative journey and training.

I earned my BFA from Arizona State University in 2010 with a double major in Painting and Art Education. After graduation, I stayed in Phoenix, AZ for a year and worked in the arts. Following that year, I attended San Francisco Art Institute, graduating with an MFA in Painting in 2013. Since that time I’ve held a consistent studio practice, with my studio space located in the Dogpatch district of San Francisco. Currently I teach with SFAI’s Public Education program and work in arts administration at California College of the Arts, in addition to being a practicing studio artist.


What do you love most about your current studio practice?

My studio practice is a game of structure and opportunity within the context of painting. I love giving myself a set of boundaries for a series and finding freedom within that framework. It is easy for me to spend hours interpreting a surface, or pondering the meaning of the work. Conceptually I enjoy approaching a subject, like equality, in a way that at first might seem silly or superficial. Upon further reflection the complexity becomes apparent to those looking deeply.


What do you hope the viewer takes away from your work?

My favorite works of art are those that present something magical and fantastic; an experience outside the ordinary. I take joy in art that surprises and delights viewers from a variety of backgrounds and ages, paintings that are inclusive. Those that sit with my artwork will gain a greater understanding of one artist’s experience of growing up female, with all of it’s intricacies.

Another topic I’m fascinated by currently is the color pink. Pink is known to have a tranquilizing effect on it’s viewers. This color psychology is something I find hilarious and powerful, and it is one of the reasons I’ve been making large pink painting to surround my audience.


How do you stay inspired and motivated in the studio?

Inspiration first begins by finding objects and colors that resonate with me. I am intrinsically attracted to my pop still life scenes with their reflective and plasticine qualities. These brightly-colored set-ups are easy for me to spend hours investigating, both conceptually and technically.

To stay motivated in the studio I surround myself with inviting and playful colors and textures. Additionally I frequently take dance breaks to move my body, stretch, sing and loosen up.

I have a strong internal drive that keeps me moving forward. I continue to learn by setting up puzzles for myself that keep my studio practice interesting. Painting 30 paintings in 30 days and working on paintings with 40+ shades of pink keep me preoccupied.


How important is fun and experimentation for you?

Ha! Great question, extremely important. Artists should be challenged with whatever they are working on, and hopefully can allow themselves a little fun while doing it. There’s no rule that says making a painting must be torturous to prove to other people that you’re working hard enough, that you’re a serious artist, or that your intellectual pursuits have value. You can work very hard on very fun things.

We as artists (and as our own bosses) actually do not have to intentionally engage in “grueling” work. Select methods of investigation and explore moments of wonder with the concept in mind that you are creating your own work. You have the capacity to make your art practice either uplifting or burdensome.

My studio practice centers around this idea of lively art making. I jump into bodies of work with fervor, it helps me finish my paintings. I ask myself all the time, “Will this way of making help me complete my work?” Having fun in the studio is like showing up to the race with your best tennis shoes. It is a key to success that goes underestimated by many.


What advice would you give other painters looking to find their voice and learn to enjoy the process?

Make the process of painting easy. Set up your palette on the side of your body with your dominant hand, stand when you paint, make sure you have all the right tools and tinctures readily available. The less fussing about, the quicker you can get to the fun part. Book your studio time on your calendar as a “studio date” and keep those dates, your paintings need you. Share your practice on social media every once in awhile, because good things happen when you share your creative gifts with others.

Refuse to quit! Do not be discouraged by rejection. Wear your rejections as badges of honor, as proof that you showed up and tried.

Be kind to yourself. Put aside your inner critic and talk to yourself as if you were speaking to small child. Think of each painting as simply a stepping stone to the next (better) painting. Only work with subject matter that interests you. You do not have to finish every painting.

Find a space where you can sing, dance, and paint without feeling judged. Do everything that you can to have fun! Play your favorite music, wear your favorite clothes, make your studio space beautiful and welcoming. Pay attention to what you find mesmerizing, it will lead you to your best work.