We had the good fortune of connecting with Bri Wenke and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Bri, do you have any habits that you feel contribute to your effectiveness?
The creative process is a very fluid one. But it takes certain daily structures to get there in an efficient way. Some people can certainly stumble into the creative process naturally, but I believe career artists understand that there is a deliberate structure behind full freedom at the easel.
Physical discipline is a big one for me. By exerting myself physically in the form of running, weight training, yoga, etc I find that my mind has a chance to get quieter, and more focused. A lot of thoughts run around my monkey mind, anxieties, etc, and true ideas can only surface in an efficient way once I can quiet some of those jumbled thoughts. There is a primal connection between the endurance of the body and endurance of the mind. One feeds the other, and to fully execute a concept start to finish in the form of paint, writing, music, etc, it takes endurance.
I work out of a detached garage space, and I have a pull up bar, kettle bells, and a climbing rope, so I can have obstacles to play with if I’m still too restless to sit in front of the easel. I used to be very hard on myself for this type of procrastination, but 7 years into this career as a painter, and I now understand it as a very necessary part of the process, so I’ve stopped fighting it so much.
Morning brain dumps are a real thing. In the form of writing. I try to let a stream of consciousness flow into my journal each day, which also helps declutter and make room for new ideas. I always feel slightly better afterwards.
I keep a rolling to do list, and I make sections within it. One section for commissioned paintings, one for admin work, and one for my personal projects and painting series. I can’t get away from pencil and paper, writing things down and checking them off is still valuable to me somehow.
Reading is a big one. It’s a chance to get out of my own head and into the head of another artist for a while, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, which I attempt to alternate. I find connections and take notes, and often these notes make it into painting concepts eventually.
Most recent ones have been Margaret Atwood’s Stone Mattress, Jedidiah Jenkins’ Like Streams to the Ocean, and Barbara Chase’s Sally Hemings.
Another habit I’d like to maintain is purchasing and supporting the artwork of artists I admire, and surrounding myself at home with these inspiring pieces.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I used to honestly believe, when I was much younger, that I couldn’t possibly be an artist, because all things had been done already, and done well. What more could be contributed? I did not understand that creativity isn’t making something that has never existed before. Creativity is taking all you’ve ever seen and experienced, connecting them in a new way, and pushing them out through your own personal filter. This was revolutionary.
Painting is a method of processing for me. Processing emotions, non-verbal energy, experiences, confusion, bliss, etc.
A history and anthropology major, I’ve been fascinated with the antiquity and commonality of the human story since I can remember. I feel in the air today that there is an underlying pull backwards, that we have answers in our history, where we’ve been as a species, that can aid the confusion that many of us feel. Although technology has created more opportunities than ever before, for artists in particular, there’s an undeniable fall out that our homo sapien brains haven’t been able to adapt to fully yet, and people are sick as a result. This sickness commonly takes the form of ‘unhappiness’, or depression, or anxiety.
Our world focuses so heavily on the self, on individuality, which is vital to a certain degree, but we were once a tribal people, relying fully on the whole community to thrive and survive. Today I see a lot of facades, held together as if survival depended on it. The perspective is way off, and I want us to find a way to refocus, as a species.
We store a lot of our experiences, stories, trauma, and energy in our physical bodies, like code, and we carry them, often blind to the fact that they’re there, keeping the outer layers shiny and in tact. I believe that first recognizing this fact, and then learning how to be compassionate to ourselves and slowly unraveling some of these layers is the first step to healing on a personal level, which is the road to healing the world.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We would absolutely spend a day enjoying Folly Beach, where I live. The beach is stunning, and there are many special local spots tucked away in the lush foliage of this island. Chico Feo is one, it feels like a backyard house party, there’s usually great live music, and always excellent food on their small menu. Jack of Cups is another one, exceptional cuisine, with the most unassuming exterior on Center Street, you have to know what you’re looking for or you could miss it, which would be a tragedy.
We would have to see some of the Charleston historic charm, and wouldn’t have to look too far. Middleton Plantation is a great place to spend a late morning, or afternoon touring the gardens, etc.
Wandering to hidden gem coffee shops downtown is another favorite past time, walking down Queen Street to get to Harken Cafe, or near King St for Kudu Coffee.
Wandering Magnolia Cemetery is so dreamy, if historic cemeteries are your thing. They are definitely mine.
Walking the battery, also, never gets old.
I love oysters. Leon’s oyster shop has exceptional fried chicken as well. I like to sit at the Darling on King St as well, order a few dozen oysters, and sip on Sauvignon Blanc like Hemmingway in Paris watching people walk by.
The Pour House Farmers Market is a great one, on Sundays. I love grabbing an ice coffee or Bloody Mary, and wandering around the local artisan popups and getting my produce for the week. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’ve got to say that Sam Rueter, my partner in crime, the ying to my yang, my best friend, is to blame for a lot of my personal growth as an artist so far. Also a Charleston-based painter, Sam provided me with a beautiful like-mind to connect with, someone who understands in and out what this lifestyle choice entails in its full entirety, and I did not have to feel alone or crazy anymore. We have completed several large-scale installations and projects together, and we’re currently cooking up a new one for this fall. Finding your people, or person, can change everything.
photos by Gately Williams. www.gatelywilliams.com