"THE whole house has been taken over by Pearl and Edwin," says Wilda Goyetche. "In fact Edwin has got his own room now."
It may sound as if she is talking about lodgers or kids but in fact Pearl and Edwin are the two characters who feature in her paintings under the name Wildago which have rapidly acquired a following in Sheffield and beyond.
If she does tend to talk of them as real characters, that's because they do seem to have a mind of their own.
"A painting will take on a life of its own and end up different from what I initially imagined," she says.
Pearl emerged in June last year followed by Edwin in the autumn, conceived in the kitchen of her home at Dore. "I work there because it's got the best light," says the self-taught painter.
Although she has had a lifelong passion for art, it has only recently become part of her life. The fisherman's daughter from Nova Scotia worked in IT for 20 years (Wildago was her user name), an all-consuming job which took her to Bermuda where she met her husband, Steve, a Geordie. They moved to Sheffield in 2004 and Wilda took the opportunity to retrain as a fitness instructor.
"That left me with a lot of energy and time to go back to sketching," she explains. Soon she bought some paints.
"Pearl was only the third painting I ever did. There was something about her that made me want to paint more of her. So I started creating different scenarios and soon my friends were coming up with ideas."
From the start there were certain consistencies in the pictures. She always wears pearls (hence the name) and always has her eyes closed – as though in her own world.
Wildago was producing so many that she found herself running out of wall space and plucked up the courage to approach her local gallery, the Causeway, about an exhibition.
By this time Edwin had come on the scene. The trademark of his pictures are the fact he has no visible mouth, the presence of polka dot somewhere in the picture and the fact that he is always seen in boxer shorts.
"The polka dots were the result of a mistake in the first picture," she reveals. "They were falling off his tie and now that's how they always appear and have become an integral part."
Other characters have appeared like Mother-of-Pearl, Pearl's best friend, Smokey ("she's always got a lit cigar and is a bit of a handful") and her cat, Irene, and Edwin's dog, Todd.
But the real stars remain Pearl - "glamorous and full of joie de vivre" – and Edwin "odd but quietly capable". They do not appear together, however. "One day I hope they meet," says the artist. "You can't tell if they know each other as friends but I don't see them as an item."
A whole narrative has built up and a lot of what's happened has been accidental, she says.
"Sometimes I am inspired by ideas, such as the time I went to the cup cake shop on Sharrow Vale Road and it seemed perfect for Pearl and I went home and did a picture, Fancie Pearl," she says.
The collectability factor has led to a large and growing fan base wanting to commission their own scenarios.
"Other people are always giving me ideas," she says. "They will ask for a picture of Edwin on a cycle, say.
"They like to put them in their own environments. I am happy to do that, within reason. I'm not going to put Pearl in bondage, for example, but I like all the interaction."
Last month Goyteche got the opportunity to introduce Pearl and Edwin to a wider audience when she was commissioned by Sheffield Doc/Fest to produce seven paintings of different aspects of the event which were presented to the winners of the festival awards.
She also exhibited at the Forum during the recent Open Studio weekend and four limited edition gicle prints are on show in WM Barbieri, Italian barber's shop on Hawley Street, throughout December.
There is also talk of a book, so who nows where Pearl and Edwin and Wildago are going next.
As a self-confessed "IT geek" Wildago naturally has her own website, www.wildago.com
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