Trek Lexington in conversation with Timothy Wilson

  1. Tell us a bit about your artistic beginnings – how did you become an artist? Do you remember the moment you knew that this was the direction your life would take?

I grew up in a household that nurtured my creative drive: at the time it was less visual and more musical though. My mother, a piano teacher, taught me instruments at a very young age – and hanging around my dad’s woodshop I think taught me the nature of tactile mediums. I didn’t really pursue visual art with too much passion until I *luckily* got into art school with an early acceptance, and I just randomly decided to wing it. I have always been confident of my drive, if nothing else. In spite of numerous episodes of self questioning, throwing out and continually destroying reams of work, I have never questioned my path. I never stop. I’m never satisfied, I can always push it. I have remained confident that in spite of whatever I end up pursuing, my creative dedication stands the test. I think I have inwardly known that from the beginning, but didn’t I know what form or shape that creation would take.

  1. A lot of your work is done on site, some of it in extreme weather conditions. What drives you to paint outside, through snow, rain and wind?

It’s all about the experience. When you’re standing there in pouring rain, gales, turbulent storms, there’s something meditative. It’s like you yourself becoming the calm of the storm. This crazy experience swirling around you, and you just stay there like a still stalk in the ground and absorb. You just stand there, taking it in. There’s something to be said about experience. Sometimes it’s frightening; which is even better. Nothing like the fear of mortality to make you remember an experience. I’m not actually out to paint things as literally as I see them, in the moments when I am actually able to focus on a studio painting and not running around outside (at the moment, rare) they become extremely abstract. But I pull from that emotional experience. It’s like musical scales. You can try fake a scale, and everyone is going to notice when you play it. It’ll feel forced, wrong. You’ve got to continually practice the scales. Right now I am obsessed with the practice of the literal landscape. Since I’m not actually interested in depicting exact places, I can’t make up a landscape without that initial practice; an experience has to be implemented that I can harken back to. Quite often the paintings I make during the extreme weather….they don’t ever see the light of day. They’re horrible. But that’s not the point! It gives me a memory. Being active during the visceral experience gives me a mental record. I admit I take hundreds of pictures as well sometimes, out of habit…and I’ve never ended up using them; but it’s that exertion of energy that helps you communicate with the experience. So many wonderful things happen when you put yourself in these situations too, of extreme weather, or whatever have you, that you would never think of just staring at a google image search. Like when the clouds part and another storm surge happens, on opposite sides of you, but you are spared to capture the moment. I still have yet to put a lot of my experiences into more purposeful canvases; I’m still caught up in the scales.


  1. Were there any significant turning points in your artistic career – anything that sent you from one trajectory towards a completely different one.

I went to school for Illustration and was pretty certain I was about to work as a concept artist; and then I had the most horrible breakdown about it all. It was horrible and simultaneously so necessary. I had been taping rough watercolor paper to my stylus so I could get the sensation of texture as I drew on the computer….and then I just kind of looked at myself and shook my head. I realized I couldn’t pursue a career of faking tactility. It’s all about the smells and tugs and physicality. It was almost overnight that I went from doing digital concept art design to completely vague, vapory oil sketches, and it made me feel so freed.


  1. Art is a difficult path to follow. Were there times you wanted to give up? What made you persevere?

Every year and a half! Joking…but not at all. I quite honestly am going through one now. Never about wanting to give up, but gathering myself to figure out how to proceed and produce better than I have before, and develop a stronger essence of what I want. My focus is horrible though, if I’m not constantly working and flailing I get bottle necked and all the ideas stifle out of hesitation, trying to figure out which one comes first, but sometimes I have to go thorugh that, like right now. It’s part of the process. If it all came easily without struggle, there would be no excitement. No need ambition to conquer and overcome. You have to do everything you can to sacrifice yourself to make the work better. And you’ve got to grow, in spite of how difficult it may be to shed that shell that you’ve grown comfortable with. I suppose artists are like hermit crabs. You’ve got to shed to grow. That leaves you vulnerable during that in between moment. But you adapt and eventually gain an even larger and more distinct armor. Robert Indiana, whom everyone can recognize from his iconic Love sculptures from, has retreated into his own retreat; almost like a John Malkovich syndrome. He lives on a very remote (and beautiful) island off the coast of Maine, in a house….that is completely boarded up from the outside. An old Oddfellows hall decorated extravagantly on the exterior. But no way to get in. Impervious. He’s developed his work to the point that he quite literally now has made his own shell. I don’t think I quite want to get to that point, but I can truly connect with needing to continually run away from society and distraction to figure out what the hell you’re trying to make. I can actually be quite a social person, but I’ve found as I try to develop myself, and my work, I really need to be away from distractions. And yet I still continually make my own. My location in Maine certainly offers that, it’s difficult at times, but my pursuit is my work, and not about faking my way around something that isn’t there. I’m still pretty unsatisfied with what I have been able to get out of my system, and am gearing up to plunge myself even further into the depths to see what happens. I’ve never tried to make my work successful, and I honestly think that’s why it has, surprisingly, been some sort of success. I’m just doing what I’m compelled to do. What has made me feel proud of my work is that in spite of all the self sabotaging and missteps, there’s something about what I do that makes people gravitate towards it, and that makes me continue to try and to persevere. In spite of all odds, it keeps working out. There’s something bigger at work that can’t be pinned down, and I love that. I think nowadays with all the social media and networking, that society has a way of making you think you’re accomplishing something, when really, you’re just going around the hamster wheel doing the same thing. Every year and a half, perhaps year and three quarters, I pretty much commit career suicide and start over. It’s frighteningly wonderful. I have a complete breakdown of what I’m doing and yearning to shed. There’s been a social media component with each as well; I’ve had so many different iterations of blogs and websites, I have gone from web forum to wordpress to tumblr to facebook…to now Instagram, each one has been a different period of my artistic life. And somehow people find me! I’m going to try not to get rid of everything this time around, but it’s tempting. Something cathartic about starting over.

  1. What is the best place to see your work? Do you have any exhibitions coming up in the near future?

Kind of piggy backing on the last question…I don’t have too much planned! I was fortunate enough to be able to take some time off and see just how I can start pursuing these ideas that have been swirling in my head ~ unlike prior times when I’ve taken on shows and quick deadlines and loved seeing what I could put together…the adrenaline…I’m in a different mentality now. I still want to flail and constantly work on numerous ideas, but I really want to let this work gestate on it’s own and see what it can really become. I’ve never had a chance to sit with my work before, a chance for the white heat to subside and really look at it. I got caught in my own wheel of constantly showing things in progress before they were ready to be seen. I used to love showing how things developed, but now I’m starting to realize the concept of what makes a great magic trick; you keep that curtain pulled and let the audience guess. If you stripetease the whole process, there’s going to be no grand reveal. Create that illusion for them, rather than giving them everything. All that being said, I am lucky enough to be in a few group shows coming up in the next few months! I will be taking part in the Spoke art Moleskine exhibition, and the Palette show at Abend Gallery next month. A good place to always be able to see my work is at Corey Daniels Gallery in Maine; he has something very special going on there. A complete immersion into a unique environment. He does an unparalleled job of putting things next to things that create an amazing visual world. I love having my work there. Other than that, I’m going to try to make like a magician and disappear!


Timothy Wilson’s website


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