Finding Ones self: A short story by Hugh Wilson

This is a story sent to me by my friend Hugh Wilson from Toronto, who contacted me many months ago with a question about bloom on his encaustic paintings. We have  exchanged many emails since. I’m still pestering him to get his own website, so for now I’m lending him space here to tell his very personal story about how he found his voice with his art.

At the beginning of this journey I felt it would be rather simple, after all, my works have always sold from the Christmas Bazaar shows at $50 on through my $5000.00 corporate piece for an Ontario home builder! Heck, I was an artist! A sculptor no less! granted my tool was a chainsaw not a paintbrush.

So long story short, I make the determination that large format chainsaw sculpting is not something one can do as they age…although my maturity level is close to that of a 13 year old..ask my wife! My knees and back are somewhere around 103 ! So maybe the encaustic thing is the way to go? At first I was not impressed but after seeing some landscape stuff on a studio tour I was fully engaged!

So there I was pounding out the work!
Present a piece to Dustin Hoffman( I know his wife)
Pull together 30 pieces for my first show!

And presto I am famous…well, not really.

After doing the outdoor show this spring and selling a couple of my larger works for $800 each I felt this was the beginning of a prosperous career. I had also had a couple of small galleries say they would take on my work, but I wanted to explore other options…after all I was an artist!!

So I head for a prestigious Toronto gallery, knock on the door and can’t wait for them to say they have space for 10 to 20 pieces, how fast can I deliver!!! Well that was not the case, the curator listened to my hype, saw my work and proceeded to ”Gut me like a fish”

She said:
Its not a matter of skill, I can see you have that.
You have not found yourself.
Your work looks like all the other encaustic artists
You are a producer of art, not an artist.
You are more concerned with how much you can get for it before you even finish it.

I stood there and felt myself deflate. I did feel a small bit of fire in my belly….pompous gallery owner!!! But deep down inside something was aching. I loaded up my paintings, got back on the road, and headed for the nearest Tim Hortons(that’s what Canadians do) I needed coffee and time to think.

Problem here was the gallery owner was completely and totally right!!! I had not figured it out! I had not found myself. These paintings did not come from anywhere…..I was just a producer of art, not an artist.

 

Northern Lights - Hugh Wilson

 

This was the beginning of 2 months of no painting, 2 months of thinking, 2 months of saying over and over…what would an artist do? Well it did take some time, every moment behind the wheel (that’s where I paint without a brush) was spent think and formulating. The it came to me! I might live just outside Toronto but that’s not really what I am…I grew up 700 miles north in a small Alberta town called Grimsahw…2000 people, no street lights…I was northern! I was rural! We used to lie on our backs and stare at the sky! The horizon went on forever! The northern lights were there every night!!…..that’s it! It hit me!! The Northern Lights! The Sky! The Horizon! I could paint those from my heart! That was where I came from….that was who I was!!

So enter my most recent work, the Northern Lights series, I am fully engaged, totally happy and can’t wait to paint every spare moment . It does not matter in the least how long it takes, or if it will sell or not…my soul is in the work. The rest will come.

I am happy! I am an artist now, not a producer of art!

Hugh Wilson

Note: This entire journey was made possible by the constant trail of e-mails between Thea and I, she was a constant source of information and inspiration…she really knows her stuff!! Thanks Thea!

P.S. from Thea: here’s an article about Hugh in the local paper how he rounds up old doors to paint on!

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6 Responses to “Finding Ones self: A short story by Hugh Wilson”

  1. Linda Swales Says:

    What a wonderful story and a beautiful painting.
    Yes, Thea is all of that and a terrific friend as well.

  2. Debara Hafemann Says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. It is honest and helpful and a gift to me……
    I’m keep meeting art types who want me to keep doing what I’ve always done
    and I am ready to move on to something new. So hmmmmm the gallery person
    and your story helps me. I must refuse to ask the question – Will it sell?

    I appreciate your perspective and wish you every success.

  3. kassandra333 Says:

    Encaustic is just so beautiful and technically satisfying that I get lost in the process. The scary part is wondering if there is any art here, or if I am just dabbling in pretty things. Thanks for your story, Hugh, you’ve definitely taken the higher road and it shows.

  4. embracingencaustic Says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your story Hugh (and Thea!). It’s a wonderful reminder to paint from your heart.

  5. Encaustic Canada Blog Post « The Hive Encaustic Says:

    […] don’t take my word for it. Go to Encaustic Canada’s blog and read what encaustic artist Hugh Wilson has to say about the day he met a Toronto gallery dealer who pulled no […]

  6. Diane Haug Says:

    Greet article. Thanks.

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