We recently paid a visit to the home and studio of Andrew and Sarah Wilson, where Andrew paints and Sarah writes. In advance of Andrew's upcoming show at YIELD, we talk a little bit about process, place, and inspiration.
Words: Andrew Deming
Artist: Andrew Wilson
Photos: Kelsey Heinze
AD: I've followed your work since our early days in college and have seen the progression, but I'm curious, how would you say that it has evolved over the past few years?
AW: By the time I graduated, the constants of my work included large canvases, energetic brushstrokes, the human figure, a fascination with layering paint, and five dollar brushes. Today, these staples of my process have remained, but when concerning the figure, there has been a shift from “who” to “what.” When in school, there was great effort in chasing the likeness of a person through the way I painted them. Now, I am much more concerned with what the face or body language is saying. Can I capture an emotion or a story through the way a body is positioned? What can the vagueness or specificity of brushstrokes do to direct the viewer? I am much more interested in the qualities of the human in my paintings rather than their identity. Perhaps it’s the whole sharing my life with a person I love thing, but what drives my work more than ever is the natural vulnerability we experience together on a day-to-day basis. To put honesty on a wall and engage a viewer in a dialogue that may not be otherwise conversed is a goal for me and my work. The evolution has been beautiful.
Inside look into Andrew's studio.
AD: Where do you get inspiration?
AW: My inspiration comes from my surroundings. In concept, inspiration comes from the struggles and joys of living in this world. Whether it be saturated with conversation or prayer, the happenings of the day always end up in my journal/sketchbook. What’s beautiful about having Sarah in my life, is that her story is our story. Her words are igniting at the very least. In energy, inspiration comes from music. Specifically in the studio (my neighbors understand) it is important for me to create within an atmosphere of rhythmic riffs or introspective lyrics. In awareness, inspiration comes through social media. To see and hear about the quick or fully evolved work of another artist at the swipe of a finger is information gathering I haven’t been exposed to since college. When all inspirational cylinders are firing, I am a happy boy. But, through the pursuit of being a full-time artist, hard days are when inspiration doesn’t seem to come at all. And I’ve learned…. create anyway. And then, the days I don’t give up are inspiration for the hard days that follow.
AD: In addition to your personal work, you taught art to junior high schoolers for some years. I imagine it was both fulfilling and taxing. How did that experience impact your own practice?
AW: Yes, fulfilling and taxing. But, the reward of “uncovering” a visual stimulant for youth is unsurpassable. I remember the moments when I revealed the third dimension of a hallway drawing, the mixing of the color wheel, and the idea of death and isolation from an Andrew Wyeth painting via discussion with my students. I’ve bookmarked these memories, because each was granted with the “aha!” moment in my students, and nothing, for me, will ever beat that. And it’s true what they say, when you teach, you learn. It’s easy to creatively pigeonhole yourself, but to step away from the classroom of rudiments and into the studio of free expression daily was a refreshing act. Ask a teenager.. “How do you get better at something?” They’ll first think of lacrosse or Spanish class and then they’ll say, “practice, dummy!” But somehow that’s easy to forget as an adult. And what I’ve realized is that when I practice by simply just doing it more, I find my own “aha!” moments in my work.
AD: We were practically neighbors when YIELD was in our previous studio. Can you tell us a little bit about your house / studio and what it's like for you two to live and work in this space?
AW: Our house meets our needs and is a step in the direction we plan to pursue with all living situations: simple. But this house serves as a home for both Sarah and I to work. The shed in the backyard is my home away from home: the studio. It stores yard equipment, house paints and solvents, a thrifted surround sound stereo, past paintings of mine, the couch Escher tore up as a puppy (which awaits the curb soon), but also the chair he sits in to watch me paint, and the corner reserved for my outlet of expression: painting with oils. The shed is full, hot, real, lots of textures, lots of warmth. The door is always open, and it lets in light and greenery. There’s an oak tree that shelters our backyard (and a handful of other yards). There’s Spanish moss everywhere. Critters of all sorts. This is Escher’s playground too. I love the rawness of the plywood-lined interior. Matched with raw canvas and half-century old paper rolls, there’s something wonderful about it. All things that come with this shed speak to the work that comes out of it. And, also, the theme of our show: imperfection.
AD: I can picture you two being at home most anywhere, why St. Augustine? How do you think location impacts what you do / how you do it?
AW: St. Augustine is special to our story and will always be a home in some way. Nature impacts us hugely. When we walk out the door and go to the beach, the trails, or the springs, we find peace and rest. We think there is great reward with being immersed in nature, but nothing compares to the lives you connect with where you are. For us, where we live is about community and where our gifts are best put to use. We’re drawn to a small way of living and we can’t say for sure where that will lead us, but we can say Florida will always be our home base and home state, and St. Augustine will always be a place that has a big piece of our hearts.
AD: What is happening this season?
AW: This show is of a new season and in a way signifies the start (not just for me) for us. Not only is this my first show since my stepping away from the classroom, but it’s the first time I’ve worked closely beside another. And it is the first time Sarah’s words will be paired with my paintings. Ultimately, she seeks to speak to issues and humans struggles that might otherwise go silent. And so, what we create on a daily basis constantly feeds off of what the other is doing. We are collaborating together to bring new depth to each visual, each story.
Just Being Honest: a dialogue on life and imperfection
Pop-up art show featuring select works by Andrew Scott Wilson with words by Sarah Kathleen Wilson
Friday September 30
6 - 9 p.m.
Work will remain on display at YIELD during normal business
hours through Thursday October 6.