Maxfield Parish and Thomas Hill, the “Painter of the Yosemite” and the Northern New England mountains have all had a tremendous influence on the way that I perceive light and color. How could they not have? The many great American artists of the Hudson River School have also, in certain ways, affected my direction as a painter.
As I think back over my career, I can see how my love of certain works by certain painters has “colored” my way of expressing my vision of the world. Not that one “copies” a certain painter’s style but rather, each individual artist is moved, touched and excited by certain types of paintings more than those of others.
To be more specific, I admire the way many of the Pre-Raphaelite painters of Great Britain composed their paintings in such a careful way as to “lead“ your eye through their paintings. Although their work was almost always of a figurative and narrative nature whereas my work is landscape, I relate strongly to the illustrative structure of their paintings. They tell a story with the elements within a painting, leading the viewer’s eyes through pre-determined "eye" paths.
Years ago, a newspaper reporter covering a one person exhibit that I had wrote that; “Wilson’s paintings are like the stage in a theater where your attention is craftily focused with the skill of a theatrical set designer.” I was offended at first until I realized that reporter was correct. I do carefully compose my compositions with “curtains” of visual planes often simplifying a scene to just three basic elements, sky, middle ground and foreground. Within each of these “planes” your eye is directed to where I want it to go. That is what I admire about the work of the Pre-Raphaelite painters like Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Sir John Everett Millais and William Morris.
I like what art theorist John Ruskin wrote to “The
Times” in London in 1843; “The artist…should go to nature in all
singleness of heart, and walk with her laboriously and trustingly,
having no other thoughts but how best to penetrate her meaning, and
remember her instruction; rejecting nothing, selecting nothing, and
scorning nothing; believing all things to right and good, and rejoicing
always in the truth.” I guess that sums up how I have always looked at
My earliest art instruction came in High School. My art teacher, Marko Lolo Marchi, had a zeal for art that was absolutely contagious. He lived, and breathed art and was a master at most aspects of it.
Always experimenting, Marko encouraged his students to do the same and I was introduced to many different painting mediums and techniques. Watercolor, gouache, clay, collage, printmaking, pastel painting and even mural work were among the things that I was introduced to. High School was a place to try new things, to be exposed. I was astounded at Marko’s knowledge and I viewed him as walking and talking encyclopedia of art and artists. I skipped out of many of my other classes to learn more about art from him.
Marko encouraged me to enter one of my pastel paintings of a bowl of onions in the nationwide Scholastic Art Competition for High School students and I was shocked when I won a gold key medal and first place blue ribbon for that entry out of all the high school students in the five State New England area. The “Best of New England” was the name of the student exhibition in Boston. Now that expression is the slogan of Gallery On The Green that has represented my work since 1989. See “Art Galleries” page. I was elected “Class Artist" in High School and started to win many competitions that I entered.
I had to good fortune to continue my association and studies with Marko while a full time student at the Art Institute of Boston. Marcho and his business partner, Steve Yankopolis, owned an art gallery in the Greater Boston area and hired me on weekends and during the summer breaks to work as a custom framer and sales associate. Steve was also an artist, sculptor and writer and I have to admit that I learned more about art from those two men than I did as a full time student at the Art Institute of Boston. Steve was very good at sculpting in marble which he got from the quarries in Vermont, and I learned that skill from watching him. It was fascinating to see him remove stone from a block of marble with hammer and chisels until there was a beautiful figure left.
Steve and Marko did everything at their gallery, from selling art to custom framing, restoring period antiques and the cleaning and restoration of antique paintings. They also did custom designing and making of gold and silver jewelry and firing ceramic wares. They did it all and I learned it all from them. They were both excellent teachers in the tradition of the old masters and I am indebted to them both for what they both shared with me.
In the 1960’s when I was a student at the Art Institute Of Boston, my attitude and philosophy concerning art was mocked and ridiculed by most of the teaching faculty and much of the student body. “Abstract Expressionism” was the order of the day and anything “recognizable” in art was totally and utterly rejected. I had won many awards for my realistic paintings all through high school and was really discouraged by the rejection of realism at the Art Institute.
I really marveled that such rubbish could be passed off as fine art. Yes it was “cutting edge“. It was certainly innovative. But the question I asked then and I ask now is “Is it any good?" and "What point is this artist trying to make other than the canvas is flat?"
In toatl frustration, on the first day of school, I changed my art major from the paint slinging, splattering, “pour your demons out on the canvas”, Fine Art Department to the highly disciplined Editorial Illustration Department where my skills in life-drawing, perspective, color theory and human anatomy could be honed and polished.
Although I never entered the field of being an illustrator, those were the skills that I needed to improve. In 1968, I felt no need to portray the “darkness within me” for all the world to see. It’s not that I did not have any internal wrestling’s, I just felt that who would want to know of them? Who would benefit?
Everyone has their own set of problems and difficulties so why would I want to contribute to the miseries of this world with my art when there was so much of a positive nature to share? There was enough darkness on the evening news back then with the body counts during the Vietnam War, the political assassinations of the 1960’s, the riots and burning cities of the civil rights movement and the looming nuclear threat of the “Cold War”. I think that things have deteriorated even more since I was young hence I feel stronger than ever about my commitment to preserve in paint the glories of the natural landscapes that inspire me and fill me with awe and wonder.
Early on in my career I made the determination that I wanted to share the things that brought me peace and serenity, things that filled me with wonder and awe. Cities and buildings, crowded streets and brown air filled with pollutants have never held any attraction for me. I have always been a hiker and especially have enjoyed the “High Country”.
As a young teen I was mesmerized by the high Presidential Range in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The sheer bulk of those deadly mountains amazed me. I was captivated by this landscape feature that makes it’s own violent weather by forcing clouds to go up and over their summits and gernerating the highest wind speeds ever recorded on earth.
The ancient trees called “Krumholtz” found at timberline, twisted, contorted and dwarfed by the elements fascinatedme and contributed to my pursuit of growing Bonsai, a hobby that I continue today. Such timberline trees are often portrayed in my paintings as I admire them so for their rugged beauty and stamina.
My mountain climbing partner, John Wilby, put up with a lot of unscheduled stops in our hikes and climbs as I would insist on stopping often at every vantage point to take in the breathtaking vistas that inspired me. From the early 1960’s John continues to be my close friend and he has come to enjoy my artistic musings when we hike together in the “High Country”.
Another wilderness “partner” that often was with me when the inspiration for a painting hit me is my son, Adam. While living in Vermont we would often strap on our cross country skis on the front porch and ski up through the woods into the mountains under the light of a full moon. Nocturnal inspiration!
On nights where the temperatures were twenty, thirty below zero and colder, we would climb to gain access to the high pastures where the moonlit snowy vistas were so beautiful. In the short seasons with out snow we hiked under a full moon. Those evenings inspired a series of watercolor and gouache paintings that I have continued doing for forty years now.
At the age of fifteen my son began rock climbing which opened up a whole new perspective of the landscape for me as an artist. Mountain climbing, cross country skiing and other explorations strengthened my love of wilderness areas and I began to give up painting man made structures in my paintings.
The weathered barns and covered bridges that I had painted, along with coastal lighthouses gave way to remote mountains and fields, rivers and waterfalls. I have a deep appreciation for the wilderness and chose to make that my main subject matter in my paintings.
Gaining access to the beautiful vistas with my son while rock climbing is a real treat and those scenes have been the inspiration for many paintings of the high country.
Rocks play such an important part in many of my landscapes. Other than an old country back road, a hay wagon trail through a mountain meadow or a hiking trail one will not find much impact of man in my art.
Here I am struggling up a natural rock "chimney" on the face of a 90 foot cliff to gain a better vantage point to see the scenery below from a perspective that few persons have. When one is this intimate with rocks one quickly learns, through observation, how to paint them well and convincingly. The colors, shapes and textures of rock and stone have always had a great appeal to me.
Capturing the great variety of rock types under all different lighting conditions is a life long challenge that I have not tired of. The forms can be quite "abstract" but the "reality" of the rock is made clear by the painting in of other details such as grasses, trees etc. Note the paintings entitled "THE LOOKOUT - LYNX" and "THE LONER-COUGAR" on the Wildlife page for an example of the "abstract" nature of painting convincing stone and rock. More recenly I have become obsessed with the granite boulders of Lake Tahoe.
People often ask me, “When did you start creating art”? The answer to that is from as early as I can remember. I still have vivid memories of “coloring” and drawing as a young child. Those were the times that brought me the greatest pleasure, when I was making something or drawing or painting.
I learned that my best work was of the wilderness that I had come to love.
My Father, the late Lawrence Wilson, worked for an
Italian Sculptor in Boston and I remember him bringing home parts of
large molds for monumental bronzes that were to be cast. I was
fascinated by the whole process and wanted to be among those that
created such wonderful things.
By the time I was five my Father no
longer worked for the sculptor as the trend was for welded “abstract”
sculptures instead of the life like representations that were the
standard for centuries. Eighty highly skilled artisans lost their jobs
in that one sculpture studio alone, woodcarvers from the Black Forest
of Germany, marble sculptors from Italy and Greece and bronze foundry
men who cast the bronze statuary.
I understood why my Dad did
not want me to pursue a career in the fine arts. From his perspective
it was too unstable a career if things could change that rapidly. I was
too stubborn to listen. Regrettably, my Father never did get to see my
success as an artist as he died after my freshman year at the Art
Institute of Boston.
My Father was a master mold maker and is shown here working on building a complex, multi-part, Plaster of Paris mold of a larger-than-life, beeswax sculpture of John Paul Jones “The Father of the American Navy” that was to be cast in molten bronze. My Dad is high on the ladder. My uncle is watching him from below. The bronze statue of John Paul Jones stands on the South Lawn of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
It really makes me wonder how this monumental, ongoing fraud called “modern art” can be perpetuated decade after decade, this passing off of poorly designed piles of welded junk as sculpture and slap-dash-drip-spatter paintings that are less interesting as fine art than my painting palette!
“Modern Art” is, as cartoonist Al Capp said: “A product of the untalented, sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered.” After that quote, in case anyone is wondering if I did this painting to the right ... yes I did ... it is a piece of my working palette where I mix my colors to paint! The same is true for the abstract painting shown in the beginning of this page.
With all the myriad of factors that go into shaping an artist’s career there are some unpredictable events that can contribute greatly to one’s career as an artist. Things like just being in the right place at the right time, a casual introduction, being referred to a gallery by a respected client, winning awards for one’s art and so forth. There is another factor that has nothing to do with “unforeseen occurrences”. It is the backing of a loyal supporter, a friend, who sees you through thick and thin and never stops believing in your talents and skills and passion. Someone who works tirelessly on your behalf to enable you to succeed in a field in which few do.
So, I cannot, in good conscience, ignore giving full
credit to the wonderful person who has made it possible for me to
pursue my dream of being a professional artist. As a high school senior
who wanted to go to art school against his parents wishes my then
girlfriend, Toni, fully supported my decision. Against all advice and
common sense, she married me while I was still a full time student at
the Art Institute Of Boston with my senior year still ahead of me.
Working full time to support me while I was an art student, she never
doubted our future. I told her she would be the wife of a starving
artist and for the first decade or so I pretty much fulfilled that promise.
Without the full support of my wife, I do not think that my passion for art
could have survived the economic hardships that come when one is
building a career in the fine arts field. The lonely study, the
practice, the endless hours trying to unravel the mysteries of art,
years spent gaining experience in “seeing” and decades spent sharpening
one’s technical skills are the price one pays for a field in which few,
given the number of those pursuing art, find sufficient financial
We traveled up and down the East coast together, going to art shows and exhibitions. Toni would pack up my sculptures and paintings to ship them nationwide and even to Europe. And then our son was born, so she packed him up as well and he accompanied us to the art shows and he grew up in the midst of some wonderful and very colorful people, artists, photographers, sculptors and fine craftsmen of every sort.
It was a fun way to make a living but totally unpredictable as factors like severe weather and competing events could diminish sales at any given art show. We survived blizzards, (my van completely disappeared under drifting snow in Boston during one exhibition) premature snows in the Vermont mountains that collapsed the exhibition tents, violent wind storms that knocked over displays and being placed under arrest with over a hundred other artists at one show for breaking Pennsylvania’s “Blue Laws” by selling art on a Sunday. The Director of the exhibition got us all off the hook on that charge!
It’s been quite an adventure to get to the point where we have sufficient income from the fine art galleries that represent my work and we no longer have to travel to art shows.
To this day, I do not know how she put up with all the uncertainties. It made us stronger, though, to face life’s other uncertainties and we have had few regrets. So now, a public “Thank You” to my wife Toni, who is the “Wind Beneath my Wings“. Without her I would have never got off the ground as an artist!
“Thank you, Toni, for making my success possible and for your full time job acting as my "Executive Administrator", caring for all the records and invoices, ordering frames, scheduling and hanging exhibits at the galleries, packing and shipping paintings all over the nation and even being my “second set of eyes” by acting as my “quality control” inspector, examining each work to make sure it is consistent with the quality that the art galleries have come to expect from my work.
Thank you for working side by side with me to create the “Illusions of the Stars” Murals on ceilings in homes and hotels.”
“A capable wife who can find? Her value is far more than that of corals. There are many daughters that have shown capableness, but you—you have ascended above them all.”” - Bible Book of Proverbs 31:verses 10 and 29
Toni, you are worth more than all the precious corals in the world!
We have lost a very precious part of our natural heritage ~ the stars.
Within just a few generations we cannot enjoy or be inspired by what our grandparents took for granted, a crystal clear view of the incredible beauty of a starry night sky.
A disturbing fact is that two–thirds of Americans cannot see the Milky Way from their backyard, and 99% of the population live in an area that scientists consider light polluted. The rate at which light pollution is increasing will leave almost no dark skies in the contiguous US by 2025.
National Geographic magazine said; “Most city skies have become virtually empty of stars. In most cities, the sky looks as though it has been emptied of stars, leaving behind a vacant haze that mirrors our fear of the dark and resembles the urban glow of dystopian science fiction." ~ National Geographic magazine ~ November 2008
Can you see the stars from your home? Do you care to be able to see celestial bodies that are so far from our planet that their distances are measured in light years? The misty tapestry we call the Milky Way is really an edge view of our own galaxy. If we could see it from afar, it would look much like a giant pinwheel. Traveling at the speed of light, it would take 100,000 years to cross our galaxy. The sun, situated toward the outer edge of the galaxy, takes 200 million years to complete its orbit around the galactic center.
Do not think of the night sky as not merely a backdrop on a stage that is darkened. The starry night sky is an integral component of our natural environment, and without it our lives are not as rich. As an artist I am concerned with how I visually experience the world and I do not want to lose any part of it, especially my view of the stars and the Milky Way. Many young people I have spoken with have reported that they have never seen the Milky Way and sadly many do not know even what it is.
The long, majestic band of light that can be seen on a clear dark night is really an edge view of our own galaxy. If we could see it from afar, it would look much like a giant pinwheel. Traveling at the speed of light, it would take 100,000 years to cross our Milky Way galaxy. The sun, situated toward the outer edge of the galaxy, takes 200 million years to complete its orbit around the galactic center. It is a shame that two–thirds of Americans cannot see the Milky Way from their backyard.
I have always enjoyed wilderness areas and they are the main focus of my paintings. Because I chose to paint what is fast disappearing, I have been called a “preservationist”. Like the wilderness the starry night sky gives us a source of reflection, meditation and even our spirituality. Gazing at the night sky we can find a sense of our place in the universe. It inspires us to think on the big questions in life. What our grandparents took for granted, the romance, inspiration and mystery of the night sky, we have lost to light pollution from our cities, shopping malls, and illuminated parking lots. The only way I can preserve the beauty of the night sky is to paint it.
There is no other natural resource on the entire planet I can think of that is so universal to all cultures worldwide, regardless of a person’s economic or educational level as a beautiful and free view of the starry night sky. This has been a gift that man has enjoyed in every place on the planet for millenniums and now and man has destroyed it for most. What other natural resource has been the birthplace of so much art, music, poetry, mythology and thought as the view of the stars? Man has always been inspired by starry sky … until now.
Yes we have tools that enable us to look deeper into space than ever before in mankind’s history. As awesome as the pictures from the Hubble space telescope are they simply do not compare with the thrill of direct, unaided observation of the beauty that was once above us.
The history of looking at the stars involves religion and science, which have often collided. It is recorded in the Bible that God spoke to Abraham and said; “Look up, please, to the heavens and count the stars, if you are possibly able to count them.” ~Genesis 15:5
If we were to accept God‘s invitation can we count any stars from where we live?
After contemplating the starry heavens, King David of ancient Israel was moved to write: “O Jehovah, our Lord, how excellent is thy name. . . ! When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him?” ~ Psalm 8:1, 3, 4, American Standard Version of the Holy Bible
In addition to giving us cause for contemplation, the stars have been a source of navigation to those who took to the sea, from the Polynesians in the vast Pacific to modern explorers who were the first men to visit certain parts of our small planet. Our history is woven around our observations of the starry heavens. But no longer… we now have artificial satellite GPS guidance systems and have no need of the stars. We have lost the richness of the star studded celestial blanket that wraps around our little blue planet with it’s incredibly thin atmosphere. That atmosphere is now becoming opaque with light pollution to our view of our own Milky Way Galaxy.
What have we lost? Our link to our past, a direct view of the universe we live in. We have lost our guidance system, our source of inspiration, romance, mystery and beauty that have been the foundation for mankind’s humanity. Yes, we have lost the purity of our waters, the productivity of our farmlands and our clean air, but now we can’t even look up in our backyards to see what man has enjoyed since he began, a view of the majestic Milky Way - our very own galaxy in which we live and the awesome view of over 5000 bright stars in the night sky. Gone is the view that inspired Vincent Van Gogh to paint the starry night sky. Gone is the inspiration that countless poets have recorded in rhymed verse. Gone is the view that inspired great composers to write some of the world’s greatest symphonies and concerts based on their nighttime observation of the sky. Gone is the romance lovers experienced when looking upwards in the darkness of night. Gone is the view of the starry heavens that once united mankind regardless of where he lived. Gone is the opportunity to gaze upward and ask; ”Why are we here”?
We are cut off from the stars, from each other, from the universe, from God.
“THE HEAVENS declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows and proclaims His handiwork.
Day after day pours forth speech, and night after night shows forth knowledge.
There is no speech nor spoken word [from the stars]; their voice is not heard.
Yet their voice [in evidence] goes out through all the earth, their sayings to the end of the world.” ~ Psalm 19: verses 1 - 4 from The Amplified Bible
I want to hear that voice. This is why I paint the stars.
Frank Wilson ~ your "Painter Of Dreams"™
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