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Artists Among Us: Don Wilson

Originally Posted: January 30, 2012

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"Hamptons Garden-Long Island," acrylic on canvas. (All images courtesy of artist)

Artist Don Wilson.

Greenport - Continuing with our artist profiles of artists both living and working in the Hamptons, our next artist is Don Wilson who lives in Coram and Greenport.

Wilson reveals "I began life on a small farm/restaurant, the Beau SeJour in Bethpage (Nassau County) which was operated by my family since the turn of the last century. When I was very young, my father had a serious illness which kept him confined to bed for many months. During that time we kept each other company for many hours drawing pictures. Actually, my dad drew most of the pictures, especially Mickey Mouse and other newly created Disney characters. This was my introduction to art.

When I was in the eighth grade I encountered my first Guidance Counselor. When she asked me what I wanted to do, I didn't know. Then she asked me what did I like to do? I replied, "Draw pictures." She put me in art class and it became my major for the next four years.

When I finished High School, I still didn't know what I wanted to do, but I knew what I liked to do, 'draw and paint pictures' so I entered Kutztown State Teachers College, PA to become an art teacher. After a year I dropped that idea and became a Liberal Arts Major at the just opened C. W. Post College, graduating in their first graduating class.

"Tall Ships Greenport Harbor," acrylic on canvas.

I still didn't know what to do! I went into the family restaurant business, got married, adopted three children and after almost 10 years decided it was time to do something else that didn't require working weekends, holidays and nights.

So, I went back to school and became a School Librarian/Media Specialist. I worked in an elementary school in Island Trees, Levittown for close to 30 years, simultaneously working half time as a children's, adult services, audio visual and whatever librarian in various public libraries in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

Fourteen years ago, I retired from the public sector and spent a fantastic year as 'Chef Don' doing cooking demonstrations and programs for children and adults at the public library.

The following fall I took a position as visiting professor at the Palmer School of Library and Information Science, Long Island University followed by a year as Administrator of the undergraduate program and then as Director of the School Library Media Program.

I am now retired from academia and after 42 years as a Library Media Specialist, a Public Librarian, and Assistant Professor of Library Science, University Administrator, restaurateur, cook and caterer, I am reviving my career as an artist/painter.

During the forty year period I adopted four more children, got divorced, remarried and embraced my two step-children into my life and am now the delighted grandpa of 12 grandchildren.

"Tuscan Landscape," acrylic on canvas.

My interest in art, especially painting, goes back many years. A few years ago I decided to it was time to back to what I wanted to do, which was to paint pictures. I saw an ad in the Suffolk Times for a weekend workshop on how to paint seascape murals at the Atelier Gallery in Greenport. I signed up and spent one of the most inspiring few days in my adult life. This relationship worked out well for both me and Atelier as I was offered a special showing later that season. It couldn't have worked out better, because just up the street at The Townsend Manor, my college fraternity was holding its 50th Reunion during the same month. I made the most of it and invited them all to stroll down the street for an 'Artist Reception' just for them. They loved it and bought nothing.

"Tree in Summer," acrylic on canvas.

But, I was so inspired I kept on going and signed up for classes with Diane Alec Smith in Cutchogue. Diane is absolutely wonderful and she has guided me in the right direction for the past three years. I have also taken classes with the Parrish Art Museum and with Jada in Greenport.

I have exhibited in a number of galleries and vineyards on the North Fork and in various public libraries in both Nassau and Suffolk. I was the featured artist in the August Gallery Walk here in Greenport. I even made the cover of Dan's Papers in February 2008 and October 2011.

I have a summer place on the North Fork and spend a lot of time here. I get most of my inspiration from the farms, the sea, the shore and the Long Island landscape. My pictures are bright with bold colors, realistic interpretations of what I see and feel.

Recently, I stumbled upon reverse glass painting after receiving an old painting on glass of the sinking Titanic from a friend when we did a workshop together at the Holocaust Center. It intrigued me, so I tried it myself and was delighted with the results. It also helped that I had just taken 20 or so ancient windows out of my house. To date I have completed 10 Reverse Glass Paintings of Long Island Lighthouses and two other water views.

It has been a long road, but I am finally at a place where my interest in 'drawing pictures' has turned into life-long dream, painting pictures."

"Dorian Smith Boat," acrylic on canvas.

When did you start making art and what medium(s) do you consider to be your roots in art?

Don Wilson: I paint in acrylics on different surfaces, canvas, wood and glass. My pictures are bright with bold colors, realistic interpretations of what I see and feel. I stumbled upon reverse glass painting after receiving an old painting on glass of the sinking of the Titanic from a friend when we did a workshop together at the Holocaust Center. It intrigued me, so I tried it myself and was delighted with the results. It also helped that I had just taken 20 or so ancient windows out of my house. To date, I have completed 10 Reverse Glass Paintings of Long Island Lighthouses and other water views.

What is it about the Hamptons that brought you here and enticed you to stay, work, and pursue your art here as opposed to some place else?

DW: I have visited and stayed on the East End off and on for many years. In 2009 we bought a summer cottage and spend a good part of the summer here.

How do you support yourself as an artist?

DW: Fortunately I have a pension and SS to cover my basic needs. My wife is still working full time as a children's librarian in a school.

"Crab Shack, East Marion" acrylic on canvas.

Why live and work in the Hamptons as opposed to elsewhere?

"Waiting to Go Fishing," acrylic on canvas.

DW: Partially the atmosphere, and I mean that in more than one way. The 'atmosphere,' the air, the sky has a certain look to it that you don't see elsewhere. It is hard to define, but as an artist, I appreciate what it has to offer. The people that live on the East End, the communities, villages, farms and water add to the ambiance of the area.

What local environmental or historical aspects of the Hamptons do you relate to that may be reflected in your medium?

DW: I love painting old homes, barns, farm stands of which there a many to choose from. I am also attracted to the water and water front scenes, commercial fishing boats, pleasure craft, boat sailing by at sunset. You can't beat it.

What artists do you feel have influenced you and your work?

DW: There are three that have attracted me since childhood, Picasso, Matisse, and Modigliani. But these artists did not influence my style of work. They inspired me to see what I could do. The Impressionists - Monet, Pizzaro and Van Gogh are more my style.

"Montauk Point," acrylic on canvas.

What advice would you give an emerging artist?

DW: If you can, go for it when you are young and stick with it. Don't give up your day job. There is something to that expression about "starving artist." However, there are so many paths you can take your art nowadays where you can actually make a living wage and have time to express yourself in art.

"Carrots," acrylic on canvas.

What gives you an edge (if any)?

DW: I don't know if I have an edge except I have a large body of work and keep promoting myself. Obviously I am over 25 and do not have decades ahead of me to make a name (and money) for myself.

What are you working on now, and are you involved in any upcoming shows or exhibitions?

DW: I have works in eight different venues, two or three pieces in each from Town & Country Realty Office in Southold, SCCC, Gallery on the Hill, Phoenix Gallery in Bellport and three public libraries. My next one person show will be new to me at Vito's Restaurant in Port Jefferson Station in February. After that I will be in six public libraries in 2012. I am looking for a 'home gallery.' I am just finishing up a picture of the Gallo Restaurant in the Piazza Umberto II in Panicale, Italy. It is sort of a commission as the owners are friends of ours. I just completed a fabulous fake of a Modigliani except I pasted in my niece Sophia's face and am in the middle of my favorite topic, sail boats. This one is of the Lynx, an 1812 replica that sailed into Long Island last summer.

The venue, Vito's Italian Restaurant, for February and March is an exciting new step for me and I have high hopes. Melissa Hin is managing this event, and she is starting a new business getting restaurants to participate and show artists work.

I am also making 'note cards' this year and hope to sell them in local East End gift shops, farm stands, and galleries, as well as on line.

For more information or to contact Wilson email dwilson@suffolk.lib.ny.us; visit www.abbotart.com, or call 631-790-5813.

For more information, click here.

Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.

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Guest (Barbara A. Hollingsworth) from 2090 Sugar Hill Road, Monroeville, AL 36460 says::
Don, I was pleased by looking at the paintings in this article. It is nice to know that an old friend has followed his dreams to 'draw pictures', and to advance to become a successful artist. I have many happy memories of our alma mater. Know you are proud of all those grandchildren. Stay safe. Sincerely, Bootsie
Sep 8, 2020 2:42 pm

Guest (Jane (Miller) Riggs) from Venice Florida says::
Don, What beautiful art. I forgot that you liked to draw. I went to school with you in Bethpage. Remember when? my email - bobber44@comcast.net
Feb 3, 2012 6:44 pm


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