Evan Wilson’s Romantic, Photorealist Paintings Evoke a Bygone Era

Photorealistic oil painter Evan Wilson has carved a career for himself merging past and present in compositions depicting Rafael-esque figures. Technical yet soulful, Wilson’s works use rich coloring and meticulous lighting techniques.

Inspired by his surroundings, Wilson often depicts bucolic fields, wilting sunflowers, and interiors, as well as human figures, usually based on live models. His intensive painting process takes months to complete. Wilson claims he makes all his painting decisions from five to eight feet away to ensure that every detail is as perfect as possible. He begins with a charcoal outline, then wipes it away, leaving a ghostly sketch. He then layers each color separately, starting with whites and earth tones, to ensure that the hues come out accurately. Each detail, down to the natural lighting and the folds of a model’s dress, has to be precisely the same each time the artist sits down to paint. Some days, Wilson admits, he will spend hours painting one flower on a kimono’s pattern.

Wilson’s love for painting came from his mother, who introduced him to comic books as a child. While at the Maryland Institute, his professor Joseph Shepherd showed him 20th-century artists John Singer Sargent and Robert Heinrich, as well as old masters such Anthony Van Dyck, whom Wilson cites as his main inspiration for his painting technique. In 1978, Wilson received a grant to study painting in Italy, where the artist was able to ride a motorcycle through the Tuscan countryside and “live like an Italian.” It was there that he developed his love for painting landscapes.

Wilson’s home in Upstate New York also surrounds the artist with the stability and beauty he needed to create his later works. “I painted the sunflowers in summer, the fields in the fall, and the interiors in the winter,” says the artist, who makes his painstakingly detailed works seem as effortless as a walk in the park.

 —Sola Agustsson

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