I talked to Artist, Richard Wilson Jr., at the Columbus Arts Festival 2022.
What is your name?
Richard Wilson. I make sure I sign all my paintings Richard Wilson Jr. because my dad was an artist as well.
I think I saw artist award winner best in show.
Is this your first time at the Columbus Arts Festival?
No. I think it is my third time. The last time I did it was in 2017. The Columbus Arts Festival started to fall on the same weekend as another show that I do really well at, but I was so glad it was on a different weekend this year. A lot of people have been contacting me asking when I was coming back to Columbus. I was happy to let them know that it was this year.
Tell me about your art.
I do a lot of artwork that has historical references. My work is very positive. At my shows, I have a lot of school administrators, teachers, and principals. They see my work and invite me to their schools to encourage young people to follow their dreams like I have as a full time artist. I decided to come up with eye catching paintings called “My shadow series” that have a lot of history in these paintings that they don’t teach us in school. For instance, Bessie Coleman, the first African American female aviator. All through school I heard about Amelia Earhart but I never heard about Bessie Coleman. Bessie Coleman had to teach herself French so she could go to France to get her pilot’s license. After she got her license, she returned to America and flew for a while. Her goal changed. She wanted to start a flight school for people who were denied an education like herself. She started doing stunt flights around the country at fairgrounds to raise money for the school. One day she was doing a test flight in Jacksonville, Florida. The plane stalled and she fell out of the cockpit to her death. I drew my daughter in the painting saluting because she is grateful and thankful to Bessie Coleman. It taught her that people can try to hold you back; but, the only person that can hold you back is yourself. If you are determined, you can make it happen. Bessie Coleman achieved her dreams; but, she wanted to reach back and help others. Those are the types of stories that we need to hear. That’s why I tried to do these positive pieces and honor these trailblazers that never got their just due. This is my way of sharing those stories.
I saw that your work is in a lot of places. Can you highlight where your work is?
A lot of my work is in movies and television shows. I have stuff in museums. I have been featured in several magazines like the Wall Street Journal. The latest movie is on Netflix, “Raising Dion” season 2. Three of my pieces are in that show, two of my ballerinas, and my famous piece “Jack Johnson” that draws everyone into the booth. All the artwork in the movie, “Barbershop the Next Cut” in Ice Cube’s house is my work. In “This is Us” on NBC, they purchased one of my ballerina pieces “Anticipation” that is featured in Sterling K Brown’s house. There is another show on Netflix called, “The trap” with Mike Epps and T.I. my girl boxer called “My writing is on the wall” is featured. “BMF” on STARZ network purchased my piece “Anticipation” again. My work was purchased by Blue moon beer. They selected me as one of the 20 upcoming artists and they commissioned me to do their 20th anniversary beer label. In 2016, that beer was sold all over the country and it had my signature on the bottle and it had my painting on there. You can also find my work at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. They purchased my original painting, “In His Shadow Arthur Ash”. I also made history in North Carolina. I am the first African American Artist to ever have a painting hanging in any court house in North Carolina. I did a portray of George Henry White. He is the last former slave to serve in Congress. The house that he lived in is right behind the Court House where my painting is now hanging in Tarboro, North Carlina. I also have some celebrity clients. Hank Aaron invited me to his house. He signed my original painting and he commissioned me to do two paintings for him. Beyonce’s mom, Tina Knowles, purchased one of my original paintings. I have several professional baseball and basketball players who have purchased my work. The Wall Street Journal recognized me as one of the most successful artists you are likely to meet. You would think that I would be represented by a gallery; but, I represent myself. I travel all over the country to the top art fairs. I like doing that because I get to see how my work changes lives. If I was in a gallery, I wouldn’t have that experience. I would just reap the financial rewards. Seeing how my work affects people and encourages them, it gives me purpose. I can tell them my story. How I got to where I am today. In 2018, I was commissioned by the University of Georgia to paint the portrait of Mary Francis Early. She is the first African-American to graduate from the University. This year, they commissioned me to do six more portraits. I am working on those at the moment. We will be unveiling three of them in August of this year. In October, we will be unveiling another one. In 2023, we will unveil two more.
If someone wants to buy something what is your website?
www.richardwilsonart.com. I have prints. I have originals. If you go to the print section you will see all of my images. I have everything separated by series.
Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you think I should have asked you? If so, go ahead and answer that question.
Who are the models in the paintings? All the girls in my paintings are my daughters. All the boys are my nephews.