Portraits of Greatness
Our State magazine article
written by KIM GRIZZARD / photography by ALEX BOERNER
A Greenville artist creates glimpses of the past to help children see better futures for themselves.View Original Article
Local artist Richard Wilson, winner of the 20 Annual Pastel 100 Competition Pastel Journal Founder’s Award in memory of Maggie Price, hosts Facebook Live art shows to sell his artwork and connect with his audience.
There were over 2,000 artists who competed in the 20 Annual Pastel 100 Competition Pastel Journal Founder’s Award in memory of Maggie Price competition, Wilson said.
Wilson started the Facebook Live art shows because he usually travels to the top art shows around the country, he said, but all of the shows he planned to attend were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been a big hit. It’s been very successful,” Wilson said.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilson said he thought about a way to connect with his collectors and to connect with a broader audience. He said he invited over 11,000 people from his mailing list to attend his virtual art show, and plans to do more Facebook Live art shows in the future.
Wilson said he plans on publishing a book about his most popular work “Shadow Series,” which is a series of his paintings. He said he will probably publish more than one book, but the release date has not been set for his future publications.
“It’s a series of paintings (Shadow Series) where I draw young people standing in front of these trailblazers so they are walking in their shadows,” Wilson said. “They are discovering history that they don’t normally teach us in school.”
Wilson described his artwork as realism and figurative. He said he does oil paintings, pastel paintings and landscape artwork of eastern North Carolina.
Wilson said he started drawing around the age of eight years old. He said his father was his first inspiration to become an artist. He said his father would draw him and his brothers and he was in “awe” of his father’s talent. “I started drawing and fell in love with it,” Wilson said. In elementary school, Wilson said he won art awards and was encouraged by his educators. He said he felt that his teachers believed in him because when he was in the seventh grade, a teacher asked him to draw black historians like Martin Luther King Jr. and Fredrick Douglass.
Wilson said he went home and when he came back to school from over the weekend the teachers made a bulletin board of his drawings.
“I wish I had that now (picture of Wilson in front of the bulletin board) so I could show people that you can have a dream at eight years old and it can actually come true; well to become a full-time artist or anything else that you desire to do,” Wilson said.
While growing up, Wilson said he was inspired by the artwork featured in sitcoms “The Cosby Show” and “Good Times”.
Wilson said he made history as the first African American to have a painting hanging in any courthouse in North Carolina. He said it is a portrait of George Henry White who was the last former slave to serve in Congress.
After graduating from SouthWest Edgecombe High School, Wilson then went on to college at Barton College in Wilson, North Carolina where he received a degree in communication arts, according to Wilson’s biography on his website. He received a degree in advertising and graphic design at Pitt Community College.
Wilson has a twenty-year career as a professional artist, a freelancer and corporate graphic designer. According to his biography, his artwork is in numerous private and public collections. The biography said he has won numerous awards throughout his career.
The Wall Street Journal also featured Wilson’s work, he said, on Nov. 25, 2018. In the article “He Sells His Art From Fair to Fair,” he is described as “one of the most successful artists you’re likely to actually meet,” by freelance writer and author Daniel Grant.
Wilson said his work has been featured in films like Barbershop: The Next Cut and The Trap. He said he has celebrity collectors such as Tina Knowles and Henry Hank Aaron.
Everett Adelman, owner of Andrejev Gallery and painter, said he and Wilson have known each other since 1993. He said Wilson is a realist and his family-oriented work has significance and meaning.
“I think Richard Wilson is one of the finest there is,” Adelman said.
Harry and Linda Dickens of California, owners of Wilson’s original work, said they are very pleased with his work. Linda and Harry both said while at the festival they watched Wilson as he worked a piece and were very impressed with his professionalism and talent.
“It takes a tremendous amount of talent to be able to create what he does,” Harry Dickens said.
They said they met Wilson in Miami, Florida at the Coconut Grove art festival in 2008 or 2009 where they saw his “Shadows Series”.
Linda said since she is a runner, she asked Wilson to do a piece of Jesse Owens, an American track and field athlete and four-time gold medalist in the 1936 Olympic Games.
“There is a story behind the pieces and I love that,” Linda Dickens said.
Sim Asher, Communications and Events Coordinator for the Greenville Museum of Art, said he got to know Wilson over the years and admired his work.
“I have an appreciation for his content and focus on African American livelihood in Eastern NC,” Asher said in an email statement. “I think there’s something to be said about being able to focus on what you know. Richard knows family, friends and his environments. His passion shines through the surface of his canvases and it is great having his artwork be shared with the world,” Asher said in an email statement.”
Asher said he and Wilson both worked in the Fine Arts and Graphic Design programs at Pitt Community College. He said Wilson was also a frequent customer of his when he operated Uptown Art Supply & Gallery in the Uptown District.
Wilson was selected by Blue Moon Brewing Company, Asher said, during a national art campaign’s search for 20 artists nationwide to design a featured label for the company’s beer. Asher said he created events and helped to promote and celebrate Wilson in the Uptown District, of Wilson’s design through an organizational committee of local artists, business owners and community members.
Asher said Wilson was featured in the Greenville Magazine for “local artists who influence the Greenville art scene.”
“The magazine did a few-page spread on each artist and it was an honor for us both to share our stories and artwork together,” Asher said.
More information about Wilson can be found on his Facebook, Twitter, Instagram pages and his website.
The power of dreams
Pastel Journal magazine article
The Pastel 100 is an international art competition with over 2000 entries from around the world. Richard Wilson won the top prize, The Pastel Journal Founder’s Award in Memory of Maggie Price.Buy Fine Art
A leap of faith, a graceful landing
By Mackenzie Tewksbury. Greenville: Life in the East
Spring, 2018Buy Fine Art
The University of Georgia celebrated the life and achievements of Mary Frances Early, the first African American to earn a degree from the University of Georgia, by unveiling her portrait in the Administration Building at a ceremony on Oct. 10.
The portrait, by artist Richard Wilson, was installed in The Gordon Jones Gallery of the Administration Building to honor Early, who went on to become the director of music for Atlanta Public Schools and the first African American president of the Georgia Music Educators Association in 1981.
“Ms. Early is a distinguished educator, and it is clear that she has made a profound impact on the lives of countless individuals,” President Jere W. Morehead said at the ceremony. “Her portrait will serve as a lasting tribute to her dignified courage and her commitment to educational excellence.”
Ms. Early saw the finished portrait for the first time at the ceremony, and she was obviously pleased. “It’s very beautifully done as you can see, because it looks better than me,” she said, drawing appreciative laughter from the audience. “It always means so much to have the support of so many.
“During my two years here,” Early continued, referring to her time attending UGA, “I couldn’t have imagined anything like this happening in my wildest dreams. I am so delighted that a part of me will be here after I’m gone. When people see this portrait, they will know that something important happened here.”
The installation of Early’s portrait is part of a series of accolades celebrating her life and career. In January 2018, Early received one of UGA’s highest honors, the President’s Medal. On Sept. 11, the documentary “Mary Frances Early: The Quiet Trailblazer” premiered in Atlanta.
A native of Atlanta, Early came to UGA in the summer of 1961. Earlier that year, Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes became the first African American students to enroll at UGA. Early had started postgraduate work at the University of Michigan when she transferred to UGA to complete her studies. She became the first African American to earn a degree from the University of Georgia when she graduated on Aug. 16, 1962, with a master’s degree in music education. She returned in 1964 to continue her education, earning a Specialist in Education degree in 1967.
Early, who was class valedictorian at Henry McNeal Turner High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Clark Atlanta University in 1957, became a music teacher in the Atlanta Public Schools and was eventually promoted to music director of the entire school system. Early worked with teachers in the system’s 100-plus schools, and was in charge of the music curriculum, budget, textbooks and more.
Early retired in 1994 after working for 37 years in public schools. She has since taught at Morehouse College, Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University as head of the music department.
Published November 2006
Illustrations by Richard Wilson
The original painting of “Push Daddy Push” won the 2006 Pastel Society of New Mexico Award at the Pastel Society of America 34th Annual Art Exhibit, National Arts Club–New York, NY (This was an International Juried Competition)