Neil Wilkins

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Twitter: @neil_art

When did art become a pursuit for you?

I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, and my childhood summers were full of comic books and sand sculptures. I always thought that I wanted to be an artist although I had no idea what that really entailed. After high school, I realized that art was the one thing I was truly passionate about and decided to cast my lot with others who have the same dreams.

Are you self-taught or formally educated in visual art?

I began my studies at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, MA. Taking just about every kind of class I could get my hands on, I earned a BFA with a focus in Illustration in 1997. After I began teaching, I returned to school at Salem State College and completed my Master of Arts in Teaching Fine Art in 2009.

How did you first become involved with ArtsWorcester?

I moved back to the Worcester area in 2010. It took me a while to find the team at ArtsWorcester, and I entered a call for the Biennial in 2013. My first work here was in the first annual ONE exhibit at the Aurora Gallery and it’s been a great relationship ever since.

What medium do you currently work in, and how did you choose this medium?

For most of my career I have focused on working in acrylics, in part due to a strong reaction to solvents involved in oil painting. I continue to paint, draw and occasionally work in monotype, but for the past year and a half my newest focus has been multi-media encaustic painting. I believe that the universe conspired to bring together a number of friends, acquaintances, and experiences to drop little hints and coincidences that lead me in this new direction. Once I began working in encaustic, I felt immediately that I had opened a small door to a very large world. My most recent series of works is on view in Material Needs 2018 at ArtsWorcester through September 29, 2018.

What is your creative process?

When I begin a work, I start with a notion, a general idea of where a piece may take me. This could begin with a few large brushstrokes, or a rough compositional idea, and then I deliberately step back from controlling the process too tightly. I work in the moment to allow my pieces to grow organically as they are being made. I try to make new choices based on what I discover emerging in the work, rather than move headlong toward a predetermined outcome.

How do you choose your subject matter? Are there themes that recur throughout your work?

It turns out that I invented circles. Tah-dah! Actually I have been working on creating with a focus on circular forms for nearly 15 years. I had found that my papers and notes were always full of margin doodles loaded with circular forms and groupings. As I began to take these little sketches more seriously over time I found myself traveling along an interesting road. Studying such an elemental shape, and the ways it informs so much of science, nature, and human experience, continually fascinates me.

What living artists are you inspired by?

On a national scale, I love Tara Donovan’s installation pieces; they are unspeakably beautiful and deceptively complicated. Since moving back to the Worcester area, I have been so lucky to find any number of exceptionally talented artists through my connection with ArtsWorcester and I am always looking forward to seeing the variety of truly skilled works on display.

Do you own any art by other artists?

We’re very lucky to have collected a few treasures along the way. Works by John Hayes-Nikas, Ryan Holohan, Amanda Bastien, Ann Gorbett, Ken MacGray, Mark Spencer, Jeremy Lee, Chrissie Murphy, Jose Criollo, Don Mathias, Mike Waters, Dave Dawson, Natalie MacKnight, Doreen LaScola, Nancy Thepmanivong, Michelle St. Martin and Hideaki Miyamura keep us company now, and there are always others we have our eyes on!

What other media or directions would you like to explore?

Over time I have been gradually collecting ideas, notes and materials for some installation and 3D work. More to follow…


laminae/transience:15, encaustic mixed media on wood, 12″ x 24″