Nicholas Wilson Paints With Razor Blades
A lifelong lover of wildlife, Wilson began drawing animals at an early age. His passion for the subject matter continued to grow as he experimented with new techniques to bring more realism to the canvas. It was in high school that he discovered that using razor blades to ‘carve’ each hair on a coyote, a mountain lion or a rabbit provided the minute detail to bring the subject to life. The results are stunning.
It is a technique that he invented. No one else does it. Capable of ‘carving’ 1.5 square inches a minute, Wilson is now so adept that he can perfectly create the fur of a variety of chosen desert animals quite literally with his eyes closed. The process requires 6-8 applications of different hues of gouache, with razor blading each time. The resulting gradations of color and detail are simply not achievable with a brush of any kind. Again, the results are stunning. You really want to pat the animals!
Always experimenting with new ways to improve, Wilson has tried many different surfaces and paints to achieve his desire results, and certainly takes advantage of new technologies. Early on he made his own canvases by combining lacquer with diatomaceous earth in a slurry, which he sprayed on particle board. The process required 25-30 coats and took quite a long time. Now he uses Clayboard, a manufactured product that works perfectly.
A self-described ‘regionalist’, Wilson is comfortable painting only animals which live in the vicinity of his home town of Tubac. A few years back he was flown to both Africa and Alaska in one hectic two month period, to paint the great animals found there. Each trip yielded one painting and that was it. He simply could not relate to the subject matter.
Wilson says that he gets into the character of the animals, into what they mean to him. Interestingly he finds that he paints rabbits when he feels content, mountain lions when he feels insecure and other desert dwellers for feelings in between. While he doesn’t begin a painting with his in mind it always follows suit. Rabbits are fun and carefree while mountain lions define strength, when strength is needed.
While known primarily for these incredible wildlife paintings, Wilson also creates wonderful watercolors, the coast of the Sea of Cortez being a favorite subject, some oils, though he says oil does not inspire him much anymore and more recently, engravings in both wood and copper.
And sculpture! Wilson originally experimented with sculpture to sharpen his skills in recreating the exact musculature of his animal subjects. He would make a clay model and set it in the sun to study how the shadows played on the body, so he could duplicate those in the painting. Now his bronzes are in high demand in their own right.
Nicholas Wilson…humble, soft spoken and immensely talented…a Tubac treasure.