J. WESLEY WILLIS - #18
in the AVA Gallery, December 8, 2018 - January 5, 2019
1215 15th Street
Will be doing a demonstration during the studio tour
Willis’s oil paintings offer a unique view of some beloved Astoria scenes and some unique, obscure perspectives. In this series of paintings, Willis reflects a distilled image of a carefully chosen location, time and concept.
While Willis started out an artist, his grandfather, who didn’t became an artist until his retirement, always encouraged him to create. His grandfather ran the Sitka Center for Art & Ecology for a time. He taught John to draw and to carve—to see more carefully. He showed John from an early age what it meant to be an artist.
But work in software and finance lead Willis away from creative pursuits.
Then in 2010, he reconnected with creativity and changed everything. He committed to living a creative life: writing, drawing, designing, building, and inventing.
In 2016 Willis relocated to Astoria and began painting.
Painting is a means of exploration—a way to see what best defines a thing or a place. Since I moved to Astoria, I’ve been seeing and painting the things that feel most essential to this place.
I paint with oil on wood panels, or sometimes canvas-board. Each painting starts with some visual interest in a landscape or structure. The interest evolves from a photograph to a drawing on a gessoed panel, then a tone map—a monochromatic underpainting. Then the color begins. Most paintings involve three to five sessions, with breaks in between where I can look at them on my studio wall.
Once I’ve completed a piece, I no longer think of it as my art. It’s somebody else’s. It’s an artifact of a process which belongs to me, but I don’t think of the painting itself as mine. I don’t even think of it as real at first. It comes into being when you see it and connect with it. That’s meaning-making. The process and that connection are my rewards. The art itself is for you.
You can see more of Willis's art at Art is for the Heart. You can also see his fine art woodwork at the RiverSea Gallery in Astoria, the exclusive outlet for his lap desks and shinto stools.