Jeremy Wilson was born in 1986 in Manhattan. He received a BFA from the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts and a Masters Equivalency from Virginia Commonwealth University. He has done illustration work for trading cards and books, and concept work, as well as shown his original paintings in galleries. His clients have included companies such as Square Enix and Cryptozoic Entertainment. His work has been shown at the Allentown Art Museum and featured in Spectrum and the ARC Salon. He also teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University. He currently lives and works in Richmond, Virginia. His website is www.jeremywilsonart.com.
Talk to us a little bit about your technique. Are all your works traditional oils?
All my work is oil. After graduating, I found myself a part of an art community that seemed predominantly digital. I began to experiment with digital with the intention of changing mediums until I went to Illuxcon for the first time in 2010. After seeing the community surrounding traditional work, I made the choice to put an emphasis on the traditional while still using the digital on the back end of production.
You have traditional fine art training and it shows in your technique. What are some of your influences from traditional painting? Am I correct in catching aromas of Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth?
Absolutely. All of the “golden age” illustrators like Pyle, Wyeth, and Cornwell have a major impact on me. I grew up around art. My father is an acclaimed gallery artist. I gained a lot from him concerning technique. Both he and I are also heavily influenced by John Singer Sargent. I have most recently been surrounded by some amazing editorial illustrators. Sterling Hundley has had a major influence on both my life and work.
There’s an interesting subtext of Orientalism in a lot of science fiction/fantasy illustration. While 18th- and 19th-century Orientalist painting was often used as propaganda for imperialism, to justify the conquering of other countries by depicting them as exotic and barbaric, the images also ended up captivating the public’s imagination by offering people views into alien and beautiful worlds. It seems like you are consciously trying to strike a balance between painting a view into an alien world and not exoticizing or objectifying it. This issue’s cover painting, Desert Guardians, is a great example. The warriors are women, but there aren’t boobs bursting out of iron bras. One face is unveiled and it is the face of a beautiful woman, but it is unveiled to show that these warriors are women, not for us to ogle her beauty, and the figure seems to be doing it to catch a moment of cool air. What are some of the considerations that go into gracefully negotiating between showing something strange and new and objectifying in an Orientalist manner?
I have always painted what attracts me in regard to aesthetic. Overt sexualization doesn’t fall into my aesthetic, unless it carries an air of elegance. I want to capture classical beauty and mystery through light. In regard to objectification, I strive to capture the same ideas regardless of sex. The “negotiating” is better described as a conversation I have with my characters and the intent of that dialogue. In my mind, my female characters are considerably deeper and richer in story development, regardless of their covering. They tend to be more deadly as well.
I think I see a lot of orbs occurring in your work. Is this a conscious motif in your work? Is there significance in it?
Again, this is simply aesthetic. The execution is very intentional, though the concept can be looser and more driven by instinct to balance the harshness and weight of my color scheme with visual appearances of shapes that are softer and a source of light. There is no specific symbol to the circle other than what it represents in the painting.
What’s your relationship to and opinion of digital science fiction/fantasy illustration?
I like all kinds of art, regardless of medium. There are some amazing digital artists whose level of work I’ll never achieve that I drool over. I find that ultimately it’s the quality that matters. So rather than point out shortcomings in mediums, I’ll ask you to consider our social interactions. We are a generation raised on shortcuts they tempt us daily. Entire business models are built on shortcuts. Pop culture has reduced the hard work behind success into a montage. Interactions in the art world are cold and numerous, emails and subscriptions are the “preferred” contact method. Considering all this, I see the accessibility we have being potentially detrimental. So, to answer the question: Any artist, regardless of medium, who loses sight of the quality of their communication, visual or otherwise, is doomed to mediocrity.
What are some of your other influences besides traditional fine art painters?
Writing and movies are big for me. I love American Horror Story. Everything in that show fits its theme. The attention to detail, down to the credits and advertising, is fantastic.
What is your dream project?
Currently, I would love to do comic covers, to define the visuals of a whole series. However, as an artist, I am constantly reaching for the next success and validation, outward and inward. This is a double-edged sword, though. We cannot rest on one success, and are forced to refine and seek our next potential. In other words, I have many dream projects, and always will.
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