Question & Answer with GORDON WILSON

From his studio at Milngavie, Glasgow, Gordon tells us about his route to becoming a full-time artist and his working practices.
June 9, 2021
Artist Gordon Wilson at work in his studio

Have you always known you wanted to become an artist?

Yes, I come from a family of artists. My father was and still is a fabulous watercolourist and watching him paint was a huge inspiration to me.


What route did you take to reach your destination?

As a child I sketched constantly and in my early teens I would spend every Saturday drawing caricatures in a Glasgow shopping arcade for much needed Saturday night funds! After leaving school I worked as a graphic artist in advertising agencies whilst taking classes at The Glasgow School Of Art. I then opened a successful picture framing business which I ran with my wife for 27 years. This gave me the opportunity to paint and establish myself as an artist. I subsequently gave it up to paint full time seven years ago and have never looked back!


Which artists influenced you along the way?

Sir Stanley Spencer, Lucien Freud and John Byrne are all magnificent portrait artists and have been a huge influence on the way I paint.


What do you love most about being an artist?

The freedom to express myself. I can go into my studio, play music and create. Painting makes me happy.


What’s the biggest challenge?

Fulfilling obligations to galleries. Exhibitions are planned one to two years in advance and it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the pressure this places. But I have always painted from my heart and ultimately for self-fulfilment and I'm blessed to be doing a job I love.


Tell us about your studio. What do you like most? Is there anything you would change?

I have been in the same studio for 35 years. It’s a fabulous space, on two levels, with room to paint large pieces and a workshop area to frame my own paintings. I work on numerous paintings at one time so it’s full of paintings and the wonderful smell of oil paint. However, one wish would be for it to be warmer in the winter!


How would you describe your painting style and technique?

Modern Colourist.


What media do you use and why are they your preference?

Oil. It allows texture and fluidity. I love the impasto quality of oil.


Where do you get inspiration?

Everywhere! From the stunning Scottish landscapes to old ladies shopping (Biddies as I call them). Years ago I saw a field of Belted Galloway’s and was struck by the beauty of this iconic breed of cattle and just had to include them in my paintings! I paint them regularly with my old Biddies on ‘Puffers’, a type of boat that I have loved since childhood. The Vital Spark was berthed in Inverarary, where my parents lived at the time, and I’d spend hours sketching it taking in every detail.


Your subject matter encompasses landscape, still life and figurative work. Do you know what you’re going to paint before you face a blank canvas?

It depends on what mood I’m in or what I’ve seen or experienced. If I’ve had a day in the countryside, I can get fired up by the colours and the landscapes and rush to the studio to paint. I lay awake at night with images going through my head and this can influence what I’ll paint the next day.


What is the starting point of your paintings?

I prime the canvas...always a dark background, which I then build colour onto. With The Biddies I always start with her face and I seldom plan an outcome. Her journey comes to me as I paint. If I have taken photos I rarely stick to them, the colours and shapes will inspire me and I’ll lose myself, my artistic impression of the scene will evolve.


How do you know when a painting is finished?

I don’t!