Long Island Inspirations Last for Artist Don Wilson

Shinnecock Lighthouse painting by Don Wilson
Shinnecock Lighthouse painting by Don Wilson

“I have a summer place on the North Fork and spend a lot of time there,” says artist Don Wilson. “I get most of my inspiration from the farms, the sea, the shore and the Long Island landscape.”

Wilson is not alone in this among artists along the North Fork or in the Hamptons, but his introduction to the world of art has a unique quality that he’s held onto since he was a kid. “I began life on a small farm/restaurant, the Beau SeJour in Bethpage, New York, which was operated by my family since the turn of the last century. When I was very young, my father had a serious illness which kept him confined to bed for many months. [expand]

“During that time we kept each other company for many hours drawing pictures. Actually, my dad drew most of the pictures, especially pictures of Mickey Mouse and other newly created Disney characters. This was my introduction to art.”

As Wilson gets set to join other top artists at the  Dan’s Papers Cover Artist Show & Cocktail Party on Saturday, August 20, he shares his thoughts on still finding inspiration on the East End, growing as an artist and preserving his story for posterity.

On being on the cover of Dan’s Papers cover…Being on the cover of Dan’s is instant recognition of you as an artist, especially on the East End of Long Island.  I was amazed at the number of calls, emails, etc. I received last time I was on the cover from folks I hadn’t heard from in years as well as close friends and relatives congratulating me for my achievement.


On the power of the East End to inspire… I love the East End. I grew up on rural Long Island, Nassau County, many decades ago and I was so happy to see it still here, alive and thriving on the East End when I moved here 12 years ago. We did vacation on the East End over the years and made weekly, seasonal shopping trips to the farms for eggs, vegetables, local produce. I was awed and inspired by the scenery surrounding me on these visits and later when I came back to art after a 40-year break to help raise my family, it motivated me to create them in paintings. Summer here is beautiful, each day you can see the world growing around you and then when all is ripe, we have the added beauty of the colors of fall.

On the East End artists community… Being by other artists is comforting. I didn’t realize how many there are year round and how many more in the summer. We are talking about having an “artist” gathering at Aldo’s in Greenport on Sunday mornings in the fall. Just to chat and be in touch with each other and the artist community.

On trying something new… I have tried other mediums and was not happy with the results or the time or effort needed to create a picture. I like working in acrylic, especially now as they are coming out with new consistencies and colors. What I like to do is to paint on a variety of surfaces besides the traditional canvas. For the past few years I have specialized in Reverse Glass Painting. I also enjoy exploring the grains and textures of wood panels, such as luan board, plywood and the solid hard finish of masonite. You get different results with each surface you work on.

On selecting what subject to paint… Sometimes I will just see something that I know I want to paint. I am forever taking pictures of cloud formations and the sky. During the winter months I drive around and take photos of farms, barns, buildings, farm stands, silos, or whatever jumps out at me.  You can see the objects in the winter when there are no leaves or foliage blocking the view. When I paint the picture, I can make it any season I want. The best example of that is the “Witches Hat Farm Stand” in Jamesport.  It stands out in the winter, but you can hardly see it in the summer. I painted it in the spring scene. If someone doesn’t rescue the building soon, it may just crumble away.  Would be a shame, been there since 1926.

On life away from his work… I like to cook. I grew up in the restaurant business and later was a summer cook for 18 years in 4H camp in Riverhead. I like to read. I was a children’s librarian for 31 years and a professor of Library Science for 10 and the literature still fascinates me. I also write. I am involved in a memoir writing group and it keeps me in focus and on task to write something about my past each week.  Eventually I hope to put it together for my children and grandchildren to read.

Click here to get your tickets now for the Dan’s Papers Cover Artist Show & Cocktail Party on Saturday, August 20, at Seasons of Southampton!

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