During these unusual times, many of us have been tasked with the challenge of keeping our minds and spirits lifted while navigating life from inside our homes. Thomas Merton was famously quoted as declaring, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
Local multi-disciplinary artist, Dustin Wilson of Kamsack knows first-hand what it means to create artwork that not only engages his own spirit, but often affects his clients in profound ways.
“It’s difficult to select a favourite piece,” explained Wilson. “I love the different projects I have done for many different reasons. One that was very special was a drawing I did for an associate in B.C. who had a pet dog that was very sick. I worked from a photo of the dog, focusing on the eyes first. It’s my belief that once you capture the eyes, whether it is the eyes of animals or humans, you can begin to reveal the essence of the subject. When I completed the piece and sent it out, I heard that the dog had passed away on the same day it arrived in B.C. The family said it had come at the perfect time. They burst into tears to see those eyes and that personality that they were mourning. I really love the projects that mean so much to people.”
In addition to intricate, jaw-dropping pencil drawings, Wilson continues to explore and refine his skills in oil paintings, photography, videography, and music.
“I like to go from one medium to another,” Wilson divulged. “Sometimes after working with pencil for a long time, I really crave colour and I get working in oils. Photography is a lot of fun as well. I enjoy driving around Kamsack to find new and interesting things to photograph. There are some amazing things to see in these parts if you take the time to go out and look for them.”
Wilson, who grew up in Williams Lake, B.C., moved to Kamsack in 2003 to be close to some of his family members who lived in the area. Currently, he works the graveyard shift as a security guard at the Kamsack hospital.
“I have always been a night owl, so in the quiet of the evening, I like to sketch and draw. I have enjoyed making artwork since I was a kid. My friends used to work at the community pool in the town we grew up in. I would hang out with them and draw for hours.”
According to Wilson, one of the biggest misconceptions people make is how long it actually takes an artist to make a finished piece.
“Drawings and paintings can take anywhere from 10 to 12 hours,” explained Wilson. “It depends on the size of the canvas, of course. Sometimes I am willing to drop prices for those who sincerely can’t afford to buy art, but I have to be careful not to undermine the value of my work. If I spend multiple hours to produce a detailed piece, people often don’t understand that the low price they want to pay could mean I am receiving less than minimum wage for my time.”
With no intentions of leaving his day job anytime soon, Wilson is also clear that money isn’t the primary motivation behind his artwork.
“One special drawing I did was in memory of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team tragedy. I was a junior hockey player in Northern B.C. a few years prior and news of the accident hit me hard. I sent my drawing to Humboldt, and I was honored to hear it had been hung inside the Humboldt Hockey Arena.”
In fact, much of Wilson’s work has been displayed in art shows around Saskatchewan. When a visiting art curator from New York saw Wilson’s drawings at a show in Yorkton, he told Wilson that he could see his work showed potential. He suggested Wilson get into painting to advance his skills and career.
Embracing oils on canvas, Wilson has since spent a number of years teaching himself how to paint. In fact, Wilson says all of his artistic skills have come naturally through self-teaching. For the past six years, Wilson has shared his affinity for painting by leading community paint nights that encourage others to discover their own talents and abilities. Through word-of-mouth and Facebook posts, seats for the popular paint nights sell out quickly. Participants have included painters of all skill levels from toddlers to seniors.
Wilson has also created art tutorials for kids that were posted online during the pandemic shutdown. The videos were later picked up and broadcast on Yorkton’s Access 7 channel.
“Sometimes I will purchase a piece from an upcoming local artist to show support and let them know that what they are doing is worthy and special,” said Wilson. “Artists tend to go through times of self-doubt and I really feel that a little support goes a long way toward their confidence and progression as an artist. I really love it when artists support fellow artists.”
A dose of encouragement came in Wilson’s direction when the NHL’s Jaden Schwartz of the St. Louis Blues signed one of Wilson’s drawings depicting him and his late sister.
These days, Wilson is looking to go bigger with his paintings. His plans included working on larger canvas, producing larger portraits, and pushing his own levels of detail. With no sign of slowing down in his growth as an artist, Wilson is also taking his skills to new heights in photography and videography, working with his Panasonic Lumix G4 and G5 cameras and Lightroom online editor.
“I enjoy capturing the dancing northern lights around Kamsack. It’s always a hit and miss, but I am a member of a couple of Facebook groups where members share tips and advice as to which nights might be lucky for good light shows.”
With his artistic career picking up momentum, Wilson admits he is has about eight commissioned projects lined up and waiting for his attention. To see more of Wilson’s work, he has a public Facebook gallery called Dustin Wilson Art.