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I want to see what’s in here.
Those were the words from my husband on a recent fall weekend away together in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. We had been on a stroll from shop to shop in the downtown district, when he dashed inside a door on Spring Street. I fully expected this was some men’s clothing store or that he had spied a new pair of shoes. Turns out, Wilson and Wilson Folk Art captured his attention.
Once inside, I saw what grabbed his eye. Store owner Blakeley Wilson and her mom Sylvia Wilson capture scenes from the backroads, vacation destinations and Americans’ everyday lifestyles with bright, vivid colors of paint in their Americana folk art.
“I just paint the dreamy, idyllic version of the scenes I see around me,” Wilson shared. “Sometimes, I’m inspired by a seed packet, the chickens in our backyard or iconic American imagery.”
During the 70s and 80s, Blakeley Wilson would spend her summers at her parent’s shop at Silver Dollar City. Her dad carved wood decoys and sold them in the shop alongside her mother’s paintings. As a teen, she started painting scenes on the side of the decoys, and they would sell. Something in her gave her the gusto to try art on her own. At the age of 21, she was accepted to the War Eagle craft show by painting dried gourds.
Her art took off and turned into her original staple income as a college student.
Not wanting to live life “on the road,” Wilson decided to establish her own shop and sell art full time. She came to Eureka Springs with some understanding of the community from her years growing up in an artist family. She thought her type of art distinctive, and set up a shop in the downtown of the popular Arkansas town.
“You bloom where you are planted. Eureka Springs gave me a place to stand out and grow my business. I’m just so thankful this is the place where God planted us.”
While it’s somewhat challenging to describe, “a Blakeley Wilson” piece is distinct. Her artwork’s colors are typically bright and energetic. Faces are painted with wide-open eyes and big smiles. Landscapes have exaggerated lines and an almost cartoon-like presence.
For me, it’s painting that represents the idyllic dreams of life. I dream of how I wish life were, and that has helped me navigate this year. And, wanting to be like my mom. She is still the best painter I know.”
In the past, Blakeley Wilson has worked on scenes from vacation spots, incorporating cars and transportation. As her own life has changed, so has the subject of her craft. It often takes months, even a year, to finish one original piece. When complete, the emotions and life occurrences during that time become evident in looking at her work. After she got married, her paintings’ colors and subjects became more vibrant.
It’s as if the joy in her life overflowed into the colors and topics of her work.
Early in the pandemic, Wilson began work on a tea kettle piece. As a shift from her typical canvas, she wanted to paint on an antique container. She spent more than nine months intricately painting small flowers and a springtime field across the material. A longtime Northwest Arkansas customer recently purchased it for his mother. Wilson admits it was bittersweet watching that piece leave the shop.
Wilson and her mom share the store in Eureka Springs. While their styles reflect each other, they are still different. Sylvia Wilson paints smaller pieces and adds needlework to their store collection. Blakeley Wilson still sells a few gourds but loves painting scenes on pieces that can become part of a home collection.
What brings many customers back are the large canvas pieces. Whether it’s a mountain camping scene, tractors, trucks on a farm or Americana and holiday treasures, these unique pieces provide an escape.
“Own Art, Be Happy” is the motto of Wilson and Wilson Folk Art. A visit to their store for a masterpiece to bring home might be the happiness your holidays need.
Article images used with permission from Wilson and Wilson Folk Art
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