I met artist Charles Wildbank through my friend Mike Royer, who is a member of HLAA (Hearing Loss Association of America). I design and produce the Hearing Loss Magazine for HLAA and photographed Mike, Alicia and my friend Sue for the cover of the March/April 2008 issue (see that cover in this posting here). I’ve also photographed the Royer family in my studio and had the honor of photographing their third child, Ashley Jocelyn, coming into the world. You can see those photos in my postings: Meet the Royers; And baby girl makes five…; Annie & Joshua; Welcome to the world, Ashley Jocelyn; and Introducing Ashley Jocelyn.
Mike knows we’re always on the lookout for interesting people who have hearing loss, so he recommended Charles for a future feature article. Charles wears hearing aids and received a cochlear implant in late 2009. I’m happy to report that Charles and I are online friends now and chat often through Facebook, discussing art techniques and materials, photography, camera gear, Photoshop, marketing our work, and life in general. I plan to drive up to North Fork, Long Island, to interview and photograph Charles for the magazine sometime this year. (Above: Charles works on a painting from his Hado series)
A prolific painter, Charles averages one or two large paintings a month and works in oil and acrylic. He does a lot of sketching on his computer with an electronic tablet, and paints with his laptop next to the easel for reference. He uses paintbrushes, applicators, squeeze bottles, detailing pens, rollers, soaking rags and drip techniques. His paintings range from 36″ minimum up to 20 feet—“the bigger the better for me—for my best expression,” he says.
Charles is currently working on a demonstration painting “performance” video that will be posted on youtube.com and vimeo.com. View a video he recently created about his painting, Luvin’ Wave, here. Check out his website at www.wildbank.com. He has been interviewed by many publications, including Fine Art Magazine, Dan’s Papers, Southampton Press, the Los Angeles Times, and others. You can read those interviews on his website here. To download his 41-page e-book, click here: WildbankEbookprint.
Some of my favorite Wildbanks paintings are from his still life series. In an interview with Dan’s Papers, he said, “Although I create large-scale subjects for my murals and commissions, I wind up interspersing my still life series with vignettes of the simple pleasures in life, such as the cup of capuccino.”
Excerpted from www.deafnotes.com:
Charles, a Long Island native, is the eldest of nine children and congenitally profoundly deaf. He was fitted with a hearing aid at age two and has a brother who is deaf and another who is hard of hearing. When he was nine years old, with the support and nurturing of his parents and grandmother, he began painting. He later attended Yale, Pratt and Columbia, graduating with honors. In 1979, Wildbank’s first exhibit at Bonwit Teller created a sensation on Fifth Avenue, with a giant sparkling rendering of the famed Cartier diamond. He had just left his position after seven years of teaching the deaf. Deciding to continue painting, he discovered that other artists were exhibiting their art in the store windows of Fifth Avenue, thought he would give it a try, and was quite successful. Soon after, he walked into a neighboring Cartier store and inquired about their windows. Three years later they gave him an entire salon upstairs, where he painted the seven foot tall painting of the Cartier diamond.
Excerpted from www.wildbank.com:
Born and raised on Long Island, Charles Bourke Wildbank drew and painted since age 4 as his prime means of communication, as he was born deaf. In an interview with Hamptons.com, Charles said, “When I was younger, drawing took the place of speaking when I couldn’t find the words. Painting or drawing was something I developed because I remember admiring the graffiti in the neighborhood. I loved to draw and found myself drawing my other hand. It developed into drawing a hand holding a ball, earth, or a pencil, sort of like the artist Escher. Art was never a means to escape; it was either a communication or even a dance, showing my skill.”
He took art classes on Saturdays with the encouragement of his family and found himself earning scholarships to Pratt Institute and Yale University where he majored in Fine Art and Photography. He delved into photorealism while at Pratt Institute, created a sensation on Fifth Avenue with a giant sparkling rendering of the famed Cartier diamond, and has painted portraits of David Hockney and the late Luciano Pavarotti. In his Hamptons.com interview, he said, “Growing up, I despaired over being able to sing and yet not hear the notes enough to discern the pitches. I can only get the melody and nuances of music with my hearing aid. I deeply love music but have transcended that with my love for color and light.” He is well known for his versatility of a wide range of figurative themes including florals, still life, portraits and seascapes. Read the full Hamptons.com interview here. (Left: Charles with his painting, Sedona)
His latest achievements include two 18-foot-high murals commissioned by the Cunard Line for the new luxury ocean liner, the Queen Mary 2. The murals depict cliffs and coastal scenes of England and America. Though the murals were applied with paint, Wildbank made extensive use of digital and photographic technology in his sketch preparations.
Wildbank is listed with some of his works in the book, Deaf Artists in America: Colonial to Contemporary, by Deborah Sonnenstrahl. He conducted workshops in Poppi, Italy during fall of 2002, and in Giverny, France during spring of 2006. View his art chronology here.
Up to present day, observable form and vivid color have long been attributed to Wildbank’s art. His recent works appear to flirt with the abstract and the surreal christened as his HADO series. His studio in Jamesport is now open to the public by appointment.
ideafnews.com recently interviewed Charles at his home in North Fork. You can view that captioned video below.