Blakeley Wilson and her mother Sylvia Wilson lives in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where she maintains her retail shop, Wilson and Wilson. The shop, located in the historic Flatiron Building -- one of the more unusual and most frequently photographed buildings in town -- also serves as her studio, where she paints seven days a week. The two of them design and paint the merchandise for Wilson and Wilson, and also their yearly visits to the War Eagle Arts and Crafts Show held each spring and fall in Rogers, Arkansas.
The shop is tiny and full of windows and scented candles. Tucked into the home spun décor of the shop are these wonderful pieces of original art painted on just about anything and everything that will hold acrylic paint. From old coffee pots and tea trays to washtubs and picket fences -- each portrays a warm, welcoming country setting of life as it should be.
"I paint what I feel an ideal life would be "says Blakeley" I paint the picket fence and the sunflowers in the yard and the crow in the tree -- a simple, idyllic life. The inspirations come from looking at something, like a poem or a song or something simple that evokes an image. "I feel this is such a gift from God."
Sylvia discovers the treasures they paint on from her forays to antique shops, flea markets and garage sales. In her workshop at home, she also builds items, such as chairs and tables and then conditions them to appear old or antique. "She is truly the most incredible, most talented person I know," says Blakeley.
They consider their art "primitive" because neither of them have any formal art training. Both of them rely solely on what they consider God-given talents. They appropriated the name "True Americana Art" to describe their style and although they paint separately, their work shares the same style to such a degree that most eyes could not tell one artist's work from the other.
Painting for retail is the only life Blakeley has ever known. "I was raised in the family business." My mother has always painted. Her true passion were these folk art scenes. From as far back as I can remember Daddy would carve duck decoys and Mother painted them. When she was a young woman she would paint with me and my brother, Brooks, on her knee.
"My mother painted the most wonderful wildlife scenes that paired with the duck decoys Daddy carved. They sold them at arts and crafts shows all over the U.S. and we went with them... in the back of a pickup truck," Blakeley remembers. "My Dad always made sure we were in school on Monday morning even if he had to drive around the clock to get there." Their home was in Oklahoma.
In the early 1970s, the Wilson's leased a retail shop at a theme park in Missouri that was just making a name for itself. Every summer, the family lived and worked there. Michael E. Wilson carved duck decoys and Sylvia painted. "I was eight years old," says Blakeley. "My brother and I were raised in that retail environment."
Blakeley admits it was often a hard life. "My Daddy pushed us hard," she remembers. "Mother often painted around the clock to create enough inventory to sell, sometimes getting only a few hours of sleep at night."
When Blakeley moved to Eureka Springs as a young adult and eventually opened her own shop, those demands would follow her. "He pushed me," Blakeley recalls. "Daddy pushed me beyond my limits. I think now, that he was always trying to make sure I would be okay; that I would be strong enough to be able to take care of myself."
Michael E. Wilson died tragically at the age of 46 from a heart attack. "He died and goofed everything up,"Blakeley claims," because he didn't get to see our success in this shop. He always wanted a shop in Eureka Springs. He would have been so proud."
"He always said, 'Do whatever it takes to do your best.' That was his motto."
Blakeley remembers that it was Easter Sunday when she was 18 when she told her parents of her plans to move to Eureka Springs and start her own business. "I planned to paint intricate folk art on gourds," she recalls." I painted 200 dollars worth, brought them to Eureka Springs and a local shopkeeper bought the whole thing. They introduced me to another shopkeeper who owned a quilt shop in Eureka Springs. He said he would buy anything and everything I painted."
For the next few years, Blakeley painted gourds. "I still do gourds for War Eagle, but after I painted gourds for five years, I don't care if I ever paint another one," she claims. The experience she admits, however, did give her the ability to paint well on a rough surface -- a skill that has proved quite useful.
"I paint," says Blakeley. "That's what I do." It is the one thing that I love with all my heart. No matter what is happening in my life, it's easy for me to loose myself in the idyllic life I paint…where there is a perfect little home with hundreds of cats that you never have to feed."
Blakeley says, "There are three things in my life that have never let me down: My mother, my faith and my paintings. I have a blessed life."
Treat yourself to the joyful, happy artwork
by Blakeley and Sylvia
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