Saturday, December 11, 2010

Chuck Wilkinson: Illustrator, artist, spiritual mentor, friend.

Note: please click on the pictures for a larger view!

Sacrificial Lamb

Obituary (partial)

Wilkinson, Charles W., age 78, December 4, 2010. Chuck was born in Detroit, Michigan, and studied art at Pratt Institute in New York. ...his illustrations have been widely used in both publications and advertising as well as limited edition prints and originals. His works have been on exhibit in New York and Detroit and have received numerous awards. His life style paintings, done in egg tempera, evoke an elegance of an earlier era and have become synonymous with American Nostalgia.

Chuck was one of my teachers at College for Creative Studies in Detroit, back in the late 1970s. I was in his Illustration class, of which I have many fond memories. I stayed in touch with Chuck off and on over the years. Withing the last ten years, we were in much closer contact, I'm happy to say.

Chuck enriched my life in so many ways-- as a teacher, an artist, a spiritual mentor, and as a dear friend. You couldn't find a kinder, gentler, more giving person.

Chuck was very successful as an illustrator. He worked out of Detroit, but was also represented by a major artist rep in New York, providing him with a lot of nationally-based work as well. Chuck did his share of advertising illustration over the years, but his work had more of an "editorial" look, and in fact, that is where much of his work appeared-- as illustrations for magazine articles, stories, book covers, etc.

Chuck was a committed Christian; he dedicated his life to Jesus. As the years went on, he did less and less commercial work, and focused on what he referred to as his "parable paintings". This is not your typical saccharine "Christian art". Chuck's allegorical paintings are rich with symbolism and metaphor, filled with deep meaning, and often with a bit of Chuck's subtle sense of humor as well.

Today, any serious working artist has a presence on the Internet-- usually a personal website, sometimes just a blog (ahem). Chuck's years as an illustrator of note were before the Internet came into play. As pretty much an "old school" type of guy, he didn't even have a computer (as far as I know). Thus, there has been little to no work of Chuck's to be found online. I've been meaning to rectify this situation for some time; there is no time like the present.

I shot these photographs of Chuck's works a few years ago. too bad it has taken his passing to get me motivated to post them. Better late than never, I suppose.

Guardian Angel

Son Ship

According to Chuck, the "angel" is actually Lucifer.
Chuck: "Look-- Jesus is wearing a Timex! Hahaha!"

World Prison Systems Inc.

Note the paintings by Impressionist masters on the wall-- Cezanne, Monet, Degas, etc.

Pentecost Junction
(Sorry about the reflections-- this one is under glass.)

God bless Chuck Wilkinson-- he has been a real blessing to many, many people over the years. Chuck's legacy lives not only in his art, but especially in the way he has touched so many of us. God willing, hopefully we can pass at least something of this on to the other people in our lives.

Note: I have done my best to give these paintings their correct titles-- I have probably made some errors.


Anonymous said...

The world lost an earthly Angel, though Charley would never admit to that. Gentleness, Kindness, Meekness and Friendship are what come to my mind. I grew up in a home with many of his paintings around, both commercial and parable. Even though I enjoyed his commercial work as a kid, it was the impact of his parable painting that has effected me throughout my life. My faith in Christ was challenged and furthered by one particular painting, "Angel Cab Company". I was 11 or 12 when I came to understand the impact art could have on a life, in particular, a young Christian's life. Growing up with access to Charley and his family has been a gift from the Lord himself. I was at a celebration yesterday, and am happy to say he legacy lives on! The church was full, of people who feel just like just like me, ready to take Christ's cross of love and kindness, forgiveness and hope into this world. Thanks Charley for your Godly example, look forward to seeing you later.


Anonymous said...

Chuck had an interesting quality, like he drank from a deep spiritual well. He didn't pressure.

He once said, "Always keep a painting going even if your not working in it." Emphasizing with the ever present cigarette holder. Another time he said "Y'know when----- (referring to another teacher) says to do this or that...
Well, you don't have to do any of that shit." And he smiled and laughed.

There's a lot of Zen in that.

Chuck expressed the inner confidence of a soul who transcended the day to day, and didn't trifle with mundane issues. He had given himself to Christ and in that he was nothing, the nothing of all things, the nothing that is everything.

That's what we saw in his class, that was his confidence, his strength. And that is what has influenced me to this day.

Godspeed Mr. Wilkinson


Oliver said...

Thank you, Rick, for posting these images and memories. I deeply regret that I didn't see Chuck this past year, but I spoke on the phone with him in the summer of 2009 and he was so utterly happy. I have a sketch of his on the wall of my study-- one that he gave me for my wedding 20 years ago. It's a parable painting much like the prison cell study. I wonder if my sketch was for this painting, or if he did more than one version of this. I will always remember him-- kind, quirky, and a dear friend.

Anonymous said...

I can remember as a child playing basket ball in Chuck & BJs drive when my family came to visit. My father and I were in Detroit for the passing of my Aunt this Thanksgiving and wanted to see Chuck and BJ. Chuck was in the hospital at that time and was not up to having visitors.
On the walls of my office I have 4 posters that Chuck gave me about 20 years ago when he found out I was attending LeTourneau University as an aviation major. He has been an example of how a Christian man can influence his workplace while accomplishing the task presented before him. He will stand as an example to me each day as I sit at my desk and look at the art he so graciously gave me.

Kirsten Rogoff said...

Where do I begin? I recently found out Chuck had passed and I cry every time I think he is gone, yet I know he would have me rejoice that he was at last with the angels he painted so beautifully. Chuck was at first my teacher, then my mentor, then my friend, and now a beacon to follow. His presence would instantly calm those around him. I remember calling and hearing a delighted stammering of "Shit...hang on a minute so I can get my we can sit down and TALK." And when he got himself settled on his end, he'd say "'s it going?" And he'd laugh as if that question itself was a one-liner. I will always miss my friend... Kirsten Rogoff