By Scott Nixon, Times-Advocate Staff
EXETER — Some people discover their talents early in life — for others it takes a little longer.
Exeter's George Wilson just recently decided he has a natural talent for creating original folk art paintings.
The 41 year old, a resident at The Walker House on James Street, was discovered last summer at the Exeter town-wide yard sale when Guenter Dreeke, an antique dealer who lives across the street from The Walker House, noticed some puzzle pictures and paintings Wilson was selling. The two started talking about Wilson's work and things grew to the point where Dreeke has sold many of Wilson's paintings at galleries and antique markets. Two weeks ago Dreeke took another batch of Wilson's paintings to the Dickinson Gallery in Toronto.
Since meeting, Dreeke has encouraged Wilson to keep at his artwork and develop his style. Dreeke says Wilson has talent, and his paintings have a “marvelous colour scheme and good composition.”
Wilson, who also makes the frames for his paintings, said he just started painting about eight months ago and prior to that never knew he had the talent. Since then his abilities have improved quickly.
“He's miles ahead of where he started,” Dreeke told the Times-Advocate last week.
Wilson, who suffers from depression, said painting for him is fun and relaxing and takes his mind off his depression.
Wilson has also recently been hit with another health challenge — he needs expensive eye surgery and is waiting to see if it will be covered by OHIP. Typically the type of eye condition Wilson has is only covered by OHIP in patients 65 and over, but he has asked for an exemption. In the meantime, he can basically only see out of one eye.
Wilson estimates he has sold about 90 of the 100 paintings he has created, including many to his fellow Walker House residents. Asked how he feels to sell his work, Wilson says, “I think it's great. It makes me feel great.”
Wilson says painting comes easily to him and he can complete a piece of work in a day. He adds he’s happy that he met Dreeke, who has helped him with his work.
Dreeke says he has spoken to other dealers about Wilson's work and they say there is talent there and he should continue working at it.
Wilson uses acrylic for his paintings and, because he's sold many, he's been able to buy better brushes and material.
Dreeke says he saw potential in Wilson when he first saw his work and said a talent has been discovered. Dreeke says all artists go through a growth period and he is confident Wilson will keep improving with time.
Dreeke says feedback he has received from the art world has confirmed his
thoughts on Wilson's potential.
He adds that Wilson has developed quite a fan club at The Walker House, although it sometimes makes it difficult for him to get time to himself to paint — Wilson says his friends frequently stop by his room to see what he's working on.
Dreeke, who has been involved full time in the art world for about 35 years, says he intends to take Wilson to a large antique show in Bowmanville which specializes in folk art.
In addition to selling his paintings, Wilson has been generous with his artwork — he has donated about 30 paintings to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, all of which have sold. And he also donated 20 to the South Huron Hospital Rummage Sale.