Sonia Wilkinson is an acrylics artist in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Through a design process, Wilkinson creates interpretive expressions through cubism/art deco-style faces, and invites the viewer to assess and interpret what the expressions mean to them, and what that says about their own experiences, opinions or personality. Wilkinson’s original art follows 22 years of graphic design experience, and a lifetime of playing. She specializes in using colour, lines, shapes and proportion to give meaning and emotion. Her goal is to create art with humour and thought, that encourages reflection, for private and public spaces.
The list of influences is ever-growing: Pablo Picasso’s cubism and his sense of play, colour and style; Henry Moore’s graceful lines; Thomas Fedro’s graffiti-style faces that are gritty and humorous; Carmen Herrera, the 102+ year old (and still working) artist who only recently was recognized for her incredible minimalist paintings; and numerous other artists Wilkinson comes across on a daily basis who are working, creative warriors and business tycoons.
As a child, Wilkinson was often drawing, primarily in pen and ink, or getting her hands dirty with clay or plaster. So it was a surprise to some that when it came time to choose a career, Wilkinson only had eyes for horses. Very quickly, though, she realised that she loved the animals but not so much the people she worked with. After briefly working in orchards and even with pigs (animal, not human), Wilkinson was ready for something indoors and clean. That’s when she discovered graphic design which fit perfectly with her artistic tendencies. She graduated from Sheridan College, Oakville, Ontario in 1995 and started on what would become a 22-year career.
In 2015 Wilkinson decided to attend a paint night at a bar with friends. She was apprehensive because painting was really not her thing, but she went anyway to be with friends and do something different. To her great surprise, Wilkinson discovered she loved it! The journey began, and what followed was learning about materials and technique and deciding what to paint.
As a designer, Wilkinson always had a passion for colour and using it to create certain moods, meanings and style. Throughout the years, she consistently was drawn to playing with texture, metallics, grunge, and graffiti. Around the time she was mulling over what to do for her art, Wilkinson came across a video of someone painting a graffiti-style face. Quirky eyes were the starting point and she fell in love! She always did have a thing for masks (as did Picasso, it seems), so with this newly realised inspiration in mind, Wilkinson sat down with a glass of wine, a pencil and a sketch pad, and got started.
At first, Wilkinson felt she was simply painting quirky faces. It was while Wilkinson was finishing her 4th, 5th and 6th paintings that something interesting happened. She asked some friends to help name one of them and what they came up with was profound. Each gave a unique word (“Perspective”, “Thinking”, “Suspicion”, “Sassy”, and “Lonesome”), and Wilkinson noticed each word seemed to reflect the respondent’s personality. It turns out that within each of our brains is something called amygdala (a-myg-da-la) which responds to facial emotion. “One group, the emotion-tracking neurons (within the amygdala), detects the intensity of a single specific emotion, such as happiness or fear.”, “Separate groups of neurons within the emotion-tracking neurons code specifically for fear or for happiness.”, and “another group, the ambiguity-coding neurons, indicates the ambiguity of the perceived emotion, irrespective of the nature of that emotion.” (http://www.caltech.edu/news/facial-expressions-how-brains-process-emotion-54800). In other words, we humans read facial expressions and decide what that emotion is, and if it’s not obvious, ambiguity is perceived and registered. We are then left to make a guess, and that leads to personal perspective.
Sonia Wilkinson lives and works in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, with her very patient husband, Rob, their mischievous son, Kyle, and their indifferent bearded dragon, Fi (short for “Fire”). They love to travel, work on their house, eat interesting food, and listen to music.
The Bell Tower, The Gaber & Bell Tower Artist Mentorship Program, Fort Erie, 2017
Diploma in Graphic Design, Sheridan College, Oakville, Ontario 1995