Rene Wiley, Studio Artist

By Elisabeth Lanier

Did you go to school for that?
Absolutely! I have my BFA from Sam Houston University, but I don’t think they taught me art. Actually, my studio experience there was in ceramics – all phases – glazes, firings, etc. I loved ceramics! I couldn’t have been more shocked that painting came to me later in life.
After college, I married and we had kids – three beautiful daughters – and that kept me stepping for about a decade. But, then, my mom and I attended a workshop in Austin taught by Ray Vinella, a well-known Taos landscape painter. That was a special week – hard and frustrating, but he taught me that painting was simple, really. Now, I paint nearly every single day.
But, if I weren’t painting, I’d be doing something – when the kids were little, for example, I sewed all my own clothes. No two ways about it, somehow, I’m going to create.

Where do you get your ideas?

I get up in the morning, go out to walk to dog and look up at the sky. I get excited about what I see – the morning light, peoples’ faces – I get so many ideas that there aren’t enough hours in the day to paint them all! But you have to show up – in the studio – and you have to start. You have to show up and you have to get involved with your work. And the idea for one piece leads to the next idea for the next piece. Also, I let myself make a lot of starts. I’m not so worried about the finishes, as long as I’m making a lot of starts.

How long does that take?

Well, since we opened the studio/gallery, I’ve found that the 6-week sections of time (between ArtWalks) have been very helpful to me by creating a deadline. In a way, it’s refreshing to get to/ have to start all over every 6 weeks with a clean slate. I get in there and straighten out the studio, file pictures, put my books away. Then I might work on older, unresolved work; I can rethink things and work on those pieces – or create wholly new work.
Of course, it also takes a lifetime, too.

Define “artist.”

Oh, wow. This may seem strange, but, to me, an “artist” is just being human like everybody else. I think we all have that part of our brain that is artistic; for some, that part remains unused, but for others, those of us who do use that part of the brain, well, then that part becomes larger and demands more energy. It’s too bad that some let that part of their brain atrophy – it needs exercise.
Being an artist is a lifestyle – it but it’s also a God-given part of who you are.
In my opinion, “talent” is tricky – because I think it’s more about having a passion and being willing to work hard to accomplish the things I see in my head.
Throughout history, artists are people who have ideas; they’re always thinking, and cooking up new ways to seeing things.

How would you describe your own work?

Welcoming, friendly, a feeling of coming home. My family and I have a passion for this island, and I want to show Galveston through the eyes of one who loves it. When a client tells me that I paint as they see it – I love that. My work has always been about hospitality. I want it to be inviting. I think feeling estranged – in any way – is the worst feeling.

Why do you make art?

I have no choice. If I couldn’t make art, I’d make my own clothes again, or upholster everything in the house. I have to make. I’m always the student, wanting to get better and better.

Why is art important in today’s culture?

I don’t think there’s been a time in history that is wasn’t important. As I said before, I think it’s fixed in our brain, and after tending to life’s basics, after we’ve fed and clothed and housed ourselves, we want art. Perhaps, today more so than ever because we have more leisure time to think about other things. I think that learning and creating are essential to the human condition.

Are your from here originally? If not, why did you choose Galveston Island?

No, I was raised in Houston and Huntsville and Conroe. My extended family has a house on Sea Isle that we treasure. Leaving the beach – those Sunday evenings were the worst. So, when my husband had an opportunity here, we moved the family. And, we love it! The old Victorian houses especially, with their intricate and beautiful craftsmanship. In our house, I feel as if the ghosts of those artisans surround me – it’s a constant inspiration to me.

What are the special opportunities and/or challenges of making art in Galveston Island?

The opportunities are that I feel very welcomed here. So many artists are located here and their support as a group has meant so much. And, of course, the easy-going atmosphere is comfortable. Also, so many people come here from elsewhere and, with the studio/gallery, my work is seen by many of them. When they drive over that causeway, they’re looking for something new, something different. As to challenges, well, there are storms. And, it’s expensive to live here and not a safe as I would like. I want my surroundings to be calm so that I can create mayhem in my studio. But, then, these challenges give us the opportunity to re-set, don’t they?

This feature of The Islander is a way to bring to our readers’ attention to the professional artists who live and work on or around Galveston Island. Recorded by Elisabeth Lanier, these interviews hope to demystify some of the misconceptions and myths surrounding art and artists. Lanier is an interior designer and space planner who, with her husband, Steve, is co-owner of DesignWorks gallery and interior design studio, at 2119A Postoffice Street in historic downtown Galveston. She can be reached at 409-766-7599.

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