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Jason Wilson

“I’m just one of those types that when you’re walking down the road, everybody else is looking at the scenery, and I’m looking at patterns,” said Jason Wilson, a geometric painter in McAlester, Oklahoma. Jason’s impressively sharp lines and vivid color saturation in his work has earned him disbelief when viewers learn he does everything by hand. 

“It’s a compliment to me when somebody looks at it and thinks it’s computer generated,” Jason said with a laugh, pointing out that the comparison simply elevates his own work. 

Jason’s work is painstaking and focused, using simple materials and hours of meticulous painting, repainting, and repainting again. He uses a combination of watered-down, student-grade acrylic paint; masking tape he buys at Walmart; and the same #12 brush he’s used since college. 

Jason Wilson with Lifted Up (2024), for which he used a quilting pattern that has always fascinated him because it's so irregular and very difficult to draw.

His process begins with sketching the geometric design he wants to play with. He does this on grid paper to start before cutting up different pieces to play with on the canvas—a process not unlike the one he watched his quilting grandmas use when he was a little boy. He then translates the design to a larger canvas that he marks out in pencil. 

“I was a very good student in school, but math was not my strong point,” Jason said of this step. “It wasn’t a class I liked as much. But math is definitely a part of what I do now. As a matter of fact, a lot of my collectors are math teachers.” 

Jason surrounded by the tools he uses to create his painting, working on a piece called Stepping Up. 

Then, Jason mixes up his proprietary paint before taping off each section. He maintains crisp lines by rubbing along the paint seams with the back end of his paintbrush—a practice that has worn the brush handle down by a good inch over the years. After getting the section painted with enough coats to accomplish the saturation he wants, Jason peels back the tape and begins the next section. 

A 30” x 30” canvas will take Jason a full month of work, making his process tedious for many. But for this quilt-inspired painter, it’s like meditation. 

“We think we can control things, but we really can’t. But when I’m painting that painting, I can control that,” Jason said. 

Inside the studio is Jason's painting Chasm, made in 2017.
Jason surrounds himself with many special items from his past. The 5” x 5” prints are what predated his 5” x 5” Acrylic Print Blocks.

Jason fell in love with patterns and art at a young age, spending hours with the women he refers to as his “grandmas,” which include one grandma and three great-grandmas. Grandma Wilson would hang her quilts from the ceiling while she worked on them, and Jason recalls playing beneath them like they were his own private fort. One of his great-grandmas—a woman everyone just called “Ma”—was renowned in Oklahoma for her quilt work, gifting quilts to local politicians and even presidents. 

“But she would only give them to the Democratic presidents and governors,” Jason added with a laugh. 

This quilt was created by Jason's great-grandmother Annie Garis around 1960. Jason cherishes this and all of his grandmas quilts as masterpieces that inspired his professional art career.
A picture of Jason's grandparents Albert Wilson Sr. and Gladys Wilson. The quilt behind the photo was Jason's baby quilt, made by grandma Wilson and his great-grandma Wilson (Gertie Wilson) who he called Ma.

After studying art in college, Jason went on to teach the same subject for 31 years across two different schools, all while still continuing to pursue painting. He began reaching out to local galleries in 2014 to see if he could start showing his work but quickly found he needed to go through certain avenues to do so. Joining the Oklahoma Visual Art Coalition helped him learn the business side of being an artist, while inspiring him to put together a collaborative show with other artists. 

That collaboration would come to be known as Qu’aint. It started when Jason asked an open question on Facebook to see if any quilters and artists in his network would be willing to do an experiment with him—to create quilts inspired by his paintings and vice versa. The first show began with seven artists and quilters, growing to as many as 80 pieces in the 2019 show. Qu’aint has continued as an art collective, and the group is working on future exhibits. 

“I just love what I do and the journey I’m on,” Jason said. “And I love that I’m doing something that honors my grandmas. So I’m just gonna keep doing it until I can’t.”

Read more about fellow Qu’aint artist Ann Solinski here.

Jason and his wife, Patte, holding a canvas print of Fractured in front of his first mural, in Eufaula, OK, completed in 2022. In 2019, Jason was involved in a fatality head-on collision. The resulting injuries left Jason uncertain if he'd ever be able to paint again. Four months later, Jason completed Fractured, his first after the wreck.

About the Author

Mel Burke is a culture writer in the San Francisco Bay Area where she lives with her husband and dog. When she’s not writing, she loves complaining about hiking and visiting cities with historic libraries. You can find her online everywhere as @melburkewrites.

About the Photographer

Azuree Holloway has been photographing for Quiltfolk since 2019 and has contributed to many other projects. Check out more of her work on her website and her Instagram.

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