We had the good fortune of connecting with Isabelle Wilson and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Isabelle, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I have always loved research and just about every academic subject. Art/painting has always been a way for me to synthesize whatever I’m passionate about and share that with friends and family. Art is also the only thing that I’ve spent extra time on. Since elementary school, it was the thing that I would continue to work on outside of class, stay after school in high school, and then go above and beyond for projects in college (University of Michigan BFA). My parents are small business owners, and my dad and his dad have always said “everything is business.” So, even if I’m passionate about art, the other side of that is that I’m constantly marketing myself, networking, and working on my practice. I feel that the artist lifestyle can be romanticized, but in many ways its not very different than any other small business. The product just happens to be your art.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have always been making art, but something that really has set me apart is my time on the Appalachian Trail. After graduating in 2020, I decided to hike as much of the Appalachian Trail as possible. I had absolutely no backpacking or camping experience, but there was no way I was going to do nothing (because of Covid). My friend and I hiked 1500 miles of the trail from Hanover, NH to Hot Springs, NC in four months. After completing this I started my series “Keep Walking” with the character of “Flower People.” I contacted hostels and went back to the trail for a mural roadtrip on a work for stay/donation basis. I ended up doing seven murals in about a month in Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia. In this way I crash coursed doing murals, interacted with business owners, and talked with people walking by/asking questions. Since then, I’ve continued doing murals and working on my own practice. I have plans to return to the trail in May 2022 to continue hiking and go back to do more murals in the Northern part (Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine). I have certainly had a lot of anxiety not just having a “normal job.” It has been difficult when I solely rely on myself to fill out my schedule–planning and doing murals, selling art, doing commissioned art, working odd jobs for extra income, updating my website, posting to instagram, etc. What has been really exciting to see is how the more I do, the more that one thing leads to the next. I think that people really appreciate when you bet of yourself, and while it’s stressful to not have a constant income and still have people question what I’m doing, my work feels that important for me to keep going.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m from the Chicagoland area, so if I had a friend visiting me here and they had never been to Chicago before I would make sure to do the classics–the Loop, Grant Park, and Millenium park. If they are into sports, a Cubs game would definitely be necessary. Something that I love is taking the water taxi to China Town or getting an architecture tour. Depending on the weather, a beach day at Lake Michigan is also crucial. I would go out dancing in Boystown, for some really good food in the West Loop, and out to some bars in Logan Square. The Art Institute and Museum of Contemporary Art are also must sees.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents (Elissa Morgante and Fred Wilson) have always supported my artistic endeavors. First and foremost, they were always signing me up for art classes, drawing with me at home, and hanging my work around the house. They are both architects and created their own business about thirty years ago in Chicago. Growing up and hearing their conversations about employees, clients, and the hundreds of relationships they are navigating has been the business education I’ve relied on for so many things. They have taught me incredibly important lessons on how to be fair to all parties, to listen to your client/partners/employees, to make adjustments as you go, and to value your work and not undersell your product.

My professors Jim Cogswell, Robert Platt, and Nora Venturelli have also been so important in guiding my practice and letting me explore whatever I was interested in in undergrad. I always felt that they truly cared about what I was working on and encouraged me to keep going and dig a little deeper with all of my projects.

Website: www.isabellehwilson.com

Instagram: @iwilson.art

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