Dave Wisniewski

Dave Wisniewski

Artist / Painter

June 3, 2015


Tell us more about some of your past projects?

I have been painting western characters for well over 15 years now. In 1999, I took a Polaroid snapshot of a cowboy I painted while attending art classes at the University of Toledo, to the American Gallery in Sylvania, Ohio. Tony Andrews, the gallery director at the time, said the painting seemed interesting and asked me to bring it in. I was thrilled and further surprised by a call from Tony exclaiming she had sold the painting before I returned to gallery with it. It was a painting of cowboy; loose, maybe cartoonish, lighthearted and rendered in a naïve technique.   Clearly, I did not set out to become “the guy that paints those big cowboys” but the genres picked me and it became my destiny. Since then I have participated in numerous shows with other artists as well as solo shows. I entered, and was accepted into an international fine art competition in NYC in 2009, in 2011 I painted three paintings for the lobby of our new Red Cross building, but for the most part, commissioned paintings for clients and gallery sales keep me the busiest.

What current projects are you working on?

To this day, I still enjoy the Wild West as my stage. It is a cornucopia of subject matter and situations to paint. I am not a fan of making art a competition; it is not a sport. So, I don’t do much of that competition stuff these days. I feel all artists have something to offer the world in different ways and for different reasons. Currently I am working on my next body of work to share with a select number of clients and galleries, and that is enough for me, for now.

What advantages living in Toledo offer your efforts?

The cost of living and housing is pretty reasonable here in Toledo and the city is not too high and you can get anywhere in town in 20 minutes or less. As for the winters, they're pretty tough but that’s when I get the most of my painting done.

Tell us about one of your greatest successes.

Most likely, Graduation Day at the University of Toledo was the ultimate success for me. I went to college in my late thirties and graduated Suma Cum Laude with an art degree in painting while legally blind. I don’t think many have done that.

Tell who or what gives you Inspiration?

I find inspiration in many different people and places but it is a difficult process. Inspiration comes coupled with distraction. Sometimes I have to pluck out the inspiration as if with tweezers to get what is inspiring and leave the distraction behind. I think everyone has the ability to inspire and distract each other in varying degrees, and boy am I easily distracted.

Tell us about your background.

My mother was an artist and equipped me with paintings supplies at an early age.
 When I was in the 3rd grade I took my first oil painting to school for "Show and Tell" and it was placed on an easel in the hall for all the students to see. My teacher told the class I was very talented. I had no idea what that meant until that very moment.
 My professional art experience started when Peaches Records and Tapes hired me as the store artist in 1977. I created art for all the displays and promotions throughout the store. People still ask me if I painted the large album covers that were displayed throughout the store. I did not, but I did everything else. At that time I mastered the airbrush and began painting airbrushed portraits of the recording artists and actors. A few years later I started a shop with a friend that provided airbrushing for autos and motorcycles, as well as the airbrush portraits and signs. I was a fairly successful street artist. 
in 1987 I was diagnosed with Diabetic Retinopathy, and found my eyesight to be failing. Treatments and surgeries helped but within 30 days I was legally blind.
 After intensive rehabilitation, low vision evaluations and aptitude testing by the Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired,  the redesign of my future was at hand. I was asked, "Mr. Wisniewski, what do you want to do for a living?" 
I replied, “Well, I am still an artist.”
 To achieve a formal education in art I enrolled at the University of Toledo where I majored in painting and received my Bachelor of Art degree in 1998. 
The professors and instructors were essential in helping me find a way to use my remaining sight to continue creating art. I graduated Suma Cum Laude.
 In 1999, my mother suddenly died. A week later my father was notified that a sofa mom had purchased was ready for pick-up. Still dazed by her untimely death, we dragged ourselves to the furniture store. During the transaction the sales clerk painfully reflected on how my mother boasted me as a "wonderful artist". The clerk recommended a local Art gallery she knew. I took a Polaroid snapshot of a painting to the gallery.

Do you have a motto or favorite quote you try to live by?

Everyone needs an ego, especially artists, in order to maintain enough steam to push our carts. Sometimes that ego spills over into arrogance and nothing kills a personality faster than arrogance. So I came up with this saying - 
“If you are truly great you need never tell anyone because they will already know.”  DW

Favorite local culture in Toledo?

Everyone must agree the Toledo Museum of Art and the Toledo Zoo are nothing less than world class.

Toledo’s Best kept secret is . . .

If I told you I would have to kill you.

Favorite place to chill locally is . . .

For my wife and I Cinco de Mayo on Airport Highway is a great place to chill. Great Mexican food, strong Margaritas and paintings by Dave Wisniewski on display makes for wonderful day or night out.

Favorite natural space in Toledo area is . . .

My backyard. Fortunately, our home backs up to Swan Creek Park so we feel we are always in the park.

When not working hard I can be found . . .

working even harder on my honey-do-list. I have more time than money, so as home repairs come about I take them on if at all possible.

If you could change the current landscape for creative progressive people in Toledo . . .

I’d like to let the creative, progressive people have more say in what may be relevant to our artistic growth. We need to knock the starch out of shirts of this town; loosen those ties and roll up the sleeves, and get some progressive projects going. I’d like to see Ryan Bunch run for mayor some day.

Name one person (living or deceased) who you would love to collaborate with.

I have always passed the sketch pad to and fro between other artists as long as I can remember. It so happens that David Eichenberg and I were classmates and good friends, and we did collaborated on a painting of Billy the Kid a while back. It was a lot of fun with spontaneous surprises. We said we would like to do it again sometime. The whole process of the painting is on my website.
With whom would you collaborate with from the past?
Wild Bill Hickok.

Name a CD, book or website you can’t live without.

Since I am unable to read printed materials I listen to audio book and magazines. It has become a necessity to my painting at this point. I find it nearly impossible to paint without something in the machine. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Downloadable Books and Magazines is a “can’t live without” scenario. Having said that; there is “True West” magazine in which I have listened to every issue, cover to cover, sometimes more than once, since I came across it some years ago. I was fortunate enough to meet the owner and executive editor, Bob Boze Bell, when I decided to stop in to say thank you for putting out such a fine magazine at their office in Cave Creek, AZ.

3 words that best describe me or my work are . . .

Absurd, naïve and ironic are 3 three words that describe me pretty well. Right now anyway.

Give us 5 Desert Island Album picks.

I seldom listen to music unless I am riding is a car or actually playing music, but I suppose a desert island could get pretty quiet, which is cool with me. I am going to go with classics
Jimi Hendrix - “Experienced"
Frank Zappa - “One Size Fits All”
The Beatles - “White Album”
Joe Walsh - “Barnstorm”
Okay, what am I going to play these on?

My biggest vice is . . .

Tequila. I drink a lot of Tequila.

I’d like to see __________ in Toledo.

Maybe bring a bit of New York to Toledo, like, 4 blocks of brownstones with ma and pa markets and bakeries and such on each corner. We could put it on the old Southwyck property and call it “Little Brooklyn”.  If not that I guess I’d settle for a Cheese Cake Factory.

What’s the last dream you recall having?

I never remember my dreams. By the time I fully wake up I have forgotten them. I do not sleep so well anyway. I toss and turn so much I wake up exhausted.

The last lyric that moved me was . . .

"Unchained Melody", The Righteous Brothers, written by H. Zaret, A. North.

“Something”, The Beatles - written by George Harrison

“When a Man Loves a Woman”, Percy Sledge - written by Wright, Andrew James / Lewis, Calvin Houston.

One movie character I identify with is . . .

There is only one character I can think of that truly nails me, but he’s not so much a movie character but a cartoon character, Mr. Magoo.

What is the best gift you have ever received?

Without question my family is a gift from God that I love so much it hurts: My wife Sally, my son Adam, my daughter and her husband Candace and Jose’, my grandchildren Alex and Estelle. And of course, our two pups, Zoey and Cooper.

My most inspiring moment was/is . . .

I would say as an artist, I felt the biggest jolt of inspiration when I sold that first painting so many years ago. That is a tough one to top.

I want my last meal to be _______________.

A dozen raw oysters in NOLA.


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