Home Magazine David Wilstermann's Abstract Dreams: An Exclusive Interview

Approaching the end of his exhibition at Abbozzo Gallery, the Kooness Team interviews Ottawa-born self-taught artist, David Wilstermann, delving into his unique creative journey, mesmerizing abstract works, and the emotional resonance they evoke.


Renowned for his spontaneous and confident approach to art, David Wilstermann will soon conclude a solo exhibition at Abbozzo Gallery in Toronto on November 11th. Wilstermann's creations are a mesmerizing blend of gestural mark-making, painting, and drawing, resulting in compositions teeming with movement and texture. Often drawing inspiration from elements in nature, such as whimsical flowers, rays of light, rain, rainbows, and clouds, his abstract works aim to evoke a wide range of emotions in the viewer. His largest painting to date, "space cowboy," added an exciting and grand dimension to this collection.


Kooness: Tell us about the collection you are currently showing in your solo exhibition. 

David Wilsterman: This collection is something I’ve been working on for the past year. Though the paintings I’m showing came together in the last couple of months, the “wallflowers” series has been a work in progress with many trials and errors. My largest painting I’ve done to date “space cowboy” will be on view in the gallery as well. I wanted to do something big, fun and exciting to add to this collection. This collection is all about evoking some sort of emotion within the viewer. Whatever that may be.


K: What technique do you use to create the abstract artworks? What is the artistic process?

DW: My process always starts with staining the canvas with a neutral colour. Mainly a parchment tone or raw canvas sort of tone. After the canvas is stained. I take some fine saw dust I’ve collected from work, -I’m an interior railing installer- and mix it with the same colour I used to stain the canvas. It comes out slightly darker and it’s much thicker so it gives a different texture to the surface. I then begin to make marks with that mixture to map out some sort of composition. In this stage of the painting I can usually tell if I’m going to be happy with it or not. The next step is laying on colour and other marks. I usually only work on a painting for about an hour or two initially, wait a day and come back to work on it some more. Patience has been the real difference in my process lately.

David Wilstermann. Space Cowboy. Courtesy of Abbozzo Gallery


K: Is there anything in particular that inspired you for this collection?

DW: I’m very inspired by other artists' practice and work. I get such an urge to paint something after seeing a new painting by some of my favourite artists or even after observing them in their process. Another big inspiration for me is my state of mind. I really only ever paint when I’m in the mood to create. I’ve learned that trying to force myself to paint doesn’t work in my favour, so when I’m not in the right mindset to paint, I prep for when I am. All that prep work usually gets me in the mood and sets me up perfectly for another day.


K: How did your art evolve?

DW: I used to draw a lot of manga when I was a child -Dragon ball Z- in particular. Then I kind of stopped as I got older. It wasn’t until about 5 years ago that I began making art again. I started watching Bob Ross and painting like he did. I painted landscapes for one year or so and found that while I really enjoyed painting again, I also found myself getting bored and uninspired with that subject matter. I saw some work by Jessica Zoob and instantly wanted to start painting more abstractly. The possibilities felt endless and I never knew what I was going to end up with. After that, it was playtime for the next few years. Just messing around, trying new things until this body of work started to take shape and become more refined.


K: Your artworks are very unique yet blend in together very well. What colours do you use and why? What is the pattern?

DW: Thank you! I generally use more bright vibrant tones in my work. I like to live in colour as David Hockney would say. I find the neutral background and bright pops of colour complement each other very well. I really use the whole spectrum of colour in my body of work. I’ll use one colour I want to feature the most dominantly in each painting, then base the rest of the palette around that colour. When I create a palette of colour that really excites me, I tend to do a few more paintings in that same palette.

David Wilstermann. Yellow Brick Road. Courtesy of Abbozzo Gallery.


K: How does your background influence your work?

DW: I grew up in nature; always outside, camping, fishing, snowboarding, skateboarding surrounded by all the colours we have here year round. My family is blue collar: my father, uncles, and grandfathers were all in different trades so I’ve worked and created things with my hands my whole life. It’s all I’ve seen and known since I was a child. I remember being maybe 7 or 8 watching my dad finish the basement and thinking that's so cool and I want to do that too, one day. I’ve always been exposed to different types of creativity from my family and it's led to the current art journey I’m on now.


K: What have watchers said about your works?

DW: I’ve been told my paintings have a sort of dreamy quality to them, like it’s a different place you’ve never seen before but feels sort of familiar in a way. That it is abstract but you can also see a different world or place if that makes sense. Viewers usually feel or get some sort of emotional response depending on how they relate to it. My favourite response I’ve had from my audience is that it feels very child-like and playful, which is exactly what I’m trying to achieve in my work.

David Wilstermann. This must be the place. Courtesy of Abbozzo Gallery.


K: Do you consider social or political issues to be a reference in your work? 

DW: No, not really. I don’t think so. My artwork is more of a reference to how I feel and what I see in the moment as I paint. I try not to think about anything outside of that at all.


Written by Kooness

Cover image: David Wilstermann. Strange Places. Courtesy of Abbozzo Gallery

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