Luiz Vilela - 2022 Phillips’ Mill Honored Artist
As a child growing up on a coffee plantation and dairy farm in Brazil, Luiz Vilela would collect images he liked from the Reader’s Digest and glue them to his grandmother’s front porch, imagining them to be an art collection. “I loved any kind of printed images; I was crazy about books and magazines,” he recalls. He had no idea he would end up working at a book publisher in New York City, but he knew he loved to paint and was fascinated by artists.
“When I was four years old, I used to say out loud, ‘ANDY WAAAAARHOOOOLLLL.’ I have no idea how a kid in South America found out about an American pop artist,” he says. “My family grew coffee. They were not artists. Everything I learned about art, I taught myself.”
Vilela did go on to study architecture and urbanism at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. After graduation, he worked as an illustrator and window designer at an advertising agency and later as an assistant to theater set designer Helio Eichbauer, who encouraged him to move to New York City. “I can remember him saying to me, ‘You always mention New York City, maybe you should go,’ and so I did,” he recalls.
There he studied illustration and graphic design at the Pratt Institute and worked at Golden Books, where he remained after the publisher was absorbed by Random House. Vilela also took figurative painting classes at the Art Students League, studying with Ronald Sherr, a renowned portrait painter for the Bush family.
Today, the award-winning painter is proud and overjoyed to be recognized as the 2022 Honored Artist for the 93rd Annual Phillips’ Mill Juried Art Show. He has been participating in the show since he moved to the Bucks County area in 2001.
“Phillips’ Mill is a great organization, and the judges are always very good. Just being accepted (in the show) is such an honor,” he says. “When I heard I was named the 2022 Honored Artist, I couldn’t believe it, to be recognized among artists like Robert Beck. I went to the moon, I was so flattered.”
Vilela is well-established as a realist who paints primarily in oil, but he is also well-versed in watercolor, charcoal, pastel, and pencil and paper. He finds beauty all around him and is widely recognized for his scenes of Bucks County and the Delaware River towns, particularly local landmarks like the Boat House in Lambertville.
“I am just an artist trying to share the beauty I see every day, the beautiful places I've been to and translated onto the canvas, and the lovely people I've met in my life. Beauty is everywhere. I am grateful to be able to share it,” he says.
Through his art, Vilela is inspired to tell the stories of the people he meets and places that have touched him in some way. “I was recently in a historic town where I always go when I am in Brazil. I met a homeless man, just trying to make his way, make a living. We started talking, and I was struck by him. I asked if he would pose for me. I wanted to tell his story,” he notes. “This is why I paint, to share my life and the life of others. It is very personal.”
When he talks about his technique and his inspirations, he often refers back to the masters he most admires, such as Impressionist and landscape painter Daniel Garber, who was part of the New Hope art colony. “Daniel Garber is one of the painters I most admire. I have copied some of his paintings as a way to pay homage, but also to experience his technique. I noticed that every mark was correct. I am usually so picky about everything I do, but when I was copying Garber, I didn’t have to go back and correct anything. I was painting in ‘perfect mode.’” When he signs these works, he will note that they are master copies of a master.
“Right now I feel like I am in a ‘eureka’ moment. I have arrived where I have always wanted to be,” he says.