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Object lesson: Trendsetter: Brad Wilkinson

Brad Wilkinson
Photography by Anthony Mair

Brad Wilkinson

The action painter on inspiration, style and THE POWWWERRR!


Brad Wilkinson calls himself Brad the Painter, but that nickname sells the energetic live-painting artist short. To see Wilkinson (, brush in hand, slashing and spattering one of his outsized canvases is to realize that he’s as much a performer as he is a painter. Better yet, he creates these vibrant, dynamic paintings while dressed to the nines, often in a bespoke suit and signature velvet loafers.


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How can you paint an entire mural and not get a drop of paint on your suit?

I’ve been on a roll so far, but I do carry an emergency bottle of club soda.


How do you describe your personal style?

Functionality. During the day, I’m wearing board shorts and personally designed T-shirts; when I perform, a suit or tuxedo. Tom Ford suits serve me well in my painting endeavors. The jackets are a work of art. The interior padding and stitchwork create an armor-like sensation that grabs you and you get that THE POWWWERRR! feeling. Also, the fabrics used are just ridiculous. The 3-D textiles of the ties, the use of raw silk for a smoking jacket! The dress shirts are really edgy too, with their unusual collar height, the point and the length that the tips of the collars have, and especially the finishing detail of the tie collar pin feature. The French cuffs are also a great touch to creating a solid dress shirt.

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As far as dress shoes: black velvet slippers. No shoelaces, no socks, they slip right on! I can also wear them with jeans, so I’m good to go with one set of dress shoes. I like not having to think about what to wear and not having too many options. I also wear a lot of board shorts and personal T’s. I grew up in beach towns and always loved that board shorts were acceptable for social occasions, and that I could always be ready to jump in the ocean (and you don’t have to wear underwear with them).

What do you like about live painting?

Every successful painting performance is always rewarding.  When you’re putting all this immense pressure on yourself as well as having an extremely skeptical crowd staring at you while you paint, you can feel very vulnerable (because you might blow it!).  I’ve now come to realize that that’s the most beautiful part of this experience, facing the vulnerability. There’s a quote from Nietzsche that really hits on this: “The most fulfilling human projects appear inseparable from a degree of torment, the sources of our greatest joys lying awkwardly close to those of our greatest pains.” 


What inspired you to become a painter?

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Ultimately, I think, women, freedom and needing a righteous struggle. As a kid, I was always painting women on things (my walls, my friends' walls, surfboards, etc.). Then, after college and the military not going as planned, the Wilkinson Art Endeavor was born.  I’m still painting women, but now in casinos, nightclubs, lounges and exotic hotels. Even though painting as a profession can be extremely difficult at times, when the gods grace you with opportunities, it can be a superb lifestyle. It’s unpredictable, it’s wild and it keeps opening up new opportunities, each of them thrilling and challenging.


What is your best advice to a guy buying a suit off the rack?

You should never have to be sold on a suit. It should sell itself. You should see yourself in the dressing room mirror, going, “YES!”


Do you collect any clothing pieces?

I don’t. At this time, I like to limit all my clothing to one suitcase. I have held onto my own clothing creations, though (an evening dress and a kimono I made using silk fabric that I printed one of my paintings on).


What is the first item of designer clothing you bought for yourself?

A Dolce & Gabbana tuxedo jacket. (I couldn’t afford the pants.) It’s held up for three years and hasn’t been used gently. (Feel free to Google “Paint Brush Man” and see its versatility.)


What’s on your spring reading list?

Marcus Aurelius: Meditations, Vagabonding and Zorba the Greek


Five things he can't live without