Artist Spotlight Series: Tori Bilas
I am excited to introduce you to a multi talented artist who is an accomplished equestrian with a recent degree from Duke University as well
This young lady shares her love of horses through her beautiful custom portraits.
Enjoy getting to know
What is your training?
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Art from Duke University, where I studied painting under the fabulous Beverly McIver. Throughout high school and college, I took workshops with Andy Braitman, and I spent a summer in Spoleto, Italy, and a semester in Madrid, Spain, studying art and absorbing the artistic culture Europe has to offer. I have also learned so much from my mother, Wendy Bilas, who is an oil painter as well.
What inspires you and your designs?
My art was originally inspired by my lifelong passion for horses and other animals. Once I knew I could create them realistically, I challenged myself to apply the same sense of photo-realisim to figures and everyday objects. The options for my subjects are limitless, and it’s fun to stretch myself by drawing incredibly complex items like reflective glassware and water. When an animal or human is my subject, my goal of course is to recreate the detail but mostly to capture the spirit, energy and soul of the creature. I want every portrait to reflect love — both love for and love from the subject.
What is your favorite piece?
As a college senior, my professors pushed me to branch out from realism and try abstract work. This was a huge struggle for me, since I was so glued to my manner of working realistically, but I’m grateful now because it led to this cool piece I never would have created otherwise. I’ve learned it’s mandatory to step outside my comfort zone in order to push my career and my work to the highest level.
How has your area influenced your work?
The Southeast is a very pet-centric – everyone has pets and everyone loves their pets. There are always clients who want portraits of their beloved dogs or horses. The horse community is very tightly knit as well so once I started doing portraits, word spread and business kept growing. Generally, living in the South gives me a large, friendly, and supportive community of art enthusiasts, animal lovers, and collectors.
What is your favorite restaurant in Charlotte?
Fahrenheit. They have the best salmon dish in the city plus views to die for! I like going on stormy summer nights and watching the lightning light up the Charlotte skyline.
What is your favorite cocktail?
How do you balance personal life and work?
My current job, a production assistant for ESPN’s College Gameday, takes me out of town from Wednesday through Sunday, so I spend my three to four days at home making time to ride, paint, and see friends. The barn and art studio are definitely my happy places, I’m always my happiest on days I get to paint and ride.
Iceland – I want to see the northern lights and ride the Icelandic ponies!
To paint an equine portrait for the Philippaerts brothers. Their horses are almost as beautiful as they are.
Your favorite host / hostess gift to give?
A candle – I always have one burning and feel that a room without a warm scent from a candle feels empty. I like them to be meaningful, though, so I’ll usually buy them from Anne Neilson Home, because she’s a family friend, or the signature candle from Alexander Scott Interiors, where I used to work.
Who is your style icon?
Blake Lively, and not just because she’s stunning and wears beautiful clothes. She promotes happiness, self-love and relevant issues in the most poised and admirable ways. Her empowerment of women is so inspirational and she seems to care about so much more beyond just her sphere of life. I’d take her wardrobe any day, because she’s always the best dressed on the red carpet, but to have that kind of elegance and poise and to use it in such a positive and empowering way is what I think true style is really about.
Your favorite up and coming artist?
Jen Brandon is an equine artist I discovered via Instagram and quickly became a fan of. She paints in such a loose and expressive manner but her paintings come together beautifully. She uploads time-lapse videos of her painting process, which add a whole new dimension to the works. I got to meet her earlier this year at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida, where she set up a stand to promote her work. I hope one day to be able to do the same as an established equine artist.
What is your most treasured possession?
My horse, Brisbane (or B, for short). He’s the quirkiest, coolest, and best horse I’ve ever known and he’s helped me accomplish things I never thought possible.
What are you reading?
People Magazine and I’m Glad About You, a novel about an actress rekindling her long-lost love.
What are you listening to?
Shadow and Light by Martin Luke Brown
What are your favorite blogs / publications?
A look at Tori’s beautiful portfolio…
Be sure to follow Tori on her website and Instagram.
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