Meet the Team: Artist Gene Wilson


We talk a lot about what we’re doing on this blog. But we figured it would also be great to talk a bit about who we are.

When we were coming up with who to feature first, our illustrator Gene Wilson jumped right to mind. Gene’s drawings will appear in our upcoming game Fish Lake.

Buffalo lake clouds jpeg

Gene contacted us about helping with our artwork after stumbling across the very blog and submits his pieces to us from Ireland, where he currently resides. He’s not necessarily the stereotypical illustrator or kind of guy that would be involved with a company producing math video games — which makes him just the right person for 7 Generation Games.

You had a bit of a non-traditional path to being an illustrator, can you tell us a bit about your background?

I am English born and bred, the son of Irish parents that joined the exodus to the U.K. in search of work in the 1950’s and 60’s.

When I was 8, I entered an art competition in a national U.K. newspaper. I had to draw a cartoon character. I chose ‘Bambi’. Having seen Bambi’s mother shot dead and Bambi left orphaned by a deer hunter, in the Disney cartoon film – I sobbed uncontrollably (I think they reported a spike in Kleenex sales that week!). I was driven to draw, and make up my own scene! In it, the little fawn reeks havoc and revenge on the hunter! I had a vivid imagination at 8. There was blood, teeth and deer hunter snot all over the place — the trees, the log cabin – EVERYWHERE!

To everybody’s amazement, I was one of 10 winners of Disney’s ‘Jungle Book’. Dad said afterwards that my picture made ‘Jaws’ (which was out at the time) seem like something out of ‘Sesame Street.’

My family decided to return to Donegal, Ireland, when I was in my teens. After finishing secondary school, I applied and was accepted into the first-year foundation course of Art & Design.

However, I’d been working as a radio presenter for a few regional stations in Ireland, U.K. and Spain, and progressed onto a national by the time the college start-date came around. So, I didn’t go to college. Something I regret, now.

However, in my defense, I couldn’t have foreseen how the medium of radio has turned out, today. Deregulation meant ubiquitous, factory-like places, owned by large groups with uncaring ‘suits’ that called the shots and that seemed to care only about revenue, prevailed. With all of the wonderful advances in technology, radio should be a joy to work in… I hope it turns itself back around.

I studied film photography in 2005-2006, and obtained a City & Guilds diploma in the same. I now work part-time, for a local newspaper.

When I draw, I imagine the scene in my mind’s eye to be something like a photograph. I’ll often take the imagined perspective and depth of field of it into consideration. Along with a compositional approach — honed from my work in the photographic arena — it all seems to come together in the illustration.

What was your favorite subject(s) in school?

My love of English stands firm to this day. Art also featured heavily, and it didn’t stop at the easel.

I would often volunteer for school plays, where I would help decorate stage back-drops and the like. All other subjects were passed, perfunctorily.

I’ve always been one to go the extra bit – the fifth quarter. If the puppet maker’s workshop needed a mallet and chisel – I’d put a shovel or something in there, too. This was much to the frustration of the time-constrained teachers! Well, Pinocchio might’ve wanted something to pick his nose with (I’m considerate, that way).

How did you come across the work we’re doing at 7 Generation Games?

The Doctor will see you, now.

Serendipity. The transitory nature of the Internet.

While reading something about MMA star Ronda Rousey, I meandered further onto her mother and 7 Generation Games CEO, Dr AnnMaria De Mars’ blog: ‘Judo and Life.’

I would visit the site periodically, thereafter, for some months. And I’d nearly always have a laugh at some of the musings.

After a conversation on altruism, with Dr De Mars at her ‘Judo and Life’ blog, I think the stone in the kidney of my conscience played-up again — like it can, as we grow. I was further intrigued when I noticed ANOTHER of her blogs at 7GenerationGames.com (the woman runs on a heavy-duty car battery – or has the ability to stop time, I’d swear it!). [EDITOR’S NOTE: She actually runs on like a dozen cups of coffee a day.]

I felt like I could help. When I saw what her company did with mathematics, and how their computer games made learning a bit more fun, I wondered if I might be able to make some sketches to accompany the maths questions. It was nice when she said yes.

What made the game resonate with you and made you want to get involved?

For me, growing up at an English comprehensive school in the dark 1970’s, where corporal punishment was rife and when a belligerent ghoul of a teacher was only too willing to do the military two-step down the nape of my neck, school could be frightening at times, particularly in the area of arithmetic. The sound of the teacher’s chalk on the blackboard would seemingly morph into the theme music to ‘Jaws.’

As a student, math might as well have been hieroglyphics on a cave wall to me. I just didn’t connect, and I didn’t know why. I don’t like to think that a kid could be scared like this in a modern-day seat of learning. I think if we’d had this kind of learning method made available to us back then, ‘learning-made-easier’ by way of visual aid, I might not have been one of the ones the wolves pulled down.

7gen jpegI didn’t know that much about the games here, or how they looked and functioned. I didn’t concern myself with that, either. I just felt a compunction to offer help in some small way. I’ve since seen the work they do, and that the team should have a developer, a mathematician, cultural consultants, and artists to aspire to, it all — literally — adds up!

Can a picture say a thousand numbers? I hope so.