When he was a boy, Neilson Carlin wanted to be Catholic priest – a strange desire for one raised as a Protestant. However, adolescence brought the realization that his true calling was his other great love: painting.
Neilson specializes in commissioned sacred and devotional art. After two decades in the commercial and gallery art markets, a conversion to Catholicism prompted Neilson to commit his career to working for the Church. He was one of just four artists commissioned to adorn the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, WI. This 14-month long project culminated in the execution of four, 11’ x 4.5’ multi-figure paintings of Catholic Saints Gianna Molla, Peregrine Laziosi, Therese of Lisieux and Blessed Father Miguel Pro. Other clients include The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City, MO, The Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, KY, Our Lady of Guadalupe Roman Catholic Church in Buckingham, PA, The St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, MN, Epiphany Roman Catholic Church in Normal, IL, St. Rocco Roman Catholic Church in Avondale, PA, Sacred Heart Church in Royersford, PA, Church of St. Mary in Schwenksville, PA, St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Healdsburg, CA, St. Frances of Rome Catholic Church in Cicero, IL, St. Matthew Catholic Church in El Paso Texas, and St. Patrick Church in Kennett Square,PA. Finally, Neilson was honored to be commissioned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to paint the official iconic image of the Holy Family for the 2015 World Meeting of Families.
In addition to his commission work, 2020 marks his 23rd year teaching drawing and painting at his school, the Carlin Academy of Fine Art, in Kennett Square, PA. Through the academy, he is training the next generation of artists in the representational tradition.
Neilson completed his undergraduate training at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, receiving a BFA in illustration. He concluded his formal studies privately under figure painter Michael Aviano, a pupil of the legendary instructor and illustrator Frank J. Reilly. Through Aviano, Neilson traces his instructional lineage directly to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts of 19th century France.
His work has been exhibited at the Arnot Art Museum, the Arts Club of Washington, the Louise Wells Cameron Museum, The Salmagundi Club and the State Museum of Pennsylvania. In 2003, his painting “Transcendence” was awarded First Place in the Still Life category of The Artist’s Magazine’s 20th Annual National Art Competition. In 2004, his painting “Emergence” received Second Place in the Portrait category of The Artist’s Magazine’s 21st Annual National Art Competition. Both paintings were selected from over 12,000 entries nationwide. His work has been published in the Spring 2006 American Artist Drawing Magazine, Strokes of Genius: The Best of Drawing and How Did you Paint That? :100 Ways to Paint Still Life & Florals. In 2008 and 2014, he was the recipient of the First Place award in the Nationwide Juried Catholic Arts Exhibition at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.
“Every genuine artistic intuition goes beyond what the senses perceive and, reaching beneath reality's surface, strives to interpret its hidden mystery.” — Blessed Pope John Paul II