Licking Good

Oil painter depicts treats, toys and more

By Jessica Laskey
November 2023

If you’re tempted to lick one of Kevin Wilhite’s paintings, don’t.

Though the delectable treats he portrays in oil paint as thick as frosting look sweet enough to eat, they’re still paint.

“I get hungry every time I paint ice cream,” Wilhite says.

His latest series features every flavor of Gunther’s ice cream. He explains, “I started learning to use the palette knife to incorporate more shape into my pieces, which lends a more chunky, textural style.”

Wilhite’s paintings were recently paired with paintings of donuts by Chris Jonas—AKA “The Donut Man”—as part of a group show titled “Sweet on the Eye” at The Art Studios at 17th and I streets.

Wilhite organized the show with fellow studio members Jonas and abstract painter Carlo Joaquin to highlight the Gunther’s series of “over 30 ice creams that won’t melt on your wall.”

If you’re a regular reader, you’re probably familiar with Wilhite’s work. His impressionistic painting of iconic New Roma Bakery was featured on the cover in 2019. It’s a good example of his style and most common subject matter.

A graphic designer by trade, Wilhite started out painting portraits of vintage neon signs based on photos taken by a fellow graphic designer who took a trip on Route 66. He moved into other vintage items, including buildings and his personal favorite—cars.

“I grew up going to car shows in Modesto, home of the cruise,” says the Ceres native. “I was saturated with old cars and hot rods. That instilled in me to drool over cars. In rust we trust.”

His Central Valley upbringing inspired other rural subjects, including trucks and tractors. He provides paintings to Art Farm, an annual fundraiser for YoloArts in Woodland. In turn, Art Farm connects Wilhite to local farms that have cool old vehicles he can capture in oil paint.

“I love to go onsite to touch and feel in person and photograph things myself to get the angles and perspective,” Wilhite says. “I drive around to random locations and stop if I see something, particularly old trucks in the Delta.”

Wilhite held his first exhibition in 2013 at Spanish Fly Hair Garage in Midtown. From there, he exhibited in the Crocker Art Museum’s Big Names, Small Art event, at the defunct Fe Gallery on 65th Street, in fundraisers for Art Farm and Clarksburg Library, at restaurants and breweries around the region, and the PBS KVIE Art Auction.

The artist’s love of vehicles extends to toys. His series of Tonka trucks in vibrant blues and yellows is whimsical and nostalgic, a balance he strikes in all subject matter, from vehicles and landscapes to figures and ice cream.

While working at University Print at Sacramento State and taking classes for his MBA, Wilhite still spends time at The Art Studios where he finds inspiration.

“There are 16 other artists here, so you get to see what people are doing in lots of different mediums and talk with other artists who’ve been around for quite some time,” Wilhite says. “It’s a launch pad for me to go get dirty and paint.”

For information, visit

Jessica Laskey can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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