Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Artist In Me

I don't know if you can see it but that little boy has an artist trying to find it's way out. My parents should have known when I took apart my brand new transistor radio. My sisters should have known when I removed their barbie doll heads - it wasn't that I took pleasure in the removal of the heads. It was seeing how many different reactions I could create in their emotions. By the time my motor skills really developed I painted my masterpiece - Three barbie dolls owned by three different sisters all coming off at the same time. Magnifique!

Without boring you with all the details I had a pretty typical American exposure to art in junior high and high school. I was always pretty good but there were always those who were much better.

Making it into college was a challenge - I really didn't fit in the one size is supposed to fit all public school system. I had quite a bit of trouble with reading comprehension, science and history always netted below average grades and forget about math...that left art and music...the only two bright spots on my report card.

On the other hand the little girl in the picture was destined for academic honors...if you look close you can see that she knows it too. :) (Love you Beth- look what she does!)

So on to college and more bad grades in english, history, science, and math - what's new right? Art on the other hand was still keeping me in the game with my grades. Kind of like adding base to acid. (I did remember that from science class)

Then...upon applying for the BFA at BYU I distinctly remember hearing the earth crack as I was barely allowed in on probation. PROBATION???!!! in art??? but I'm supposed to be good at art - at least that's what everyone had been telling me. How could this be? If not art then what?

I finally had to come to terms with the fact that my past effort had taken me as far as I could coast. It was time to admit that I wasn't the savant I thought I was. That I had to get to work - that I had to humble myself and start listening and learning from my teachers - mainly Richard Hull and Bob Barrett - also Rob Colvin. If not for them I wouldn't be able to enjoy a successful illustration career. (Ironically I was later hired to teach part time at BYU by Richard Hull)

One of the reasons I wanted to release my "How To Illustrate Children's Books" video series is to help others learn those very important principles that can be the difference between success and failure. I know how frustrating it is to wallow in depression when a piece doesn't work out....when you spend a lot of time on an image and you wish you had never started it. I know what it's like to try to talk yourself into liking your own work. And I know what it feels like when you show a new piece to someone and their facial expressions just can't lie as good as their lips....and how when you work and re-work a piece and re-work it some more you want to smash it and scream. Been there. I'll admit it I've shed real tears over my art and I don't cry very often...although "Driving Miss Daisey" gets me every time.

I wanted to post this as encouragement to my fellow artists - and leave you with this: I've realized that all those frustrations, emotions, disappointments and tears have led to one happy camper. I love my job. :)


  1. awww, you look exactly the same... it can be very frustrating sometimes and we so appreciate you sharing your knowledge Will. I am through the first couple of lectures and looking forward to the next one ;) It's like the class I never got to take; so, thank you for taking the time to put it together for us. I'm "self- taught", although that is really a misnomer, because, when you are self taught you just find sources of education and inspiration where ever you can. It's just hard to find adequate sources sometimes, so a lot of it turns into trial and error, and it takes twice as long as going to school. But you always feel like you are missing essential "secrets" that only artists who were able to go to art school know and understand. It's wonderful that you persevered, found a career that you love and now others are looking to you for instruction and inspiration.

  2. You're so kind to mention me in this story, I feel honored to have been a small part of your growth as an artist. I admire your work more than I can say, it inspires me! Thanks!

  3. Oompa Loompa!

    Some day you're going to make up for all the Barbie Doll carnage. You will be held accountable. Oh yes, you will.

  4. Somewhere along the way, you learned to write really well too, Will! This was great fun to read. Your work is so wonderful, yet you still remain humble. It's great of you to share and encourage in this way - your challenges and some frustrations along the way. But, what also comes shining through is your perseverance, your creativity and your great sense of humor! Great post! Thanks!

  5. Thanks you guys! I learned to write after college (I'm no writer but I can finally organize my thoughts). In the late '90s I started contributing regularly to "" on their chat boards. The big issue then was stock illustration. When my wife (who writes very well) read some of my posts she banned me from future posts until she filtered and fixed them. That got old quick so she started reading, marking, and having me fix them. Over time I began to learn how to stay on point and organize my thoughts. Then I made the association with good design principles - it's all the same - music, dance, visual art, theater, written word.

    I needed a reason to care and until I became passionate about illustration I didn't have anything I wanted to write about so I was terrible at writing.

  6. Hello, I was honoured with a stylish blogger award from a person who likes my art. It t really meant a lot to me to know she enjoys it and the award felt good. Part of receiving is to write 7 things about yourself and pass it on to (15) other bloggers, if you are interested please accept this ward form me out of appreciation for what your blog brings to me.
    No-one seems quite sure where the award originated so I cant tell you that and time wise I had to cut down on the number of send on posts _ I’m sure you can to if needed or desired.
    Thanks for sharing as you do via your blog and contact. Janet
    You can read my post about it here if you like.

  7. Wow Janet! Thanks for thinking of me - I'm honored - I'd love to have the award! I have so many favorite blogs that 15 won't go very far. I'm really happy that you like my blog - sometimes I feel silly writing - the little voice in the back of my head that's always saying, "Who the heck are you writing to??!!"

  8. I would have guessed that was you if it was in a line-up. You look a lot like my cousin Chris now and that’s just how he looked as a kid. So funny! I am going to get your video series with my next paypal check. I can’t wait! Karen W. has been raving about it :o) I love your mini bio. That triple header is the best! Got your book! Thanks... the illos are superb! I’m going to savor it a while before bestowing it upon one of the grandkids.


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