Western artist Bill Whitley is well known in this area for his skills as an artist and has won many awards, and it all started with a pencil and a comic book. “I started drawing when I was about 5 years old,” Bill reminisced. “You know how all kids do. They look at comic books and start drawing.”
Bill is the son of a rancher, which provided plenty of subject matter for his later life. “I have drawn nearly all my inspiration from ranches from the time I was old enough to go out with my dad when I was about 6.” Bill said. “As you get older your skills become a little more refined. You get proportion and perspective, and you are exposed to magazines and such,” Bill said. “Teachers help, but so much of art is trial and error—so much of art is just doing it,” he explained. “I wasn’t really serious about it when I became an adult, but in the last 6 years I have had more time to really become more serious about it,” he said.
Bill grew up to follow in his father’s footsteps, and still has a “handful of cows” that he takes care of, and his art was an “on and off thing”. “I worked on ranches for years, and then I got a chance to lease some country, and for the last 20 years I have been self-employed,” he explained. Now he is semi-retired, and thankfully has the time to devote to his craft. “Ranching didn’t leave much time for art, and there is also the matter of really having that much interest to sit down and pursue it; to have enough time to dedicate to the practice. Drawing is something that you need to do every day,” Bill said. “You have it in you and you have to get it out for your own pleasure. Now I have a lot more time to work on my art, and I have a good space to work in that is dedicated to sculpting, painting and drawing. I have been at this [sculpting] for I guess about 4 years. My first attempt was a set of bookends that I did with bakeable clay,” he said with a smile.
Bill’s love of horses started when he began riding at 5 years old, so it only stands to reason that his next sculpture was a horse and rider. He decided to do it with the Sculpty brand of clay that is commonly used for children’s art. “That proved to be quite a challenge,” Bill said. “The Sculpty would test the patience of a saint. I took it to the foundry, and they were able to cast it. The foundry guy told me that they make plasticine (another type of clay) that works a lot better. It comes in different degrees of density, and it holds its shape more and is easier to carve.”
Bill knew he wanted to do sculpture when he saw one created by George Phippen called Arizona Rock Hopper. “It is something that you aspire to. It has everything, emotion and movement, and such detail of everything, it pulls you into the experience,” he said. “What I like about the type of art I do is that it tells a story with a beginning, middle and an end, and each person’s story is different. It is like some short stories where the endings are there, but it is kind of open for interpretation. It has to appeal to you, and all art is subjective, but you should like it all. There is a certain something to be learned from any and all artwork.”
Bill shows his artwork at the Wichita Falls Art Association Gallery and other local venues.