Bill Lewis has a studio space in the 9th Street Studios where he creates art solely from his imagination and has had no formal training since high school, yet his paintings are beautifully done and are definitely fine art. “I liked watching Bob Ross on TV when I was young. He made it look so easy. In reality, when you sit down and put brush to canvas, you find out it is not as easy as he makes it look in a 30 minute show,” Bill said with a grin.
He was playing around with bolts and brass fittings and putting together desk sculptures in what he calls a “phase” when his wife Diana surprised him with a painting starter kit. “It took me a half of a year to start playing with it, and I got addicted. I get inspired by big panoramic outdoor scenes with sky being like a dynamic moving picture from one moment to the next. I like big clouds, and I like watching the weather change. I like to capture some of that movement on canvas,” he explained. “Most of my landscapes have a low horizon line and that goes back to me liking skies. Some people ask, ‘Where is your foreground,’ but there is not foreground on the plains. In landscapes, most of them have that low horizon line and that is the beauty of the sky. You can look up and have a whole different sky in the same day. It is really dynamic.” Bill continues, “I also like the old science fiction stories and the pictures on the cover of “Analog” [which is a science fiction magazine from decades ago]. I love the old cheesy 50’s movies with space ships and monsters. I have a series of paintings with made up astronauts.” Are these selfies? “Yeah, they could be,” he confessed.
“A lot of times I will paint in black and white and just concentrate on values. It is easier to get an idea down with just two colors. I take color out of the equation,” Bill said. “I have some people tell me that some of my art is dark and brooding, like something just happened or is about to happen.” He has several of those paintings on display in his studio, one of which is entitled Black Arches, which has an eerie out of this world feeling. It is as captivating as any of his paintings in full color.
Bill sometimes takes months to finish a painting because of “the way I like to layer glazes”, and with other paintings he can finish in a day. He works almost exclusively in oil paints, but rarely does mixed media pieces.
“I am partial to larger paintings. The movement of the larger brush strokes and moving away from the easel to look at it appeals to me. I like to paint standing instead of sitting down,” Bill said. “I do like the big ones—doing big skies and getting physical with it. Sometimes if I don’t like something, I will face it toward the wall for a few months, then I turn it around. Sometimes I like it and sometimes I don’t. I am not in a hurry to get rid of anything,” he said. “I am not afraid of failure.”
When he wants to “do something mechanical”, he creates steam punk lights out of pipes and Edison Bulbs. They are funky and cool and are displayed in his studio. “I am glad that art community is rolling and getting some steam downtown. I like the After Hours Art Walks and meeting new people and having them come in”, B ill added. Bill will have a solo art show at The Maplewood in Century Plaza this April. In the mean time, swing by his studio and pay him a visit.
– Cindy Kahler Thomas