A good friend of mine passed away today.
Bill Whitaker was a superb artist who primarily painted portraits and earned his living from his art during most of his life.
In the last 20-25 years, most of his paintings were created on commission and are privately owned. Others he sold in art galleries throughout the American West. Several of Bill’s paintings are already in museums and I expect to see more in those surroundings in the future.
Bill lived less than five minutes away and welcomed visitors when he was painting. He worked in a studio with a very high ceiling and a tall glass north-facing wall so he enjoyed perfect light for his art.
Bill usually worked from photographs of his subject that he had taken previously in the same studio with professional-level photo and lighting equipment. Much of the time when I walked into his studio the portrait looked great to me but Bill explained there was a lot more work to go. He worked with a small brush touching the canvas here and there with almost indiscernible strokes.
Bill usually had a photograph he had taken of the subject on a large computer monitor next to his canvas. Even after I thought the painting was a perfect reflection of the photo, he added more. When compared with his final painting, even a very good photo which was its basis looked flat and lifeless.
You can see examples of Bill’s work at his website. The paintings themselves look better when seen in person than the website photos do, but you can get an idea.
On the Portraits page, in the middle of the top row, you’ll see a portrait of a young woman with short hair. She was the daughter of a neighbor who lives even closer to me than Bill did.
Megan was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 17 years old and died from the disease when she was 18. It was a devastating experience for her family. Bill painted Megan’s portrait for the family and the original hangs in their home. Megan is shown as she looked between cancer treatments during her last illness.