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Emeritus Professor of Art, University of Wisconsin
Fulbright recipient Slade School of Art, University College London
MFA, University of Illinois
BFA, Art Institute of Chicago in conjunction with the University of Chicago
Extensive Bio Wikipedia under William Nichols artist
Over thirty solo gallery exhibitions
Solo Museum Exhibition, Butler Institute of American Art
Over seventy-five group exhibitions in museums and galleries
Art Work and listings in over twenty-one books and periodicals
Numerous important art collections both here and abroad
Paintings in Numerous Art Museum Collections
What inspired me to write my first book?
I think a good number of people who have taught and then retired from the profession often find themselves ruminating over what might have been said more clearly and insightfully to their students. Added to this as you move toward my age wisdom begins to add to your knowledge of the profession you have spent a lifetime involved with, in my case painting and the visual arts. Writing was never a skill I thought I could or wanted to or be able to do but the newsletters I wrote for people who visited my website over time created an interest in the process and I started getting feedback from people who said they enjoyed the way I talked about my own artwork. So, with these things in mind as well as finding out if I could bring words to conclusions, I have come to about the visual arts the impetus to write a book took on a desire I did not anticipate doing at this late stage of my life.
Do you see writing as a career?
My profession is in the visual arts it is the way of speaking I enjoy am good at and am comfortable with. While I do not see writing as a career it has been a fascinating excursion with a process of expression whose parallels overlap the visual arts in more ways than I had realized. Let me give you an example. As a painting I am working nears completion it often becomes time to assess whether areas of the painting need a revision to make the painting stronger and clearer as an experience for the viewer. This could mean just changing a few square inches in the painting its color or shape for example. There is a great landscape by Van Gogh in the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago. It is made up primarily of varying greens and yellows. As you view the back left side of the image you will see a light turquoise blue brush stroke about a quarter inch in size. This color exists nowhere else in the painting but only this spot. If you take your hand and cover this color up for yourself visually the painting begins to collapse spatially and hence experientially. I found the same thing happening with words as I wrote. The mere change of a word could change the whole tenor, experience and understanding of thought. While I do not see a career in writing doing it has increased my conscious awareness of process.
What does being a successful author look like to me?
This is a challenging question to answer that involves numerous possible conclusions. Success can mean many things to many people. For me it has meant opening the door a bit creating new understandings about old things. I used to say to my students you could probably find all ideas, feelings and experiences on a rack of hallmark greeting cards at Walgreens. Some think they know all there is about the human condition or the visual world they inhabit. But my belief is that there is always room to alter the recipe and find new often subtle ways of exploring old stories and ideas adding another train car to the length of knowledge experience and understanding of the world we inhabit. So I would say success for me involves finding new ways of making a contribution about who we are and the world we live in with perfection of execution.
How much of the book is realistic?
In writing this book which explores becoming a visual artist I wanted to attempt to avoid delivering information loaded with cliches and platitudes surrounding creativity, growth and the nature of art. I felt that by introducing myself into the narrative, the experiences I went through, and my own voyage in this profession that perhaps a more real look into becoming an artist could be gained. For me truth has in the end always created a compelling narrative and I strove to weave this into a look at this profession we call artist warts and all. So my reality in this process and mirroring my experiences with as much truth as I could was of paramount importance.
How do I relax?
To be frank I found writing a relaxing process. I keep an intense involvement with painting and maintain a rigid work schedule and have always looked at it as a profession rather than a hobby. Writing felt enjoyable and relaxing, in large measure because I was constantly learning when I did it and found it took me away from the tedium that could happen while doing a painting that I might work on for a month. I still learn new things as a visual artist but not with the intensity and excitement writing afforded me. I was proud to be doing something I did not know if I could accomplish. I never was good at English in school so the pleasure of involving myself in this effort was an adventure that offered me a sense of accomplishment in an area I had not been good at when I was younger. This was an effort that was both rewarding and relaxing for me.
Do you write an outline before writing the book you did?
I felt like I had been writing this book in my thoughts for over sixty years. The story of being an artist its difficulties and rewards I had lived and gone over many times in my own head. This lead to a an easy flow and the various chapters developed spontaneously much like doing an abstract painting where one thing seems to lead to another.
How can readers discover more about me and my work?
I have a website under William Nichols Fine Art. In the website a large number of my paintings can be seen as well as background material that provides a listing of shows I have been involved in, books I am in and private and museum collections that contain my art. There is also a large Wikipedia article of how my art fits in historically to arts history in the twentieth century.
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