Welcome to the first of what will be a long running series; the Blank Canvas Series – An interview with an Artist. We will interview a new featured artist every few weeks to share their insights with the Master Oil Painting Community. Feel free to write in or comment what artist you would like to hear from next.

Today’s Featured Artist: Bill Inman

Home: Muncie, IN

How Long Painting: 33 Years

Q: When you put up a fresh canvas do you always have something to paint in mind, and do you ever worry about running out of ideas?

A: To me it’s like music or books. Can you imagine, with decades of rock and pop songs out there and centuries of storytelling, that a musician or writer will somehow think of a new story or musical beat that is in any way different from what’s already been done? It seems like an impossible task.

When a song really grabs me or I finish another edge-of-my-seat book, I can’t help but be a little bit in awe at the seemingly endless creative imagination of so many wonderful people around the world! And now with YouTube the variety is expanding ridiculously fast.

Maybe for those song and book writers it’s a lot like what we painters experience – when we look around us beauty just seems to be everywhere begging to be captured in paint.

You’ve seen a sunset or looked up at the stars and felt moments when it took your breath away, right? That’s how I feel all the time. My mind is constantly whirling with ideas and images of paintings that I can create from the exquisite scenery all around me.

I’m hopelessly and joyfully captivated by nature because Heavenly Father has been so generous with us – the shifting colors in the sky at different times of day, the limitless variations of hues and textures and values within twisting trees and tangled grasses, blossoming flowers and swirling clouds.

It seems endless to me.

Look at what marvelous magic Monet performed with some simple haystacks.


Haystacks by Monet

After 30 years of painting I feel like there’s more waiting to be painted than I will ever have the time for.

Q: When you start a painting do you always use a reference photo?

A: Sometimes I make it up entirely – completely out of my imagination. But my imagination is fueled by direct observation of nature, like with Birdsong or Sunday Best that came from my imagination and memory.


Birdsong | 18×24 | Oil Painting by Bill Inman


Sunday Best | 40×30 | Oil Painting by Bill Inman

In the videos I do for my students I now try to use reference photos for the paintings I create because it’s more instructive for them to have an image to look at so they can learn why I might change things or veer away from the photo, or why other times I stick close to the composition or details in the reference, such as with Finding Gold in Estes Park.


Finding Gold in Estes Park | 24×30 | Oil Painting by Bill Inman


Finding Gold in Estes Park Reference Photo

If I didn’t have the constraints of teaching I would be inclined to paint from life and my imagination entirely and not use photos at all. To a great degree it’s harder to paint from photographs than it is to paint from life because I have to think through what’s missing in the photo or how to adjust for missing values and incorrect color temperatures. At the same time, I’m very grateful for photography, it helps me remember details and events that I might have forgotten otherwise.

See More Work by Bill Inman:

View Art Training by Bill Inman: