We received an email today from Enriqueta asking who the instructor is on Master Oil Painting. That’s when Kristie realized we don’t have an about page on our website. Many of you may never have heard of Bill Inman – why would you? You’re probably wondering what makes Bill qualified to teach painting? So, she asked me to write a blog post so you can get to know me a bit.
The wonderful thing about the arts is nobody cares about degrees and titles (if you’re one of the few who does, I did complete an MFA degree). We look at the artwork – the paintings – to judge whether we want to learn from someone.
I like that.
I’ve known a lot of well-educated professors of art who’s work I wouldn’t want to emulate and who frankly didn’t know much about traditional principles of art like sound drawing, judging correct values, achieving atmospheric harmony, or the importance of edges for convincing realism.
So, I’ll do my best to share my journey with art and try not to bore you too much. Since much of my and Kristie’s story has already been told in other posts, I’ll share links to those while adding in a few more highlights.
Growing Up in the Arts
My dad was a graphic designer who wanted to paint full-time. He was told that nobody could make a living as a fine artist and he should pursue the commercial side first. When I showed interest in drawing and painting (beginning when I was in Kindergarten), he told me to ignore the naysayers and just paint – to do what I loved.
And that’s what I’ve done ever since!
High school was the foundational time for deciding what type of art I liked most. My phenomenal art teacher encouraged us to enter contests. That’s how I ended up becoming the top high school artist in Alaska from my sophomore year on, winning first of state titles consistently and finally the Congressional Art Award.
Don’t get the idea that I was some kind of prodigy. I really didn’t know what I was doing. Gaining a strong understanding of the fundamentals took years. I had several things working in my favor. My teacher encouraged (and demonstrated) experimenting with lots of styles and ideas – and I did just that. My dad gave me a lot of guidance and I simply loved creating. That combination, luck, and divine intervention made those awards possible. Anyone who pushes past their personal boundaries and their fear will quickly create paintings that they barely imagined they were capable of.
I sold my first painting (a pastel) in a professional art gallery when I was 17 while still in high school. All through art school I continued to approach galleries whenever we travelled and was blessed that the paintings actually sold. Then in 1991 I dove headlong into painting and began selling my artwork full-time. I’ve made my living as an artist almost exclusively since then (while Kristie and I raised 7 children).
If you’d like to see the evolution of my artwork from high school, art school, and my early career until now you might like this: https://www.masteroilpainting.com/evolution-of-an-artist/
Marrying a Dream Art Partner
Kristie has been the backbone of my success as an artist. She has been my primary cheerleader, motivator, and partner for more than 30 years. My prayer is that every artist is blessed with a spouse (or close companion) who so selflessly supports them as Kristie has done for me.
She wrote a popular and beautiful post about being married to an artist: https://www.masteroilpainting.com/9-things-ive-learned-being-married-to-an-artist/
Here’s an excerpt: “We’re not the norm in any niche. We have a rather large family (7 children), and I have been a stay-at-home mom most of the time. That means that the major wage earner has always been Bill. Sure, we’ve had to live simply at times, but never in want.”
Artists Need to Stay Healthy
Our brains are the most important tool we use each time we step in front of our easels. Eating healthy and exercising are critical to keeping our minds and imaginations sharp and strong. Each of us has different capacities and interests so there isn’t one perfect menu or exercise routine for all artists. We simply need to find what works for us personally and stay consistent so we can continue filling the world with beautiful paintings year after year.
I personally enjoy weightlifting and outdoor anything: skiing, swimming, hiking through trees and mountains, tennis, baseball, frisbee golf, walking with Kristie, running around on playground equipment with our children/grandchildren, or anything fun and active.
You can read a lot more about our pursuits for good health and an art-minded lifestyle here: https://www.masteroilpainting.com/the-health-conscious-artist/
One of the highlights of the last few years was a Tough Mudder my older children talked me into. I saw a lot of parallels to the journey us artists take and wrote about it here: https://www.masteroilpainting.com/tough-mudder-and-the-growth-of-an-artist/
Plein Air Painting
My first plein air painting attempt was in 1983 in Fairbanks, Alaska. It’s been a regular part of my painting routine ever since. Plein air or painting from life is critical for all artists. It’s the only way we can effectively understand how atmospheric effects and light influence the colors, values, and edges of our subjects – especially if we paint landscapes and flowers.
That doesn’t mean every painting needs to be done from life, but that painting-from-life experience will vastly improve our studio work. You can read a lot more about the joys of plein air painting here: https://www.masteroilpainting.com/plein-air-and-studio-painting/
Workshops and Classes
Teaching is something I’ve always loved to do. Unfortunately, painting full-time was so demanding I rarely found time to teach workshops. Every couple of years I managed to organize an event.
After one of the workshops that I taught here in Indiana, several of those who took the workshop asked if they could come by occasionally to watch me paint. Then they asked if they could bring their painting supplies. That quickly resulted in a question here and there or a request for some help. Within a short time, I was teaching and demonstrating for them every month. I did that for several years until the demands of Master Oil Painting made it impossible for me to continue.
Last year I managed to fit in two on-location workshops. It’s always a magical thing to be right there in person with other artists. You can read about the adventure in Tubac here https://www.masteroilpainting.com/tubac-art-workshop-in-a-southwest-painters-paradise/ and Kiawah Island here https://www.masteroilpainting.com/kiawah-oil-painting-workshop/
If you’re interested in the upcoming Tubac workshop you can get information here: https://www.tubacschooloffineartllc.com/project/bill-inman/
Shortly after getting my paintings into Joe Wade Fine Arts in Santa Fe, a friend asked if I could sculpt wax figurines for his pewter jewelry business. It sounded like a great way to pay our bills while I built up my painting inventory.
It turned into a full-time 14+ hours a day job. I created about 200 sculptures in 3 years ranging from ½ an inch to 18 inches tall. The subjects reached into every genre – cowboys and Indians, marine life, wildlife from all around the globe, sports, hot air balloons, southwest Kachinas, a Nativity set, and fantasy. You can see pics of some of the sculptures I finished here (click on the images for a larger view) (the wolf, lion, elephant, eagle bust, and patinaed eagle with salmon are bronze): http://www.inmanfinearts.com/Sculpture.html
It was bittersweet for me. On one hand, my drawing skills improved immensely as I learned to see 3-dimensionally. On the other hand, my painting time was sparse, and while I sold a painting here and there, I failed to take advantage of being in Joe’s fantastic gallery.
After 3 years and a small foray into some bronze sculptures that we never marketed, I turned again to what I loved – painting.
Painting Full-Time and an MFA
Since 1995 painting has been my primary pursuit – unless you count the time spent finishing off my undergrad and MFA degrees, but even then I was painting and supplying 4-5 galleries.
I was not much of a self-promoter through most of my career, relying on the galleries for that. For aspiring professional painters, I would highly recommend that you learn all that you can about marketing and promotion from successful artists you admire. Eric Rhoads wrote a book and offers a lot of useful information about marketing art: https://artmarketing.com/
If you want to know what it’s like to paint full-time for a living – it’s amazing and wonderful – and one of the most demanding fields that exist. Most artists work 6-7 days a week for 12+ hours a day. You must learn to handle rejection and possible long spells between painting sales.
I was fortunate that the subjects I loved to paint sold well. That doesn’t always happen. I have very few of the hundreds of my early paintings on hand because the rest all sold through galleries – including many of my school assignments.
Consistency is crucial. If you’re not the type who works and studies without someone pushing you along, the arts might not be for you. You’ll need to keep stepping in front of your easel every day, whether you feel like it or not. If you feel like you just have to paint each day or you’ll stop breathing, a career as a painter may be what you’re destined for.
Here’s what I wrote several years ago. It was the driving force during my MFA and it’s what inspires me today:
“My desire is to help viewers feel like they are looking out a window or doorway into a beautiful scene, one that beckons to forget the world for a while and simply enjoy the peace and serenity, the incredible beauty Heavenly Father has provided.”
The only thing that means more to me than my art is my family and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
For 40 years, each day when I enter my studio, the first thing I do is get on my knees to ask my Heavenly Father to guide me. My hope is that the work I do, whether as a painter or a teacher, will help show others how much our Father loves His children. The beauty of this earth that He gave to us is a testament to me that He wants us to be happy and have joy. Through my paintings and with kindness and generosity in my teaching, I hope to show others what I have come to know.