How does one become an artist? Or you could ask, how does anyone end up as anything? There's always a story. I'll share with you my story to becoming a professional artist.
Me and my sister Jen circa 1983 (?). We had a great childhood.
I loved drawing and I loved sports. I was so into sports that I felt that after my professional sports career ended I'd also design and build stadiums. This is a stadium in one of my early notebooks as a 10 year old. I'm so glad my mother kept those notebooks, so much good stuff in there.
I was always pretty good at running growing up as tested out in the local town-day road race but then I lucked out and had a teacher at my school who ran 4:07 for the mile when he was at URI. He introduced me to the sport of track and I loved it. Like drawing, it could be a very solitary pursuit, which worked with my personality. However, my first coach moved away my junior year of high school and I was on my own. I had the shit luck of being at the only high school i'd ever heard of that didn't actually field a cross country team. On the bright side I was able to petition the school and the state to let me run in all the meets as an individual. I was very strong-willed, apparently. The tough part was that I had no coach or teammates and had to figure this stuff out on my own. And this was before anything was published online!
Despite the lack of a team or coach, I did pretty well as a high school runner, making it to New Englands and winning a state indoor 2-mile. I also met my best friend Ben who ran for Burlington HS. It would almost be an understatement to say that I was an extremely motivated kid to do the things that I wanted to do.
My mom and dad in our living room the night of my high school graduation. I was so psyched to be done.
This is one of the last pictures I have with my dad in 2003. A good role model for me.
And then for a while it was just the three of us.
We moved a few times as kids, born in Winchester then lived in Arlington, Belmont and Bedford Massachusetts before we moved to Waltham Vermont in 1989. Here is the house on the day my mother moved to New Hampshire in 2015. One of the benefits to growing up in Vermont was having so much outdoor space, and living in a beautiful environment. As a youngster I wanted to get the hell out of there, but now I can see the benefits living in a small town had on me.
My time at Boston University was incredibly transformative for me as person and a runner. I love this group of guys.
I wasn't sure what I wanted to do professionally after college, so I took just any old job and was very motivated to run fast and put off major life decisions for a while. There was never a shortage of guys to train with in Boston, in all sorts of weather.
I always considered myself a track racer and dedicated myself to arbitrary times and lofty goals I had set for myself. However, every runner finishes their careers thinking they could go just a little faster...I'm no different. This is a picture from a 14:09 5k.
By that time I had met Kristen through a mutual friend. Kristen was an amazing woman who was studying medicine at UMass. We were engaged in 2009 but by 2010 she lost a 2 year battle with cancer. This was a devastating blow and made me re-think everything. Why not take big risks now since life was already up-ended.
I actually almost hung up the racing shoes for good in 2010 - I felt I had done whatever I could as an athlete and wanted to dedicate myself to new things. So I stopped running couple of months before Boston Marathon but after a couple of days I felt bad that I had never run a competitive marathon, so I came back, entered Boston, and ran 2:27 in my first one. Life goal...check. Now I felt free to move on to new things.
I still had my artwork, which I'd been doing on a sporadic basis, but always loved. Now that running was less of a major part of my free time I dove into drawing and painting with a fury.
After spending most of the summer of 2010 in Colorado at my sister's house trying to piece things back together I enrolled in the Master of Architecture program at Boston Architectural College. It was something I'd always wanted to do (remember the baseball stadiums I'd designed?) but was never financially ready for. Well apparently I still wasn't (and who could be?) and I was bummed to leave after 2 years because of the massive amount of debt that one racks up when in grad school. This is a major social issue I feel passionate about, by the way. Above is one of my favorite hand drawn projects from the time.
But by 2011 it seemed that lightening had struck twice and I was in a wonderful relationship with an amazing woman I had known since 2001 from the BU days. We had so much in common and she got me out of my funk.
I knew early on that we'd end up married. This photo is not from the proposal.
We got a great dog, Charlie in 2012 who is such a good friend to both of us.
He's been the subject of a few of my paintings.
And then we were married in Vermont in 2013. What a day.
So many of my experiences in Vermont had a profound affect on my artistic subjects. I painted what I knew!
I wasn't quite done bouncing around professionally as I worked for several years for a large construction company doing historic preservation. This is my company headshot. Although logically it would make sense for me to end up in that role it wasn't the right fit. I am meant to be making things myself, not managing others to make things.
In August of 2015 I was featured in Forbes as one of 20 artists.
Painting had become a side-hustle. Even though I had a more than full time job I was still painting, a lot! And as more works began to sell it seemed more possible than ever that I could paint professionally.
So in 2015 Ann and I planned for it and I made my big break. I became the professional artist Paul William.
I moved my practice into Vernon Street Studios where I share a space with Daniel Zeese, a friend from architecture school.
Being in a studio gave me the freedom to paint larger, and more freely. I became really interested in interpreting and conveying my experiences outdoors through my times running, hiking, cycling, and camping.
Every day I am challenged by new work and exciting possibilities. And one of my favorites - making people happy...
Influenced by nature, and particularly its scale, Paul’s work re-interprets what he’s seen to best express the feelings he’s felt in the landscape. Through various mark making techniques - putty knives, fingers, drips, brushes - and the build-up of layers he seeks to spontaneously create a composition that is rich in color and full of depth. By allowing his viewers into the composition Paul’s intent is not necessarily to paint representationally, but remain open to the associations of the viewer’s own experience in the world.
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