Bill, what's your story?
I was born in Wisconsin, a state along the Great Lakes in the northern/central part of the USA. My mom was going to college to become a teacher and my dad worked in a photo studio in my early childhood. Both of my parents are both artistically inclined, but didn’t have very much, so being creative with whatever was accessible/attainable with your current means was an important lesson they taught and lived by.
Growing up in an industrial district of my city, my stomping grounds were railroad tracks and back areas of factory style buildings. In high school the only thing that really kept my attention was drawing in my notebooks. After seeing the renown documentary “Style Wars” it reframed my neighborhood surroundings for me and I started painting graffiti.
After high school I attended a trade school for graphic design, eventually transferring to an art college in Minneapolis, Minnesota (further north and west) to study illustration.
During college I taught myself on the side how to do sign painting/brush lettering. After graduating, worked at an advertising agency for a year as a production designer, a position I loathed. After quitting I decidedly made my best effort to maneuver a life that didn’t rely on such a fixed way of living and working. I started to get a few small illustration jobs around this time, and began working part time as a sign painter with two established sign tradesmen. I moved out to New York City in 2015 to work in a stationary company doing illustration. I did that for a year and a half, eventually quitting again to do freelance illustration, which I had been doing after work most nights, full-time (and have since). I picked up some random sign painting and mural painting odd jobs along the way with a friend of mine who did that work in NYC.
On the side of all of the professional stuff, I continued to make paintings and eventually started making little built objects/structures/figures, which I continue to this day. Now I try to spend as near equal time as I can doing personal work and commissioned/commercial work. And presently I am living in Los Angeles, California.
Tell us something about you that we won't read in an artist's bio.
Some call it collecting, some call it hoarding, it’s a fine line, but I like to peruse Craigslist free, eBay, flea markets, estate sales or just piles out on the street in search of odds and ends, furniture, tools and materials I could make use of. One person’s trash is another’s treasure, right?
Many of your pieces feature people, faces. Who are the people in your work?
Sometimes they’re people I see, sometimes they’re just an amalgam of people. People and the human figure is relatable to everyone, and there’s a lot of abstraction you can apply to it, still having it register as a person. I like to present the gestures I draw through forms that aren’t tied to naturalism, but still are recognizable.
You are well versed in graphic design and lettering, but also paint, sculpt and even sew. How do you choose which media you use for a particular piece?
I guess it mainly depends on what’s trying to be achieved. Usually commercial pieces are a little more straightforward with what outcome is expected – sending a photoshop file, or using latex paint to paint a mural. In my personal work the choice usually revolves around what’s interesting me at the moment. My work is mostly flat or graphic, so I add texture and depth more through media choice, construction and finishes. Kind of like painting signs, there’s always idiosyncrasies you’ll encounter, I embrace that and like the inconsistency of work surfaces, lots of which are created out of found or recycled materials.
One thing you wish more people cared about?
It’s hard to say what others should care about, but the idea of planned obsolescence has always seemed counterintuitive to me – clothing, architecture, cars, technology, whatever – making things to break down faster in order to sell more. Reusing, salvaging and restoring stuff is rewarding because you can learn new things in doing it, about the minutiae of whatever it is, and makes more of a connection between you and your possessions.
Discover more of Bill's work via his Instagram : @billrebholz