San Rafael, California
Ben Shahn said ‘that forms in art arise from the impact of idea upon material’. I would agree and add that content in art arises from empathy upon culture. It’s with this in mind that I produce abstract and narrative work…that tells a story, my own and that of others. This may seem dichotomous, to some.
My abstract work is responsive…sourced intuitively from the sound and feeling of jazz music, emerging mostly in lyrical forms, in a process that’s improvisational. I begin by playing Miles or Coltrane, then I apply paint onto paper, canvas or wood panel…without any predetermination.
My desire to make more overt kinds of narrative work comes from my training and experience as an illustrator. It comes from the desire to share what I see in and know about the world. I am moved to clearly and empathetically tell the stories of people using pictures, be it political or of pop culture, in the hardship of the California wildfires or finding archetypes in nightmares, as Goya did.
These two approaches are not mutually exclusive. Neither is more trivial nor serious than the other. When Shahn says, ‘paint what you are, paint what you believe (and) paint what you feel,’ I respond accordingly.
Bill Russell is a multi-disciplinary artist. For 30+ years, Bill’s creative life has included fine art, illustration, visual journalism, teaching and web design. He has shown his work in a variety of settings including Stanford University, SFMoMA Artists Gallery, Marin MoCA, California College of the Arts in San Francisco, Sofie Contemporary in Calistoga and Reactor Gallery in Toronto, Canada. His paintings can be found in private collections throughout the Bay area and in Canada.
Born and raised in Canada, he went on to earn his degree from Parsons School of Design in New York. For eight years Bill was an adjunct professor of Illustration at CCA. In 2010, he completed an Artist-in-Residence at Recology San Francisco and in 2017 a residency at the Kala Art Institute in Berkeley.