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FEATURED ARTISTS:

TOM ASHE

BARB BELKNAP

BUNNY BOWEN

GERALDINE BRUSSEL

JB BRYAN

JOE CAJERO

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ARTURO CHAVEZ

LISA CHERNOFF

RALPH CHURCHILL

DAVID W. CRAMER

CREATIVE SPIRITS OF PLACITAS

SARA LEE D'ALESSANDRO

FERNANDO DELGADO

MARILYN AND HERB DILLARD

SAMANTHA McCUE ECKERT

ALVARO ENCISO

MARCIA FINKELSTEIN

JIM FISH

JIM FISH

BEN FORGEY

C.E. FRAPPIER

BILL FREEMAN

LENORE & LARRY GOODELL

ED GOODMAN

EDWARD GONZALES

SUSAN GUTT

PATRICIA HALLORAN

BIANCA HÄRLE

LYNN HARTENBERGER

LINDA HEATH

KATHERINE HOWARD

BARTLEY JOHNSON

EVEY JONES

SUSAN JORDAN

JULIANNA KIRWIN

RUDI KLIMPERT

LYNNE KOTTEL

KATRINA LASKO

KATRINA LASKO

JADE LAYVA

MEG LEONARD

JON WILLIAM LOPEZ

GENE McCLAIN

GENE McCLAIN

BARRY McCORMICK

SARENA MANN

TONY PARANÁ-RODRIGUES

GARY W. PRIESTER

MICHAEL PROKOS

LAURA ROBBINS

GARY ROLLER

ANGEL ROSE

RIHA ROTHBERG AND WAYNE MIKOSZ

MARIANA ROUMELL-GASTEYER

GARY SANCHEZ

SHARON SCHWARTZMANN

DIANNA SHOMAKER

BILL SKEES

KATHERINE SLUSHER

LORNA SMITH

CIRRELDA SNIDER-BRYAN

KEVIN TOLMAN

DAWN WILSON-ENOCH

For more great local art, visit
Placitas Artists.com

Featured Artist

  

c. Bill Skees

Parish Church, Brasilia, Brazil

c. Bill Skees

Antigua, Guatemala

c. Bill Skees

Street, Cap-Haitien

Bill Skees

Artist Bill Skees in his Placitas home.

Skees explores edges of creativity

—Keiko Ohnuma, Signpost

Bill Skees makes it all look so easy, you almost begrudge him his many talents until you realize that it is all part of his artful approach to life: following the path of least resistance.

Witness the room full of exquisitely rendered watercolor paintings and ink drawings from 2008, so perfect in their internal proportions that they look almost like photographs—except that the brush work is such an obvious part of their appeal.

In fact, these paintings are photographs, in a sense. Skees engineered his own artistic medium when he brought a lifetime of photography skills to the frustrations of beginning drawing.  

“When I started taking drawing lessons, I said, ‘Bill, I don’t think you’ll make it as a drawer,” he relates in his mellifluous Kentucky drawl. “I had been a professional photographer and wanted to go in my own direction, so I let photography be the jumping-off point.”

Skees decided to “paint” over his own photos using a computer drawing tablet set to his digitized medium of choice—usually watercolor or pen-and-ink. When he is satisfied with the results, he outputs them on an inkjet printer using art inks and watercolor paper. He demonstrated the technique at last year’s Placitas Studio Tour.

“I’m old, and I’m not going to live forever. I wanted to do something that would work for me,” he says. The print/paintings that line the walls of his house offer a dizzying gestalt between photography and traditional watercolor, raising postmodern questions about the role of the hand, eye, and mind of the artist—not exactly what you’d expect from a man who turns seventy years old this month.

Skees allows that most illustration done on computer graphics tablets is not considered fine art. But he notes that photography was not considered art for most of the last century either.

“I’m not going to argue about it,” he says pleasantly. “I wanted to make beautiful images that would last after I died.” And he seems to understand intuitively that this is what makes him an artist—just as he is a writer and a musician—simply because he admires and seeks to create beauty.

He confesses a particular weakness for the female form, immediately apparent in his racy detective novels and commercial portfolio of female nudes. But he makes no apologies for following the path of least resistance.

In his career, too, Skees went with his instincts. Math came easily to him, he says, and he lucked into a job at IBM at the dawn of the computer age. Before long, he was consulting to employers around the globe, teaching large corporations, universities, and government agencies how to use the mysterious new technology.

That left him a wealth of time for more creative endeavors: writing novels, shooting photographs, playing the organ, and sailing around the Caribbean with his family for five years. Pinch-hitting between left and right brain comes naturally, he says, from the standpoint of appreciating beauty.

“If you look at famous mathematicians, what struck them about it was the beauty. My favorite composer, Bach—he saw the beauty in math. I really believe they are one.”

The same unitary approach marks his engineering of new media through the hands and mind of a computer expert. Musically, for example, Skees digitized his 1970s-era Rodgers theater organ with samples of historic recordings; these he assembles and “plays” in quirky renditions of musical standards.

“Painting” or “playing,” Skees loves the fact that he can delete, undo, and save—actions that come as naturally to him as the bow to a violinist. But that has been his way with everything: a focus on the glory of the ends, rather than quibbling over means. On the back cover of one of his self-published detective novels, Skees describes himself as a writer, poet, essayist, sailor, delivery boat captain, computer scientist, advisor to presidential appointees, professional photographer, mathematician, artist, and traveler.

“It wasn’t hard to do,” he says of the transition from shooting photos as a hobby to hanging out his shingle in the 1980s. A model in his drawing class who worked as a doula introduced him to pregnant women who wanted nude portraits of themselves in swollen splendor. Soon he had a commercial portfolio of pregnant nudes and home births, as well as fitness queens and body builders.

Why the demand for such a thing?

Skees says he doesn’t know—and holds up a hand to indicate he doesn’t want to go there. He started out studying psychology in college, “but when I found out the things people ask, I realized I didn’t want to know,” he says simply.

Likewise with the many avenues of his creative spirit. He didn’t think that not being a musician should keep him from making music, as long as he records only what is in the public domain.

As for writing novels, shoot, anyone can find time to write, he says. “You can be writing just standing in the kitchen!” It’s not his excess energy that leads him down all these avenues, he says. Rather, Skees feels he’s lucky to have lived as long as he has, and that there must be a reason for it—though the thought of heaven lights up his face with an odd, beatific smile.

After spending five years sailing around the Caribbean islands while he jetted off to give his computer seminars in distant locales, Skees’s wife Carol announced that she had had enough, and was going “as far as I can from here,” Skees relates. That’s how they ended up in Placitas in 2004. Since then, he has contented himself with multifaceted creative endeavors, da Vinci or not.

He can’t name any particular artistic goal to this activity, except maybe that “I want to feel my children will be proud to have my paintings”—a thought he immediately shrugs off as unlikely.

“They’ve always thought their dad was crazy,” he says of his three kids. “They probably wished their dad was more like the others.” His youngest son learned to walk on a boat, and started screaming when they first put him on dry land. For Skees, too, there are things he might have done, but for the fact that married life is composed of worthwhile compromises.

He confesses there may still be one more creative venture left for him, however—one that he keeps in reserve, a boat he will pilot to a distant shore, where awaits the last paradise of beauty.

 

     

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