From Comic Books to Norman Rockwell: Finding Artistic Inspiration

Written by Sarah Naron

July 15, 2020

Story by Sarah Naron

PALESTINE – Throughout his life, William E. Young has always been what he described as a “visually-oriented” person.

“Some people listen,” he said. “Like, my wife, for example, couldn’t see anything. She didn’t realize trees had individual leaves until they did a test on her in first grade. She had no clue. And then, they put glasses on her, and she said she was amazed. Before that, it was just all fuzzy.”

Prior to the correction of her vision, Young said, his wife developed excellent listening skills due to absorb the information she needed to know.

“As opposed to me, everything I remember is generally visual,” he said. “If I saw you drive up in a car, I would probably identify your car before I could remember your name.”

Young credits this visual orientation as one of the things which steered him toward a career as an artist.

“Whenever I was in elementary school—this is kind of where it started—the kids would draw forts,” he recalled. “So, I started drawing forts, kind of because everybody else did. I just liked drawing.”

The abundance of comic books following World War II also played a part in fueling Young’s interest in art.

“I was just fascinated by them,” he said. “They were all drawn out. I think it started there.”

Artistic ability ran in the family, Young added, sharing that his maternal grandmother both possessed it as well.

“When I was young, I guess my father painted some, but then, he and my mother got a divorce, and I really didn’t meet him again until I was 18,” Young explained. “By the time I was 18, he actually became a really established artist.”

As a child, Young said, realistic painting impressed him more than abtract works.

“Normal Rockwell—man, if you could pain like Norman Rockwell, the realism that he had, that just intrigued me,” he said. “He painted a picture of a WWII soldier that was a machine gunner. It’s this really nice, detailed painting of this Marine sitting behind a 50-caliber machine gun. I thought, ‘Well, that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.’ So, that really inspired me to do something like that; to be able to draw like that. That never went away, and I think that’s really the basis of what compelled me to do it.”

Upon reuniting with his father as a young adult, Young examined his success in the world of art and told himself, “Well, okay, if he can do it, I can do it.”

Many of Young’s paintings, he said, are inspired by music lyrics and song titles.

“I’ll pick out phrases that I think are interesting, and then, I’ll explore how you would make those visual,” he explained. “I will sit and contemplate those things in order to see what an image might be along those lines.”

Currently, Young said, he has more than 300 titles for possible future paintings.

Before becoming a full-time artist, Young worked in the design industry.

“The jobs were visual, like designing signs and graphic stuff like that,” he said. “Before we moved here, I was working for a design firm that designed museums, trade shows, furniture, bars, and newsrooms. In the meantime, I painted.”

Upon relocating to Palestine with his wife and children, Young quit his job to pursue painting on a full-time basis.

“When we moved here, the Tyler Museum of Art had a show of my dad’s work and my work,” he remembered. “A gentlemen went over the show, and he liked a realistic cactus painting. So, he gave me a call and said, ‘Man, this painting’s incredible.’”

The gentleman in question was an art dealer, and he put Young in touch with several galleries who accepted his artwork.

“It just pretty much went from there,” Young said. “I mean, people bought my work, and I produced a lot of it. So, that’s what got me really going into it.”

Young’s biggest challenge—one he has since overcome—arose when he began selling his paintings.

“It was not realizing my worth; not realizing that you can’t let somebody else put a value on your work. You’re the only one that can do that,” he said. “People that collect artwork—if you price your work for not very much money, they don’t care about it, because you are not giving it any value.”

Young said that when he first began selling his work, his prices were “next to nothing.

“I thought that was all anybody would pay for it,” he explained. “But that wasn’t the case. So, once I figured that out, it was nice to see people that appreciated art would pay for it. That was an awakening.”

The most rewarding aspect of being an artist, Young said, is “actually doing it.

“It’s a reward in itself,” he said. “I feel like it’s what I’m put here to do. Honestly, I think the reason I do it is, it’s just something I want to do. Even if I didn’t sell artwork, I would still be painting pictures.”

For more information on Young, visit www.williameyoung.com.

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