Briefly describe the work you do.
Abstracted views of the earth and our surroundings drive the ideas behind my paintings. Whether composed with a birds-eye view or from seemingly within, the shapes and colors explore what is essential for me to represent. My fascination with satellite views of fields, and the lay of the land, began my quest to show the earth in an abstract expressionist way. Using oil paint and a variety of tools to apply it, I spend hours at the easel every day, searching for the perfect composition, palette of colors, and abstraction. The pursuit of these things keep me coming back continually with more excitement than the day before.
I paint prolifically, almost obsessively, and look to complete over 300 paintings in the year of 2015.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I’ve worked as a graphic artist for a newspaper for about 15 years. This job gave me insight regarding composition and color palettes. Living in various locales around the country has helped push me in directions that I otherwise wouldn’t have found if I had been stuck in the rural area in which I now live.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I use my studio for three different purposes. I have a gallery space in the front with windows to the street; a teaching area in the back with multiple easels for students; and my personal painting space that is also in the back area of the studio. I do work a 40 hour job outside my studio, so I make myself get up a 5 a.m. every day and get to the studio to paint before I have to leave for work. Since the town is small, and I live close by, I sometimes will fix lunch and head back to the studio to finish out my lunch break. I tell people that “I paint every day, whether I want to or not.” I’m of the mindset that if I work hard, keep my goals in sight, that I can attain what I want out of this journey. My studio plays a major role in that action plan.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Public speaker, marketer, and accountant.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
As stated above, I get up a 5 a.m. every day in order to have the time to do what I do. Plus, I find mornings more agreeable with the creative process.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
I have gone from being a prolific plein air painter, and painter of representational landscapes, to painting abstracts that take their cue from the earth and the world around us.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
My family is the best, as they afford me time to create. The landscape painters from the turn of the 20th century played a major part in my self education when I first started painting. Now I am obsessed with the abstract expressionists of mid-century America. Including Diebenkorn, de Kooning, Kline, Joan Mitchell, Hofman, etc.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I dealt in rare and out of print books for years. Reading and family take up my time when not in front of the easel.
Bill Guffey was born and raised in the small, south central Kentucky town of Burkesville. Growing up in the rural area left much to be desired in the way of entertainment, and Guffey turned to drawing and painting at a young age. With no art teachers in the vicinity he took it upon himself to learn what he could through the use of television and books and magazines. He set up a booth at the annual Arts and Crafts Fair at the age of 12, with his simple, enthusiastic paintings. To his delight the high school started their first art class his senior year. The next few years to follow were filled with sketching, drawing, and painting sporadically, accompanied by much travel and adventure.
Leaving Kentucky, Bill headed west as a young man and ended up in the ski resort town of Breckenridge, Colorado. After the first winter of over 300 inches of snow he was ready for a warm destination. So it was off to the Caribbean. Bill lived for a short time on the small island of St. John, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Beach life and night life was the laid back, and slowly paced norm on St. John, to which he was happy to endure both. Living in an apartment with only screens for windows and the daily lizards in the shower was a precursor of eclectic living situations for the young artist.
After leaving the island life he headed back to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. He lived for a few months in Denver, in places that included the house of a paranoid, tow truck driving, Harley riding acquaintance that thought a spell had been cast upon him, with loaded guns, snakes and tarantulas plentiful around the house; to a one story, old motel called the Titan in a rough part of the city, whose renters were financially challenged people like himself, along with addicts, prostitutes, and roaches; a couple of multi-roommate situations full of people from all walks of life; and finally to a basement apartment that was the most normal, warm, clean, and safe place the 22 year old had lived in some time.
The mountains were calling again and we would see Bill moving to a 100+ year old mining cabin, just outside Breckenridge, Colorado. At an elevation of almost 11,000 feet, the cabin had no electricity or running water, although the outhouse was one of the deepest in the region as it was set over a vertical mine shaft that was long unused. Living through a couple of winters in this place was possible for the young man, but was harder than anything Bill had experienced before. With no sunlight hitting the cabin directly in the winter, everything was to freeze as the cold, hard, snowy season set in. A hike of a half mile on a trail was required to reach the cabin in the forest, and if one day was missed walking the packed trail it would be lost to the snow which seemed to fall almost daily. Steps were dug out of the deep snow at the front of the cabin to get up to the level of the trails to town, to the outhouse, and to the beaver pond. Some sketching and pastel work was done while living in the cabin, but most of this time was spent on surviving, and enjoying the mountain man lifestyle.
After the cabin, a few more years were spent in Breckenridge enjoying the ski town life and living with a cast of characters that would challenge any modern day sitcom. More than a decade after leaving Kentucky, Bill returned home to open (and close) a bookstore, get married, start a family, and finally have the stability and support to get serious about his art.
Bill now owns a building on a prominent corner of the courthouse square in Burkesville, Kentucky. He teaches classes there, and paints in the studio every day. Up at 5 a.m. daily for the opportunity to paint before going to his job as a graphic artist at the local newspaper is just a small part of the devotion Bill has for his artistic journey. Bill gets up and paints every day. He tolerates chaos, and works harder at his craft than anything he has done in his entire life.
There have also been dozens of interviews with Guffey regarding his paintings and techniques, and various projects he has taken on over the last few years. These interviews, including newspaper, magazine, television and radio, can been seen on this website under the Press heading.
Bill participates in many shows and competitions each year, including the All Kentucky Juried Fine Art Exhibition; the Annual Holiday Miniatures Exhibition at the Abend Gallery in Denver, Colorado; First Brush of Spring in New Harmony, Indiana; artist residency in Breckenridge, Colorado; and numerous other locations and plein air venues.
A solo exhibition of Guffey’s abstract work will be held during the months of December 2015 and January 2016 at SKyPAC (Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center) in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The show opens on December 4th, 2015.
Bill has been selected as an Emerging Artist by Art Galleries and Artists of the South magazine which can be seen in their Fall 2015 Issue, and on their website under the Emerging Artists heading. Recently Bill has taken home a 1st Place Award at the 8th Annual Artworks, Inc. Members Exhibition 2015; a Best of Show and Merit Award, respectively, at the 7th Annual Artworks, Inc. Members Exhibition; 3rd place award at the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art Plein Air Paint Out; and an Honorable Mention at the 2013 All Kentucky Juried Exhibition.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.