-A LIFE OF ART-
WILLIAM C. SHRIVER
THE BIOGRAPHY PAGE
“The thing I remember most about school, beginning with the first grade, was art class and doing art projects. In almost every grade, that is what I remember most, to the point where, in high school, with some regularity I would spend up to five hours a day in the art room. Getting good grades was never a problem so I would get passes from the teachers of all of my other classes to skip class and go to the art room. I would spend the whole day doing art.”
William Shriver began selling his handmade silver jewelry and original paintings at the age of 17. He first began making jewelry and setting stones in the eighth grade, and, after moving to Taos, New Mexico at the age of 15, he learned the finer aspects of silversmith work and began selling handmade silver jewelry. At the same time, he started learning photography, and began to develop and print his own photographs. It was at this time, as a high school student in Northern New Mexico, that he sold his first paintings. The first ones were sold in the world famous Stables Gallery, while some others were sold privately to individuals in Taos.
In the ensuing years, as William attended to his university studies, he expanded his artistic endeavors to include costume and makeup design in Theater. Having fallen in love with acting, he finally went through a professional acting conservatory program, intending to become a professional actor. However, when the time came to pursue acting professionally, William changed his mind and returned to New Mexico to paint.
“Acting is a wonderful thing, and I love it. The only problem I faced was that, as an actor, you are primarily expressing what someone else has written and directed. That is important, worthwhile, and valuable, but ultimately I always felt too the need to express my own ideas artistically, and acting rarely offers that - unless you are also the writer and director. So I decided to first continue professionally with the visual arts.”
In 1980, William Shriver began studying painting privately with Robert Lougheed, a master of realistic oil painting.
“I would go to Bob Lougheed’s studio, in the mountains around Santa Fe, and set up outside and start painting. He would be inside painting in his studio and, throughout the day, would come out to see how my work was progressing. He would show me how to correct things, what was wrong, how to approach it correctly, and how to ‘see’ correctly. He would even pick up my brush and literally change and fix things on my paintings. There was no room for personal ego. The value of what I learned from him was immeasurable.”
In the following years, while living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Shriver took advantage of the famous Bellas Artes school and attended life drawing classes, while also studying privately with Ben Stahl. Ben Stahl was an artist about whom Norman Rockwell famously said, “We are but illustrators, buy you among the masters, and I am filled with admiration.” During this time, William was selling his paintings in galleries in the United States and Mexico, including the Shriver Gallery in Taos, Dewey Galleries in Santa Fe, and O’Brien’s in Scottsdale.
“Studying with Ben Stahl and Robert Lougheed were entirely different experiences. While Lougheed would rarely talk to me about his own work, and spend his teaching time entirely focused on my work and ‘fixing’ my work, Ben Stahl would critique my work then spend the bulk of time talking about art philosophy, other artists - particularly Degas and Titian (who was his hero) - different approaches to art, and his own work. He would spend a lot of time showing me what he was working on, how he approached it, how it changed, frustrated him at times, and developed into a finished work. He would even, in all sincerity, ask me what I thought about something he was painting, and what I thought he should do with some element of it. Then he would do what I had said and keep it that way! It was truly wonderful and very confidence building for me. Bob Lougheed truly taught me how to paint anything, realistically, on the spot, in oil. Ben Stahl taught me more about being an artist and approaching every work with an open mind.”
Returning to New Mexico, William Shriver continued to paint landscapes, still lifes, wildlife subjects and people, while also expanding into the world of commissioned portrait painting, as well as experiment more in other styles and with other subjects.
“Both Bettina Steinke and Clark Hulings, each in Santa Fe, were great and gracious in their willingness to occasionally spend time with me in their studios, critiquing my work and offering instruction to me. Both of them helped me with portrait painting. And because of the Shriver Gallery, which my mother started, I was so fortunate to know so many great artists. Truly, it was a who’s who of fine art and I met them all, becoming friends with many of the finest artists in the United States, visiting their homes and studios and benefiting from critiques and personal instruction from many. I remember Thomas Hart Benton coming to our home in Kansas City and visiting his studio. He even offered me a summer job which, as a foolish adolescent, I declined to accept. Fortunately for me, he was the first of so many great artists who befriended my parents and sometimes me and from whom, when I was older, I was able to learn so much from and even study with.”
After many years of realistic oil painting, selling in galleries, and taking portrait commissions, William Shriver pulled out of all galleries and turned his attention to design, sculpture, and folk arts.
“There had become a sense of seriousness in what I was doing that I didn’t like and I wanted to break free from that. For my entire life, art had been something I had done for the love of it and for the ability it offered me to express myself… and as a frontier into which to push myself, a wilderness in which to explore. Selling in galleries had become something where the business of it had taken precedence over the creativity and I rejected that. I had not become an artist to become a business man. And I felt myself getting into a box. So I shifted my attention to design and folk arts where nothing was taken too seriously. I took the ‘doing of my work’ seriously, always doing the very best I could, but the work was not pretentious in any way and no one took themselves too seriously in that world. It was very refreshing.”
Shriver’s design work in this time included designing and fabricating prototypes of a complete line of furniture for a company in San Francisco, his own furniture pieces to be sold in galleries, wood sculpture, ceramics sold in Saks Fifth Avenue, New York, graphic designs for private clients, and an expanded return to jewelry making which led to offers from Paris Vogue, Marie Claire Magazine, and a job offer from Ralph Lauren Europe, when Shriver was in Paris.
Allowing for a new type of creative success, while allowing renewed freedom to approach fine art paintings purely with a desire to express himself freely, the following years were critical in shaping the future. Shriver pushed even further, into multi media arts, computers and video, spent many years working on music, and was a founding member of an artists cooperative in the twin cities. During this time, he also taught painting to art teachers. These were the years when William Shriver seriously began developing the painting themes that would lead to the work he had long known lay in the future and that he is doing today.
“I have always felt very strongly, and found empirically, that each skill, every experience, and all explorations combine to assist one another in practice. The result is that whatever you focus on is stronger, more informed, creative and expressive, of greater relevance, and of a higher caliber. A chef who is a poet is a better chef and if also a musician greater still. An actor who is a painter becomes a better actor. A painter who takes up flying airplanes becomes a better painter. A musician who travels the world becomes a better musician…and so on and so forth. Everything improves everything else.”
Many years and experiences later, including two years living in the jungle - one year entirely alone - and eight years in China, William Shriver is in Bangkok, Thailand, where he is working full time on new paintings .
“I have had the benefit of many remarkable experiences and discoveries in my life, and it is my hope that my new paintings will allow people to not only share in some of the physical travels I have undertaken and beautiful things I have seen, but also be able to travel with me beyond the physical world, into the world of the unknown, the universe that usually remains hidden from plain sight yet supports everything in physical creation. If you look closely, you can see so much more. But it also requires some fine tuning of the eye and perceptions, as well as plausibility assisted by other’s perceptions validating our own. The purpose of my paintings is to help in these endeavors.”
Collections and/or commissions include:
The former chairman of Pennzoil International
The owners of the Relais and Chateau Hotels and the Hassler Hotel in Rome
Majolica Artistiche, Deruta Italy, the oldest and most recognized ceramics makers in Italy
The Governor of West Virgina
A curator who works with Sotheby’s, Christies, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
Hollywood celebrities including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gale Anne Hurd, Susan Sarandon, and others.
The Disney Studios
To date, William Shriver’s work has been sold in over twenty galleries in the United States, from Beverly Hills to New York, and in other countries, on three continents.
New York Magazine
Working Woman Magazine
Popeye, a leading Japanese magazine
Phoenix, a leading Chinese magazine