A life in art is something Bill Hughes felt drawn to from the very beginning. “It was something I knew all along. I knew I was going to do art.” A native of Ohio, Hughes attended the University of Cincinnati for a year and a half, “Just to squelch any ideas I had of making football a career.”
Hughes moved to Los Angeles, California from Cleveland in 1960 and lived there for nine years, working as art director of Motor Trend magazine before moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico. “Suddenly, I ended up with circumstances that were quite beneficial [to an art career]. It doesn’t matter when you start.” Hughes finally ended up in an art colony on the east side of Scottsdale, Arizona, where he lived with his wife, Bernadette, for the rest of his life.
Hughes painted using what he called “actualism,” describing it as a technique designed to draw the viewer into the scene so that they could imagine themselves moving through the landscape. Interested in building furniture, Hughes applied the same principles to “building” a painting. “One hand washes the other – painting isn’t something exclusive. It can be invaded by anything – it’s not a competitive thing, but more of a benefit, an aid, a plus.”
Beyond his framework for painting, Hughes’ palette is a wonder. His majestic works seem simple, but actually they are quite complex. Of particular note is the manner in which Hughes rendered light in his works. As with other really fine artists, Hughes spent hours in front of canvases mastering the proper combinations of color and stroke to come up with the right feeling of light in his paintings.
Unlike most landscape painters, Hughes did not paint on location; each painting is a well-organized pastiche of what he had seen, what he had remembered, and what he wanted the canvas to be. “There are no secret formulas. It’s created on the spot. There are no set rules; color is natural – every person has a natural sense of color. The artist has a more refined sense of color. Any rules I have are invented and not held in preconception.”
“The practical aspect,” Hughes claimed, “is a lot simpler than people think. The only thing to painting is sitting or standing in front of an easel close enough to reach it with a brush.”
Reference: Southwest Art May 1982, Southwest Art October 1995