If you were to observe William Low as he walks down a crowded Manhattan street, you would never suspect him of being a native New Yorker. In fact, he was born in the Bronx, in the back seat of a taxicab, but you would guess that he is a tourist. His camera is ready, his head is thrown back, his mouth is open and his eyes are scanning the tall buildings. He is observing the shimmering sunlight on a building. He takes a photograph, makes a mental note of the color of the light and then, most importantly, he remembers the feeling that he got when he saw that light. With that information stored in his mind, he will use it when the time is right–in a painting for a book cover, newspaper article or calendar.
William’s interest in architecture and the classic use of light gives his art a singular vision-a look all its own. The more he sees, the wider his repertoire of subject matter. When it becomes impractical to “see it all,” he relies on photographs. When Eddie Bauer asked William to create a painting of a single figure kayaking along a sunlit Washington state coastline, William requested as much photo reference as possible. William had never seen that particular section of Washington’s coastline. He has never been on a kayak. He can’t even swim. But he does know light and its effects. With photos in hand he completed a painting that has touched thousands of Eddie Bauer customers. Many of them have written to say that the scene moved them to tears.
“I have been there before,” wrote one reader,” and I can tell by your painting that you have experienced the same feelings I have felt kayaking along the beautiful seashore as the sun went down.”
His approach to picture making developed when he was an art student. As a student in the High School of Art and Design, he studied classical portraiture using oils under the guidance of Max Ginsburg and Irwin Greenberg. At the Parson’s School of Design, where he earned his BFA, David Passalacqua taught him how to do everything else: draw, compose; think artistically and abstractly. He is good in mathematics and he uses this information in surprising ways to create forms from his imagination.
These disparate skills come together in his creative process. Math is used to logically construct his forms, his years at Parsons help him to compose shapes into modern compositions, and his classical training helps to lay down the colors a la prima, with the pigments mixed on the palette and applied thickly, without the use of painting mediums or turpentine.
William has built a successful career as a commercial illustrator and painter over the last 22 years. In that time he has won numerous awards including four Silver medals from the Society of Illustrators, and has illustrated several children’s books, including Lily, by Abigail Thomas (a Parent’s Choice Honor Award winner in 1994). His work has been featured in Print Magazine, the Adobe Photoshop Wow! Book, by Linnea Dayton and Paul Davis, The Illustrator in America 1860-2000 by Walt Reed. His books include Chinatown (which he also wrote), The Days of Summer by Eve Bunting and Henry and the Kite Dragon by Bruce Edward Hall, which arrive in bookstores in June 2004. Most recently he has authored Old Penn Station and Machines Go to Work by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.
He is currently the principal in Cobalt Illustration Studios, a full service studio that produces illustrations for children’s books and ad agencies, gallery paintings and fine art quality prints. The studio’s many clients include: American Airlines, Compaq Computers, Guideposts Magazine, Harcourt Brace and Company, Harper Collins Publishers, Henry Holt & Company, LL Bean Inc., and Monsanto Corporation. Many of his paintings are on permanent view at various Houston’s Restaurants around the country. He also teaches at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
Even with decades of painting under his belt, William Low continues to grow artistically. His latest computer paintings reveal a seamless transition from traditional to digital media. He was not surprised that his digital work met with resistance at first, given the computer’s reputation for producing cold, sterile images. Utilizing his skills as a painter, William has helped to change this perception. His digital images are remarkable for their emotional depth, color, texture and even their painterly brush strokes. In fact, many people are surprised to learn, when they see his work on the printed page, that the images were not the product of traditional media.
After all of these years William Low is still very much that same person- that wide-eyed boy from the Bronx who observes and paints the world around him. He draws the viewer into his work, be it traditionally or digitally generated, seducing the viewer with beautiful light, color and composition.