William Wray 20×26 by Bradford J. Salamon
By Janice Bremec Blum
An eclectic artist, William Wray appeals to a wide range of tastes, styles, and superheroes. From his iconic Superman that graced the Pink Art Show to forlorn moments shared by “Partners in Crime,” Wray continues to wow us. He pulls on the heart strings of his subjects not just with Sesame street characters or with Tinker Bell, but also in his landscapes. Wray uncovers beauty from a junk yard or a garbage truck. It’s that kind of talent that makes him TribeLA Magazine’s go to guy for the year. We salute you William Wray and look forward to a 2018 year filled with your wonder.
From a cartoonist to animator to a highly-valued painter, artist William Wray has an impressive ensemble of work appealing to every discerning eye. A recent article in OC Weekly cited Wray as, “one of the best artists in one of the worst years ever.” That may sound like a bittersweet accolade, but after meeting with the soft-spoken, mild mannered Wray, that tribute is not only apt toward the artist, but also unknowingly to the art world. In our current, contentious political climate, Wray finds the best in the worst year ever.
“There’s a theory that Trump is not necessarily bad for the art world.” Wray tells me. He bases this theory on two factors. When rich people get a tax break, there’s a tendency for them to get “art drunk,” Wray says with a smirk. “Maybe it’s pure coincidence, but my sales have been better since he’s in office.” But the other factor is just kindergarten simple. “Gloves off, people hate him that much. There has never been a better time to be an editorial cartoonist.” And Wray would know.
Wray started out as a cartoonist and animator working as a comic book artist with Marvel, DC Comics, and Mad magazine and as an animator for the popular cartoon The Ren and Stimpy Show. His is well known for this work in that arena but under a slightly different name. In those days, he went by Bill. Today, Wray’s work can be found in the world of fine art and under the name William. “Why the name bump up?” I asked thinking that there might be some juicy story behind the switch. Wearing a black and gray tie-dyed beanie stretched past his ears, Wray smiles while he tells me his simple story. As a kid, he was called “William” and found it too pretentious and preferred “Bill.” He then began his career in animation art as “Bill” but as he and his art matured, he went back to William. It was later that a comic book editor and dear friend was asked by someone if “Bill Wray” was the same guy as “William Wray” to which the editor/friend responded, “Absolutely not!” This story shows the broad scope of Wray’s art where even a close friend can’t distinguish Wray’s comic book/animation art from his fine art as if the talent is from two entirely different people. “That’s why I wanted the separation between those two worlds.” William tells me adding as Bill, “I am proud of where I came from.”
Today, Wray’s art concentrates on landscape oil paintings and urban settings found in California. His artistic drive acts as a way to document these eclectic aspects before they continue to vanish from developmental growth. “Every time you find an old factory, a rundown dock or an old shack, a developer is sure to be there trying to convince the city it’s time to renovate. Good for the economy, they say, but bad for the painter looking for interesting subjects. California’s urban pockets of age are disappearing at a record pace, so I have to paint as fast as I can” says Wray.
But don’t let his speedy painting fool you. Wray is a master of his skill and infuses it with emotion. “I’m a great believer in good, artistic technique. I don’t think it’s poisonous like a lot of people do, but it if’s just technique with no feeling, it’s not enough.” Engaging the viewer on a visceral level is a trait that Wray regards highly. “When an artist can deliver feeling—happiness, fear, anger—they are delivering the goods. If an artist does a piece of art and it doesn’t affect you in any way, you may as well throw the piece away.” Looking through Wray’s extensive work, he absolutely delivers the goods with his mood provoking style awash in his palette of muted pinks, purples, oranges and grays. According to OC Weekly, Wray’s work shows “…exceptional skill at catching the wounded visages of our skyscrapers, downtown boulevards and alleyways.”
Wray has been a featured artist here at TribeLA Magazine and has won numerous awards for his work as well as praise from art critics nationwide. Please visit his website williamwray.com to view his pieces and showing updates.
William Wray is co-curator of The Pink pop-up Show. His art is a blend of traditional skill sets from realism and the sheer energy of abstract expressionism in an ongoing evolution to finding the right balance between two seemingly unrelated styles. He challenges himself to create a brand of realistic expressionism he hopes to use as a bridge into the customarily circumspect contemporary art world. He has lived in California most of his life and studied painting at the Art Students League in New York. Making his living as a cartoonist who specialized in painted subjects, he spent many years coalescing a eclectic array of art styles, ultimately finding his voice in a contemporized reflection of traditional California regional painting that focus on humble subject matter rarely considered as fine art. Go to: http://williamwray.com
Bradford J. Salamon is an American portrait painter that often paints his fellow artists, as well as portrayals of ordinary objects of the past that he imbues with a iconic art status beyond their cultural history. Bradford is very passionate about the California art scene, curating art shows and documenting fellow artists on film. Find out more about Bradford here: http://bradfordjsalamon.com
As a new fiction voice in L.A., look for editor-in-chief Janice Bremec Blum’s steamy short story on our Valentine’s Day. Wherever you may be, keep your eyes open because love is around the corner!Her extensive background as a makeup artist in the Hollywood entertainment industry has allowed her to write a book on the subject of makeup and beauty. What better person to learn about make-up tricks and safety than a Hollywood makeup artist. A die-hard romantic, she and her husband Hunter (both art collectors) live in Los Angeles. You can email Janice at: firstname.lastname@example.org.