Xavier Magazine

Beauty in Building

A little more than a year ago, David Williams realized it was now or never: It was time to become an artist. Since graduating from the University as a history major in 1968, the lifelong resident of Louisville, Ky., had served in the United States Army, been a social worker, run an ice cream truck, worked in a drug warehouse, assisted at the Kentucky Fried Chicken test kitchen, operated his own secretarial firm, and worked as a newspaper reporter and editor. But while Williams’ career path was long on variety, it somehow danced right around his longtime interest in art.

“I had taken art classes when I was in high school and again in the late ’70s,” he says. “In 1978, we had a huge snowstorm that shut down the entire state. I was thinking about really getting into painting. So being snowbound, it was a great time to get started—I took to it like a duck takes to water. I kept on doing that for six months. Then life intervened and other things took priority. I moved to a new place and got into a new personal relationship, but I always wanted to get back into it.”

Still, Williams managed to keep art at arm’s length when he received an inheritance from his grandmother 10 years ago. He continued doing newspaper work, but he also picked up a second job as a security person at Louisville’s J.B. Speed Museum of Art. Change was on the way.

Slow times at the museum afforded Williams lots of opportunities to study up close the works of the masters—and to develop his eye. He found himself drawn to the stark, evocative compositions of Edward Hopper, the brilliant color of Georgia O’Keefe and the masterful brushwork of Paul Cezanne. He also found inspiration in the work of Alice Neel, who he points out “didn’t start painting until she was 55 or 60.”

Finally, the allure became too strong: Williams picked up the brush with renewed intensity. Since then, he has completed 46 paintings, four of which have been sold. His work was featured in the Louisville Courier Journal, and has already appeared in several shows. Painting under the name David Walinski to honor his mother’s Polish heritage, Williams focuses on urban scenes, often choosing to paint old, occasionally ramshackle, buildings, a tendency he ties to his history background and a love of architecture.

“I pick things people might see every day but don’t really pay attention to,” he says. These days, Williams paints three to five hours four or five days a week. His paintings take 15-25 hours each to complete.

“My goal is to make a living off of it, which of course is a long shot,” he says. “I’d love to be able to paint every day, all day. Sometimes I just hate to stop.”

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