William Matthews was born in New York City in1949 and grew up in San Francisco where he studied briefly at the San Francisco Art Institute, living thereafter as a painter, a designer, and a musician in Europe and the United States. While touring in Europe, he explored Britain, Spain, and North Africa using a makeshift device welded to his motorbike as an easel. He rambled for five years, making watercolors of the places and people he encountered. His interest in cowboys developed shortly after he visited the high desert town of Elko in northeastern Nevada, where he encountered the highly skilled and very isolated Nevada buckaroos.
When Matthews talks, he usually looks people straight in the eye, with an engaging glance that makes one respond. Yet his paintings are quite different, with faces portrayed from an obscuring angle or in a shadow. I prefer mystery, he explains. I don't want to tell the whole story or be direct. I want to leave things open. Matthews prefers watercolor because of its unpredictability. The best watercolorists, he maintains, know how to turn accidents to their advantage, to transform a misplaced stroke into a visual discovery.
Today, Matthews lives in Evergreen, Colorado, and shows paintings in his own gallery in Denver as well as in many prominent galleries in the United States and Europe.
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