The Bill Alexander Story – Moving On

Irene, their friend from Los Angeles, once asked Bill what it was like to lead such an exciting life as an artist.

“Oh, it’s okay,” Bill told her. “Just like everything else. Maybe a little more light and shadow than some people have.”

Solitude

Like geese that head south each year, Bill and Margarete returned to Los Angeles every Winter. Even after they built Aldergrove, they never broke links with their friends to the south. It was more from necessity than anything else. They had to make sure that they earned enough money to maintain the artists’ colony. So for a couple of years, Bill and Margarete traveled up and down the West Coast of the United States and Canada.

Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, they had their own special circle of students, painters, and friends. Jerry and Karla Benzel were two such friends and refugees from Czechoslovakia. Jerry started out as a maître d’ in Australia. He emigrated to the United States and started a restaurant in Seal Beach, California, called the Glider Inn. Bill and Margaret dined there often with groups of students and friends. The Benzels also commissioned several paintings which they hung in the restaurant.

Irene Macik, a woman with a lot of energy, was another special friend. Like a lot of Bill’s students, she followed him when he demonstrated in Woodland Hills, Cerritos, or Hollywood. Irene was a teacher’s aide in one of the Los Angeles area schools. She took Bill’s techniques to heart and got a job teaching adult education. She was able to begin a new career and taught Bill’s techniques to more and more students. Irene supported Bill and Margarete in their classes. She created brochures and promoted Bill in many different venues. She also got Bill an opportunity to demonstration in the public school system. Irene said that she was president of Bill’s fan club, even though there was none. “You are my Elvis Presley and I will follow the Master!” she used to say with a big happy laugh. Such wonderful things happen when people get together and help each other. “It’s the same in painting or life,” Bill often said.

Struggling

Although people were supportive, Bill and Margarete still struggled to make ends meet. Often “homeless”, one of Bill’s agents let them live in a small room in the back of an art gallery. All they had was a refrigerator, a bathroom, and a stove. Bill’s living conditions hadn’t changed much since he arrived in America. Bill and Margarete often got their clothes through Goodwill stores. They were too busy, though, to pay much attention to their situation. They didn’t need much money and they had a lot of friends.

Bill was working non-stop now. He held regular demonstrations – both paid and free. He continued his shows in the shopping malls. He created paintings for galleries. He taught classes, and private lessons. There never seemed enough time, though, to get everything done.

Margarete and Bill also had difficulty keeping up with their students’ demands for art supplies. Bill would ask, “What do we have more of today, brushes or knives?”

Margarete would reply, “We’re almost out of brushes.”

“Okay,” Bill said, “today I’ll do the whole painting with the palette knife.” And he did!

The next day, they would get more brushes, so Bill would paint with the almighty brush. He was painting on canvas or canvas board, whatever was available.

They were also still wrestling with the formulation for “Magic White”. Bill used to laugh when folks talked about the romantic artist’s life.

Mrs. Boone

When they were at the Downey gallery, Mrs. Lenore Boone came in to see Bill. Her husband had been a judge in Downey before he died, and she wanted Bill to do a painting of certain objects that reminded her of him. She had his eyeglasses, his Bible, and his fiddle and she asked Bill to combine them into a painting. When Bill finished the painting, Margarete called Mrs. Boone to pick it up. When Mrs. Boone saw it, she sat down and cried. She said, “It is just beautiful! Thank you.” From then on, they were good friends.

Some of Bill’s paintings were selling for a hundred dollars, and some for even more. His agent took a few and got double the going price. Bill learned that getting a painting into print increased the value of the original painting. Bill’s agent priced one of his paintings that went into print for $4,800! That was almost more than Bill was earning in a year. Unfortunately the painting languished in the gallery unsold. It seemed that the only paintings that did sell were the smaller ones. Bill tried to do some larger paintings during those years. He created a series of four large canvases of the seasons. Each painting told the story of one season with fields and farmers, streams, and proud, proud trees. They were remarkable paintings. Bill, though, never had the time to do any more like them.

Irene, their friend from Los Angeles, once asked Bill what it was like to lead such an exciting life as an artist.

“Oh, it’s okay,” Bill told her. “Just like everything else. Maybe a little more light and shadow than some people have.”

Moving On

Margarete and Bill ran the colony at Aldergrove for almost four years before they had to close it. They never quite managed to make ends meet, and other things were happening with Bill’s career as a teacher and painter. Margarete and Bill sold their home and moved on again.

Bill always dreamed of creating another colony like Aldergrove. He hoped to bring artists together from all over the world. He hoped to have them share all kinds of styles and techniques – traditional and even modern. He thought of the differing visions of nature and experiences of life they would share with each other. He thought they all could learn from each other, sing and paint and just be happy together – like the times at Aldergrove.

Next Week: Discovering a Magic Canvas

100 Candles

“You should try saying it yourself. It means you can do things your own way. You should think in your happy morning, “Now is the time to do it in my own way.” Take up the challenge. There are so many things you would love to do. Use the new morning to start one of them.”

— Bill Alexander

A Tribute to the Life of William “Bill” Alexander

More Than A Painter

William "Bill" Alexander

William “Bill” Alexander

Bill Alexander was more than a painter. He was more than an artist.

When you watch Bill’s videos you will not only see someone who paints beautiful images; but, if you listen to what he says while he is painting, you will learn what makes Bill’s contribution to art so very important.

As a kid I loved watching cartoons. In fact, I still do. I grew up with the cartoons of Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, and Woody Woodpecker. But my favorite cartoon character was Popeye the Sailor. I loved Popeye because of what he said “between the lines”. Some folks might call it “muttering”; but Popeye’s “mutterings” contained true pearls of wisdom and were an expression of his views of life. If you weren’t paying attention, you wouldn’t hear them and they would be lost forever.

When I watch Bill paint it’s as much for his philosophy and words of wisdom as it is to learn how he creates his images. This is what makes Bill’s work so very important for all of us who care about him and are interested in furthering his work.

Bill’s greatest contribution to art was not his paintings, although they are wonderful images conjured up in the mind of a truly imaginative genius.

Bill’s greatest contribution was not his television shows although they were important in getting him known and exposing his work to a broader audience than the hundreds of folks who would flock to the shopping malls to watch him paint early in his career.

Bill’s greatest contribution was not even the model he gave us of his own life and career as interesting and astounding as that was.

Bill’s greatest gift to all of us was to show us that we could create art; that we could become the artist. That we had, within us, an ability to express ourselves in a creative and imaginative way that would empower us to become greater than we dare believed we were.

I have watched many, many artists on YouTube. What I find interesting about most of them is that they really show you little more than how well they paint. I wonder how many folks, after watching some of these painting demonstrations actually pick up a paint brush and start their own art journey. I’m sure there are a few; but it was Bill’s dream that every single person he met would pick up that brush and begin to paint.

In the most recent video we posted on YouTube with the late artist Diane Andre, Bill states, very clearly, his concern about being “only one Bill Alexander”. It was during this period he began to build a training program which would include a cadre of artists who would sweep across America and the world training more and more people to paint.

I truly believe, in Bill’s heart, he felt that painting and art would free people from the chains of fear, inadequacy, and self doubt that he, himself, experienced in his life. Painting would help them become confident, creative individuals who would not only create art for themselves, but would become so excited about their new skills that they would want to continue their journey by teaching others what they learned and experienced.

We know that in order to become better at anything, you need to teach. Only by teaching will the lessons learned become an integral part of your very being. Only by teaching will you reach your fullest potential. Only by teaching can you truly empower another human being to become all they can be.

I have no doubt that if Bill could have taught every single human being on the planet, one on one, to paint, he would have done it. But he couldn’t. However, in the video he also introduced us to the beginnings of the Alexander Certification program.

Near the end of his career, Bill extracted a promise from Laurie to continue his work after he was gone. This is a promise we take very seriously at Alexander Art. It is our driving mission and in the coming months you will see how very serious we are about this!

Bill’s entire life was about giving to others. You can see that in every video he made. The words of encouragement to his viewers to “fire in” with that paint brush, the lightheartedness while he worked to show how enjoyable painting was, and the glee he exuded as he poked fun at the blank canvas were as important as the paintings themselves.

Join us in our campaign to empower old and new students alike with the Bill Alexander method of painting. Help us wake up the creativity that lives in all of us. And help us spread Bill’s mission to everyone on the planet.

You Can Paint, We Promise!

See for yourself! Watch the magic begin!Watch Now!
Anyone can learn to paint using Bill’s quick, easy and fun method of wet-on-wet oil painting method.Learn Now
Learn to paint anything by watching our extensive collection of instructional DVDs. Master Artists, Bill Alexander, Diane Andre, Robert Warren, Buck Paulson, Lowell Speers and Tom Anderson will show you step-by-step just how easy it is done.Buy Now!

photo of bill in front of Old MacDonald's Farm painting

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bill looking at self portrait

William (Bill) Alexander

April 2, 1915 – January 24, 1997

a child painting seascape

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