Bill Cole — Modern Day Renaissance Man
According to the dictionary, a Renaissance Man “is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas.”
After I tell you a few things about local artist Bill Cole, decide for yourself if he isn’t a modern day Renaissance Man. Cole, a native of Arden, began painting relatively late in life after retiring from the Air Force. Primarily a self taught artist, he studied watercolor painting for a short period in Paris while he and his wife were living there in 1995.
Cole has worked in watercolor, oil, acrylics, linocuts and monotypes. His current medium of choice is oil on panels. His latest series of paintings are of barns in oil and acrylic, leaning more toward minimalism than photographic realism. In this series, he uses the lines and shapes of barns as the format for exploring the interplay of shapes, colors and textures.
“I want to use colors and shapes to give the viewer the same feelings I get when I see something of interest. Often, what catches my attention is just a small part of a larger scene. Viewed that way, all scenes have a piece of art in them," Cole said. "Like most painters, I began by painting as realistic of an image as possible. I found that most of the time those type of paintings showed no more feeling than a vacation photograph. When you begin to push lines, shapes and colors into what moves you, you begin to push your paintings in a small way toward art. My goal is to show images in a way that viewers have not seen them before.”
Artists who especially inspire Cole are Edward Hopper for the emotion he was able to convey through his paintings of simple scenes, Chinese artist Wu Guanzhong for using abstract but recognizable shapes in his landscapes, and Gustav Klimt for his ability to push images and colors in a new direction.
Cole's art has been shown at Deja View Gallery, Art on Depot and at the HART theater. He has been accepted into the Asheville Gallery of Art and will begin exhibiting there this fall.
His other interests include music, trekking and house design. He plays the mandolin in a band that he pulled together called Blackberry Jam, whose specialty is playing at nursing homes in the area.
As a luthier, Bill made a mandolin for himself and a number of mountain dulcimers for friends and family. His wife Jane (a nationally acclaimed artist/quilter herself) plays one of his mountain dulcimers in Blackberry Jam.
In order to satisfy his wanderlust and curiosity about other places, he has hiked or trekked to Tibet, Peru (the Inca Trail), Costa Rica, Kenya and the Isle of Skye.
To satisfy his house design interests, he designed and acted as the general contractor for his and his wife’s home built in the Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie style. Cole has also redesigned the Haywood for Habitat houses into the craftsman style.
While living in Waynesville, he has been president of Haywood Habitat for Humanity, the Blue Ridge Water Media Society, and Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway. He lives in Waynesville with his wife, Jane, and his Airedale, Ollie, an expert at catching and fetching turtles.
Whew! A busy, interesting man. I believe I have proved my point.