Snow talks about painting

By Page H. Gifford

William R. Snow has been interested in art most of his life but the art that occupies his life now is vastly different than the art he made his living in for over 50 years. His interest in art began in high school and his fascination with the American West led him to the University of Arizona, where he majored in graphic design and commercial art.

Once he got his Bachelor of Fine Arts, he began his career in the design and advertising fields in New York City. In Denver, he worked for the subsidiary of a major corporation and established the audio-visual and graphic design department. After moving back East in 1987, he worked as an art director for two advertising agencies and a design studio in New Jersey.

Spending his years doing graphic work, working his way up the corporate ladder has its rewards for a working artist. It is a world of messages and media and marketing and doesn’t leave room for self-expression. It is not surprising that many graphic designers and commercial illustrators often retire and realize their potential in another area of artistic expression.

In 2013, Snow retired and moved to Lake Monticello with his wife to be closer to his children and grandchildren. He then ventured into another artistic journey which led him to watercolor painting. After years of bold and commercial visual messaging, Snow shows a subtler, softer, more solitary substance with his current work. His passion for nature in its quiet moments is evident in his paintings.

“When it comes to fine art, I started painting in watercolor back in high school. Throughout my career I continued painting on and off in the medium during my spare time,” he said. “Many years ago, I attended a demonstration in New York City by famed watercolorist, Edgar Whitney. Although he was in his late 70s or early 80s at that time, watching him work was truly inspiring. His mastery of the medium was second nature and exciting to watch.”

He said that he has painted in other mediums in the past but found watercolor both challenging and rewarding.

“I decided to concentrate on that area. Watercolor may be handled in many ways. It can be very loose and spontaneous, but it can also be quite focused and detailed. My work often employs both techniques.”

 Snow explains that for him, the medium also requires some advanced planning.

“Because transparent watercolor primarily uses the paper to create whites and lighter colors, an artist has to be aware of where to place light and dark values. Most transparent watercolorists work from light to dark. As a result, advanced sketches can often be important, even when I work from a photograph,” he said. “I consider painting in watercolor both a pleasure and hard work.”

His body of work features a variety of subject matter, including landscapes, nature close-ups, wildlife, still-life, and an occasional portrait.

“My work tends to be very representative of nature. But no matter what the subject, strong composition is generally necessary for a successful outcome. That’s true in any medium.”

Over the years, I have staged two one-man shows and participated in various national, regional, and local art exhibitions. My paintings are included in many private collections around the country and I’ve been honored to win several awards for my work as well.

Snow views the coronavirus as both a curse and a blessing.

“Like most older folks, the coronavirus pandemic has kept me home bound much of the time. This has given me an opportunity to concentrate on painting more often. However, I’ve had to cancel one demo recently and I do miss the interaction with other artists in the area.”

Often an instructor and a member of the Fluvanna Art Association, he has become their watercolor guru. But he has his theory on how to approach instruction.

“Although I don’t do them often, I enjoy conducting demos and holding an occasional workshop. When doing these sessions, I never tell other artists to paint exactly as I do. Rather, I try to demonstrate the basic tenets of the medium and encourage attendees to just keep working. It’s the most important way to improve as an artist. To that end, I’m always in the learning process myself.”

An award winner in many FAA shows as well as McGuffey Art Center, he is also a member of the Central Virginia Watercolor Guild, the Virginia Watercolor Society, and is an associate member of the American Watercolor Society.

 While he plans to display more artwork locally over the next year or two, he is currently working towards another one-man show.

“It’s scheduled to take place in Blacksburg next spring. Any sales from the show will benefit the New River Valley Community Foundation.”

Recently he had a painting accepted into the 2020 Virginia Watercolor Society Annual Exhibition. The show opens in Richmond on Oct. 31.

“It’s a quality exhibition featuring some of the best artists from all over the state and beyond. I’ve been fortunate enough to have work accepted into this juried show three times since moving to Virginia.”

At a time when people have more time to reflect on life, Snow takes the onlooker into his world of images.

 “I hope my work will help people observe and enjoy what are often simple and reflective things in life. I also hope viewers see the versatility of the medium and appreciate the work that goes into creating the images.”

For more information about Snow or specific inquiries regarding his work, contact him at or call 434-589-1909.

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