Imagekind Artist Bill Drysdale and the Future of Nostalgia

We dare you to take a look at Bill Drysdale’s collection of nostalgic watercolor paintings and photography and not be transported back in time, to when drive-in movies and woodpaneling on cars were popular. This Southern California-based artist has a gift for using watercolors to recreate the past.


And if that’s not enough, he’s also a talented photographer, set designer, and has worked with some very memorable people, including one of the animators of Disney’s Pluto and author Dean Koontz. Today Bill Drysdale of Drysdale Studio gives us a peak into what inspires him to continue bringing the past into the future and what his future as an artist holds.


Bill Drysdale


1. You accomplished a lot—set designer, illustrator, clock designer, background creator, animator, and architectural illustrator—before becoming a watercolor painter. What inspired you to keep learning all these new skills?


While in college I supported myself by setting up displays for a large furniture company. During my art studies at California State University Long Beach, I was introduced to many mediums and received a solid foundation in various art skills.


Starting out as a freelance artist, there really is no clear cut path to success. As a young artist, my new career took me in many directions. I was able to pick up work illustrating Alpha Romeos, and was hired to design decorative three-dimensional silkscreened clocks. I was also lucky enough to get accepted by a small film producer forming an animation department. I began painting backgrounds for short animated films, and received training in character design and animation by ex-Disney animator George Geopper. George was known for his work on Pluto and a number of Disney films. I was unable to sustain myself with freelance work at this time. I interviewed with Hanna Barbara, but I didn’t want to take a full-time job making a character’s mouth move. I was later able to land a full-time position drawing architectural illustrations. After several years, I ventured out on my own again, and was able to make it as a freelancer and fine artist.


2. You’ve had tremendous success as a fine art watercolor painter. Why do you think viewers relate to your artwork?

When you listen to a favorite old song, you not only like the music, but sometimes the song triggers emotions, or brings back a special moment in time. I think my paintings sometimes tap into the viewer’s emotions in a similar way. Hopefully my paintings can be a visual escape from modern-day stresses. I have been told my paintings bring a smile to your face.


Bill Drysdale


3. Your artwork is very nostalgic. What inspired you to begin recreating the past with watercolors?


I grew up with a highly creative, artistic stay-at-home mom and a hardworking dad. My dad owned a Flying “A” gas station while I was a small child. As my brothers and I grew older and could reach a windshield, we found ourselves with an instant job working for dad. I don’t enjoy working on cars, but I love to illustrate them. Classic cars with huge grills, giant chrome bumpers, and massive tail fins inspire me. Coastal scenes with classic bungalows and landmarks from the past also make great subject matter. I just find older things more interesting.


4. You also take amazing photos. How does your work as a photographer differ from your work as a painter? Are there any similarities in what feelings you hope each invokes in viewers?


As an artist I am very aware of my surroundings. I find myself looking at scenes as potential paintings. I take a lot of photographs for reference material for my work, and occasionally capture images that stand alone. I was able to take a couple workshops in Europe with master photographer Janel Pahl and a wonderful group of professional photographers. The trips were not only a great experience, but I gained a great deal of knowledge about capturing images. My photography is primarily for my own enjoyment, but if it connects with the viewer, even better. Photography is similar to painting, except photographers capture an image instead of creating one.


Bill Drysdale


5. Do you have a favorite piece or project?


I have been creating new work for an upcoming show. I will be exhibiting my work this summer at the prestigious Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach, California. I am really happy with a couple of my new paintings of Cadillacs. I am also pleased with a couple recent paintings featuring the bungalows at Crystal Cove in Newport Beach, California. My watercolor series of Italy, created from my photographs, also has a special place in my heart.


6. Tell us a bit about your home. Where does your décor inspiration come from? What makes your home perfect for you?


Comfort and visually appealing surroundings are very important to me. I enjoy collecting art from my favorite artists. I wish I could acquire more. Most of the art on my walls is my own. It is a bit of a constantly changing gallery. I am often getting ready for a show or creating new work for a couple galleries. The paintings hang on my walls for a short time and then are gone. Fortunately I have kept a few. Having original art and art that speaks to me really enhances my space and quality of life.


Bill Drysdale


7. What’s next for you as an artist?


Being an artist is a lifetime journey of growth and learning. I often feel like I am one painting away from my best painting. I plan to continue my work in watercolor, but also hope to get back to working with acrylics. I have played with the idea of creating paintings that have a subject but are a bit abstract.


8. And a question we like to ask all our artists: what do you surround yourself with?


Most important to me is family. My wife is a professional photographer, and I have two amazing daughters and a grandson. I like to surround myself with creative and stimulating people.


My love of the ocean is also very important. I am fortunate to be living along the coast. My favorite way to start the day is walking along the beach. It helps clear my head and get me ready to take on new tasks.


Bill Drysdale


Thanks, Bill! Shop for your favorite piece from his collection on Imagekind.