A lifetime of learning

Artist Bill Spolar displays some of his varied works in preparation for a retrospective of his art.

Spend a few hours with Bill Spolar at his Kilbuck home and studio and you can't help but expand your knowledge about art.

And the artist knows what he's talking about.

"I started drawing when I was 5 or 6 years old. I drew characters from comic books -- Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, anything that caught my eye."

Now at age 82, Bill is preparing his seventh art show, titled, "A Retrospect by William Spolar," opening June 15 at the Father Ryan Arts Center, 420 Chartiers Ave. in McKees Rocks, and running through June 27. There will be about 80 pieces in the show, including watercolors, oils and charcoals, with subjects ranging from landscapes to florals and figures. "I paint animals, too -- dogs, mostly -- and usually in charcoal."

Bill grew up in Manchester and took some non-credit courses at Pittsburgh Art Institute. "I also attended and conducted lots of workshops and did some teaching at Carnegie Museum."

Working at Allis Chalmers for 29 years, Bill acquired most of his knowledge of art on his own. He learned, for example, to frame his own works, sometimes with original approaches. "I cover my oils with glass," he said. "Many artists do not do this, but I do. It prevents damage from pollution."

As do most artists, he admits that he has learned much from his peers, naming local artists Bill Versak and Dan Geb, along with Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh. And there is his close friend, Vicki Ivancik of Avalon, another artist whom he admires.

"When we get together, we talk a lot about art," Bill said.

He and Vicki combined for a show in1989. "He's a dear friend," Vicki said. "He's a beautiful artist who loves his craft."

Through the years, he has sold several of his paintings, and many of them will be on display, having been loaned back by the owners for the show.

"I enjoy selling them, but sometimes it's hard to part with them. They're like children. Some of those works, I just won't sell," Bill said.

Despite arthritis, Bill still drives, exercises and, of course, paints. He sometimes drives to Pymatuning for landscape inspiration, or he stays closer to home -- Shannopin and North Park.

"I've learned so much from painting, as well as from other artists. That's what I like about art. You could spend a lifetime painting and there is always something new -- new styles, new techniques, and new things to learn."

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