Emerging Artists | Bill Cramer

Painting the wild Southwest

Bill Cramer, Desert Waters, oil, 22 x 36.

Bill Cramer, Desert Waters, oil, 22 x 36.

This story was featured in the April 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  April 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Most visitors to the Grand Canyon gingerly hug the rim, but artist Bill Cramer—a frequent visitor and experienced rock climber—says he likes to venture below, climbing down the limestone cliffs onto the ridges and towers. He also enjoys flat-water kayaking and what he calls “land snorkeling,” or hiking off-trail in search of compelling scenery. Not surprisingly, Cramer’s thirst for adventure and love for the West’s raw, wild beauty inform the painter’s breathtaking portrayals of the southwestern wilderness. “I’m not a botanist or a geologist,” says Cramer. “I’m going for an expressive view—a general impression—that will direct the viewer to the mood more than all the details of a place can.”

The California native earned his bachelor’s degree in fine art from California State University, Long Beach, and while the program provided “solid” training in painting, says Cramer, his most meaningful instruction would come later in the form of plein-air painting. Sometime after moving with his wife to Prescott, AZ, in 1993, he read an inspiring article about the art form. By 2003 he was out in the elements himself, capturing Arizona’s vistas with his paints.

Working both en plein air and in his studio, Cramer approaches painting with the same adventurous spirit that motivates his outdoor excursions. Rather than adhere to exact representations of a scene, for example, he isn’t afraid to move, eliminate, or even introduce elements “in service to the painting,” he says. “I let the composition play out on my canvas.”

Canyon country is among Cramer’s favorite subject matter, and it never disappoints, he says. His portrayal of the Navajo Fortress formation in Canyon de Chelly National Monument, titled CANYON FORTRESS, won first place in oils and Best of Show last year at the Phippen Western Art Show. Tribesmen once used the massive rock outcropping as a shelter from invaders, explains Cramer. “From the edge you can see the patterns of the Navajo farms and the meandering creek below, all surrounded by epic sandstone walls. Compositions everywhere!”

You won’t find manmade elements or people in the artist’s paintings, and that’s by design. As Cramer frankly puts it: “Aren’t you a little disappointed when you get to a remote spot and someone else is already there?” —Kim Agricola

representation
Bill Cramer Studio, Prescott, AZ; Carson’s Antique Gallery of the West, Wickenburg, AZ; Ian Russell Gallery, Prescott, AZ; Mountain Trails Galleries, Sedona, AZ.

This story was featured in the April 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  April 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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