f traditional plein air painter Williamson Tapia is stubbornly passionate about one thing in life, it is painting beautiful, natural subjects without the influence of an "iron eye". As a (city-born) Native American art student at Glendale College
(1978-80) and Arizona State
(1981-83) he acquired a deep appreciation for the challenge of oil painting and the great legacy of artists in history who produced iconic works of art we see today in museums all over the world ... especially of those who painted without the convention of portable camera technology.I
n late 1978 a European-trained college instructor introduced Will to the tradition of painting outdoor subjects en plein air
(in open air). Through this early and unique opportunity he was able to report back to class at the end of each session to show and discuss a progressive and ongoing endeavor to paint the locations in and around the town of Glendale
(mostly farms). As a continuing student at ASU, his ties with his Native American traditions were enhanced through his participation in NASA (Native American Student Association), re-catalyzing his interest and philosophy towards environmental restoration and preservation, and redirecting his determination to paint and interpret natural subjects through the direct study methods he had learned at Glendale College. Further studies in the history of art and photography gave him an interesting revelation into his own style of painting ... that what his ancestors believed was true about a photograph stealing a persons soul, camouflaged a suggestion to him that photography seemed to rob his paintings of any soul whenever he attempted to work from camera reference. Although he never publicly exhibited artwork at ASU as he had done at Glendale (he actually majored in [commercial] Graphic Design) his elective work in plein air painting continued through the standard painting courses offered at the University's Fine Arts College, where he graduated with a BFA in 1983.W
ill Tapia's post-graduate study in outdoor landscape painting continued at ASU West
in 1991 after a 7-year stint in corporate presentation work (he painted plein air during his spare time), he subsequently began to develop, and oftentimes engineer his own eco-sensitive approach to large-scale plein air (3500+ square inches), making particular use of the vistas surrounding Sedona,
where he was also able to greatly expand his color palette. After a move to Sedona in 1995, local patronage and interest began to build his ties to the community and ultimately led to a 4-year teaching job at the Sedona Arts Center
beginning in 1997.I
n 1999 Will sat on the volunteer Board of Directors at Sedona Arts Center, adding his unique philosophical and common-sense perspectives to the ongoing rotation of guide/members at Sedona's seminal not-for-profit arts organization (originally conceived in 1958). Some years later (2005) he was invited to participate in the first Sedona Plein Air Festival
, sponsored by SAC, which began his competitive and collaborative relationship with gifted plein air painters from all around the country. In 2007 he would win the Collectors' Choice Award
for "Pendley Vista,"
a traditional plein air painting of the historic Pendley Ranch
view that towers above Slide Rock State Park
in Oak Creek Canyon.
Will Tapia was greatly honored to participate in The Greatest Earth On Show
(Winter 2009-10) exhibit of western-regional landscape painters (past and present) sponsored and hosted by the Phippen Art Museum
, Arizona), displaying his art alongside such legendary artists as Maynard Dixon and James Swinnerton.T
hanks to his association with SAC and David Haskell
(ret. USNPS and renowned Grand Canyon painter), Tapia was able to qualify for and participate in the first Grand Canyon Celebration of Art (2009)
in the plein air division of the event ... designed to enhance the U.S. National Parks Service
mission of preservation and exposition of the park via the Grand Canyon Association's
annual arts show & benefit held at the historic Kolb Studio.
During his on-site preparation for GCCA 2009, Will met September's Grand Canyon South Rim Artist-in-Residence, Richard Chalfant,
who encouraged him in his "non-camera" plein air work, and to apply for a slot in the AiR progam. Will Tapia was one of 28 participating plein air artists at the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art 2010
in September, and will be the Grand Canyon South Rim Artist-in-Residence
for March of 2011.