Wildlife artist gives heart, and soul, to his subjects
Artist Bill Werle grew up in Minnesota, where he would spend summers hunting, fishing and canoeing. “The beauty of nature was deeply ingrained in me,” he said. “A million acres devoid of man-made machinery and nothing but the sounds of nature will impress itself upon you.”
Being the kind of guy who believes that the thought of getting attacked by a grizzly bear is far less frightening than the pain that humans are capable of inflicting on other humans, Werle paints studies of wildlife with stories of humanity at their core.
With each painting, he writes a short explanation of his motivation – from deep thought to simple observations like his personal belief that halibut might be ugly but they taste good, illustrated in his depiction of the fish in a painting titled “Skin Deep.”
In “Stand Firm,” a moose stands at attention. It was one that Werle saw as he canoed the Little Spokane River. “He stood his ground, stiff and rigid, muscles twitching and tweaking, waiting for the slightest provocation on our part. It was only when we had floated 30-40 yards downstream before he relaxed and went back to feeding. That boy stood firm,” Werle wrote.
In “End of the Journey,” Werle gives voice and wisdom to a salmon, noting that the fish lives with a purpose, letting nothing stand in its way. “Be the salmon,” Werle suggested.
Using acrylic paint, Werle gives voice and personality to many types of fish and feathered friends, bears, elk, deer, and the occasional house pet. “I paint wildlife and nature because of the harmonious combination of tranquil beauty and the calmness that envelops my soul when I’m out there,” he said.
Werle began painting in high school. His first painting won an award and a partial scholarship to an art school. “I never took advantage of it,” Werle confessed. “Art wasn’t considered a noble career in my family. I kept painting but it was never in the forefront. Life happened. I got the prerequisite job, went to school, and continued to advance my career to provide the safe neat little haven so many people desire. There’s no need to take risks or challenge yourself in that life.”
With a degree from ITT Technical School in Spokane, Werle, 42, worked with computers for years. Now, residing in Spokane Valley, Werle considers himself an “artist turned network engineer turned artist again”; he took a part-time “day job” and began focusing on his painting. “I could not ignore the calling of my heart any longer,” he said.
He has done commissions for clients and shown his paintings at the Missing Piece, a tattoo shop on West Main. Currently, he shows at the Gallery of Thum, 2910 N. Monroe St.