Bill Rebholz

Hello, Bill!
First, could you tell us a bit about yourself: you studied graphic design and illustration. But you also create murals, animations, and letterings. How did all things come together? 

I think my focus on drawing, and eventually, all things surrounding came from when I was teenager, painting graffiti. Because graffiti is something you teach yourself typically, it takes a bit of curiosity and willingness to suck at something for a while to eventually learn how to do it, which of course is the payoff. Mural painting came out of the general interest in painting large; seeing how small sketches can be realized through scaling. Lettering is also a by-product of drawing and painting stylized letters. The repetition of drawing the same word over and over lent it self well to doing the same thing but with other words and eventually other letter styles. While in college I taught myself how to paint letters with a brush, just out of the fascination with the idea of it, but it became a real focus and a huge learning and life experience, as I ended up working along side two traditional sign painters for a year later on. Again, learning basic animation or even pattern making, came from the desire to see things be put in motion, or repeat. I think it all comes down to curiosity and trying stuff out to see what you’re actually capable of.

How would you describe your artistic style?  And when you are looking back at the past years, how do you see your style changing?
I suppose it’d be a filtering of observation and imagination. Like traditional drafting and painting of signs, my illustration plays on simplicity and conveying character through a vernacular of basic form and objects. I think my work is a slow moving consolidation of idea and tastes, trending towards incorporating the near minimum to illustrate a point without completely sacrificing specific detail.

What do you love about hand lettering? 
It’s a literal and abstract form of expression all wrapped together in a malleable package. There’s a predetermined set of forms to play off of and reinterpret, so you always have somewhere to start, and its completely up to you to see how far you take it. Lettering can layer context into a word, phrase or composition, or interject the idea and pull it somewhere unexpected. Really it’s an ultimate exploration of shape and idea and perception which is especially interesting to me.

You uniquely employ color, especially in your illustrations. What does the use of color mean to you?
I’m drawn to bold and vibrant colors but also understand the power in pale and muted tones. I usually use colors based on personal trends, meaning I will see a color or combination of colors somewhere out in the world and get fixated on it, using it throughout the things I’m working on at that point in time. For instance, hunter green’s been in my palette for a while because I think its got a reputation of being a little unappealing, so I use it to see what I can do with it to make it shine.

What is your creative process when you are illustrating?
It’s a sort of reactionary and impulsive process. I’m always looking at stuff and consuming information; walking around, over hearing a conversation, reading the news, looking at the internet and so on. I write out explanations of the things that stand out to me, whether it be a visual or a phrase, to revisit and depict later. I’m also constantly doodling, which creates some of my favorite drawings because of their natural intuition. So I’m always trying to incorporate the jotted-ideas and spontaneity of doodling back into commercial or realized personal work.

How does it feel when you’re drawing/creating?
Normal, haha – calm and happy. I’m pretty at ease when I draw; it takes my mind off of the other intricacies of live.

Can the creativity be learned later, or is it a feeling that is always within the human being?
I think it both. There is definitely such a thing as inherent creativity and talent, which some people are seemingly always projecting. But I think anyone can instigate their creative side with enough exploration and persistence. 

What else are you working on at the moment?
Aside from the work at my job and my freelance, I always keep a stream of drawings and series of larger paintings going on. 

I’ll collect the drawings into a little volume, as for the paintings, not sure what’s happening with them yet.

What is a day in the life of Bill Rebholz like? Tell us about your daily routine.
Well, presently I work as a designer in an office, so during the week, it looks like the 9 to 5 drag yourself to work day. After work I will head home, cook dinner, and get some hours in on my freelance or personal work. But in the days to myself, I let the sun wake me up, do a little stretching to shake off the cob webs, have some coffee and spend the day working, typically into the late afternoon or early evening, pretty much until my focus and energy are spent. 

Could you tell us what your workspace is like while you are working? Are you listening to any music?
I’ve fashioned myself a standing desk from an old black formica table top and a steel drafting table frame. I’ve installed a shelf that’s about a foot higher than the desk where my computer sits, and my scanner underneath that. So I’ve got optimal space for working. I have a line strung up on the wall that I clip random ephemera/inspiration to, to glimpse at from time to time. The blinds next to my desk are always open during the day to let in the natural light. And there is definitely always some sort of music playing, but it all depends on the day and what sort of mood I’m feeling.

How do you keep yourself inspired?
I draw inspiration from the nuances of everyday life and letting my imagination wander. Staying aware and observant of my surroundings, I’m always on the look out for those little idiosyncrasies of life that can trigger a thought. I like things like signage, not only because its graphic and I occasionally create it, but because of its accessible to everyone, making it relatable, and conveys ideas and information in their most basic form. Likewise, vignettes of familiar scenes and objects also keep me inspired, mining the interest out of mundane stuff. Let’s not forget day dreaming and not fixating on any one thing; you might be surprised what staring out a window may produce.

Who are some other artists and illustrators that influence you?
Off the top of my head: Stuart Davis, Bill Traylor, Margaret Kilgallen, Charley Harper, Alice Provensen (+ other mid-century illustration), Jacob Lawrence, Hide Kawanishi, Roids, plus way more I’m forgetting.

What was the last thing you turned to for inspiration? (magazines, books, videos, person, website, etc.)
I was looking at the window of the laundromat across the street from my house; it read “self-wash,” something about that stuck with me. Many of my friends are artists in some capacity, so conversations with them usually yield something potent.

Finally, Is there something you wish interviewers would ask you — but never do?
I’m stumped 🙂

Thank you!