Willis brings art home for Dad

Published 3:14 pm Friday, October 8, 2010

JAMES A. WILLIS SHOWS OFF his latest cycle, “Edgar Allan Poe,” at Firehouse Gallery.|Carolyn Iamon

James A. Willis, Bainbridge native who is enjoying a successful art career in New York City, has brought a representative sampling of his work for a special showing in the Firehouse Gallery.

Titled, “Things I want my Dad to see,” the show is an eclectic collection that shows the broad range of Willis’ artistic works over the last 20 years. It ranges from oils and watercolors, to sculpture, leather tooling and motorcycles.

Willis said he brought the show here primarily so his father, E.J. Willis Jr., could see in person what he does.

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“He has seen photos of my work, and some of my paintings, but I wanted him to see the whole picture,” said young Willis.

Willis held a private showing for his dad, mom Kitty, and a few close relatives on Thursday morning. He reports his dad was very pleased, and James was equally satisfied.

“None of the rest matters after this,” he said on Thursday afternoon.

The show opened to the public on Friday and continues Saturday afternoon and will remain through Sunday afternoon so the public can see the remarkable works James wanted his dad to see.

Every piece of artwork has a story behind it related to the progression of James’ life and art.

After graduating from Bainbridge High School in 1981, he attended the University of Georgia, the Art Institute of Atlanta and Florida State—all for “a while.” He then moved to New York to study classical painting in the style of the old masters at the Art Students League of New York under noted artist David Leffell.

The Bainbridge show includes some of Willis’ early studies done in oil. After about three years, Willis said he took a break from his studies to work as a cartoonist for both Disney and Charles Schulz; became art director at a large corporation; and started several Internet companies, which he sold. He was living the good life, but he missed painting.

He was visited by a young woman from Tallahassee, who had come to New York to study art. After helping her stretch a canvas, he knew he was hooked on painting again.

Many of his later works are impressionistic paintings of New York City street scenes, but his second favorite venue is of Georgia coastal regions.

No doubt, the most unique example of the scope of Willis’ talent is his penchant for building custom motorcycles. He turns out two cycles a year that are totally designed, built and decorated by him, down to the hand-tooled leather seats. He gives all his cycles a name, and the cycle he brought for this show is dubbed Edgar Allan Poe.

In addition to his studio and dealer in New York, Willis’ work is now available through Kim Iocovozzi Fine Arts in Savannah, Ga.

Willis currently lives with his wife, Monica, a features editor for Country Living Magazine, and two children, Carson and Annabelle, in New York.