Bill Shields – Friend And Artist

I first met Bill when he appeared in San Fran­cisco in 1960 and came to my studio on the recom­men­da­tion of a teacher, Marty Garrity, who taught cartooning at the Chicago Academy of Fine Art in Chicago. Bill studied there during the years 1945 to 1946 and I was there from 1948 to 1950. Marty kept tabs on most of his students and I’m sure he helped many to get together later when an oppor­tu­nity came up. Bill’s arrival in San Fran­cisco was smashing ! He had no problem in capti­vating his clien­tele with his stun­ning design and artwork. His illus­tra­tions were appearing every­where and his swift execu­tion kept him busy. He was up to the demand and never disap­pointed !

I was living in Mill Valley and Bill soon moved his family there. He and I, for a time, commuted into the city in his Porsche. We brought our fami­lies together on camping trips where we sketched. Bill brought his talents into play designing and finishing his home to his stan­dards. We often sketched together in the city and managed many week­ends trav­eling with other artists, sketching and painting in the Gold country and along the northern Cali­fornia coast. For two weeks in 1962 our artist friends, Earl Thol­lander and Will Baum, joined us on a trip to Mexico where we visited the west coast town of Guaymas and then we trav­eled south­east to an old cobble­stone town named Alamos. This is where we spent most of our time sketching and enjoying the great differ­ences from our lives in the Bay Area. On our way back north we visited the Joshua Tree National Park. Willi set his camera’s timer and staged this photo. Here are three quick sketches that I made of Bill.

After our return, we prepared a gallery show in San Fran­cisco of paint­ings devel­oped from some of our work accom­plished there in Mexico. During our stay in Mexico I renewed my aver­sion to the Amer­ican Cock­roach, which were plen­tiful there. My fellow artists decided to capture one and put it in an enve­lope and tucked it under my pillow. The scratching sound alerted me to their joke. Bill addressed some of his many envelopes, without roaches, that I received though the years as “Dickaroacha”. Many years later in Hawaii, I over­came the aver­sion, and lived with many such crea­tures.

I was always amazed that Bill’s embell­ished envelopes actu­ally made it to my mailbox. His collec­tion had a few of mine, like this last one that you see above.

In late 1962 (after the gallery show) Bill moved and worked in New York for quite a few years and in 1975 he returned to San Fran­cisco where he estab­lished his Artists Inn studio where he painted. He also taught at various acad­e­mies in the city and Bay Area. Lucky students ! My return from Hawaii to San Fran­cisco in 1982 gave us a chance to catch up and enjoy each other’s company and fami­lies, once again. Many lunches and partying happened through the years and an occa­sional sketch trip was always a joy.

Dick Moore