Columbus artist creates fanciful images with pencil

The real magic for this exhibition started when Brian Williams was a kid growing up in Akron. His father worked at a printing press in Cleveland, and somehow, there was always a “magically replenishing stack of paper under my bed” for the boy to draw from and on.

Pencils and crayons were the tools of choice during that period of Williams' art-making and, after years of study, the Columbus resident settled on pencil drawing as his preferred medium.

“It's immediate. I love the feel of it, the look and texture of it,” Williams said in an interview at a Downtown coffee shop.

His subject matter is fanciful and quirky, inspired by dinosaurs and extinct birds and all manner of historical figures — often in combination. His show at the German Village Society (as well as a show that recently closed at the Canton Museum of Art) features works from his series depicting “famous Americans in history and their pet dinosaurs” and “extinct monarchs dressed like extinct animals.”

“It's using two disparate subjects in the same composition to show parallels. You have the natural world timeline and the human history timeline, and I'm finding places where I can kind of smash them together in one image,” Williams said. “I'm big into biology and ecology, and I'm a huge nonfiction reader. Those are the kinds of things that get me thinking. So I'm maybe looking to generate interest in subjects I'm into but getting people to think about them in a different way.”

Williams, who teaches figurative drawing at CCAD, is glad to see people thinking about pencil drawing as a medium in a different way, too. He recently partnered with a German poet, Mikael Vogel, to illustrate a book of the poet's work — in German. Vogel discovered Williams' work online, and the pair struck up a relationship that began with Vogel writing poems inspired by Williams' drawings, and later, for the book, Williams doing drawings inspired by translations of Vogel's poetry.

“I don't think people, until recently, considered it a finished piece if it was drawn, but more of a sketch that's a preparatory piece for a painting or something like that — something that's more acceptable as fine art,” he said. “I've wrestled with that, but it's not the case anymore. I think the sky's the limit for drawing as a way to express your creativity.”

A bag filled with drawing supplies indicates Williams' intention to continue expressing his creativity, even if he has had to find new ways of acquiring paper.