Bill Creevy, "Desert Cadillac," pastel on multimedia board, 14 x 18 in.

Bill Creevy – Pastel Explorer – In Memoriam…

Bill Creevy.

Born 24 May 1942, William (“Bill”) Charles Creevy Jr, PSA-Master Pastelist, Hall of Fame Honoree, left this reality on Monday, 7 December 2020 from complications due to COVID-19. I was deeply saddened to hear the news, both because of his passing and particularly because it was related to this pandemic scourge that has consumed our being this year. Bill is the first person I know personally who has died from this virus.

I can’t believe I will no longer have an artistically enlightening conversation with this man, one punctuated by Bill’s dry humour all laid out in his delicious Louisiana drawl. Which makes me even more thankful that I made three short interview videos with him while we visited at the International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS). I’ve embedded them below for your listening pleasure.

Bill and I always planned on him being a guest on HowToPastel. He said he wouldn’t write a blog but he’d answer questions. Time went by.

And now it’s too late….

So this is my tribute to Bill Creevy – my memories and a collection of his art that I love – to stand in place of his own guest post.

Bill Creevy, "Twin Towers," pastel on CP watercolour paper, 12 x 12 in
Bill Creevy, “Twin Towers,” pastel on CP watercolour paper, 12 x 12 in

I first met Bill at the 2003 IAPS Convention in Albuquerque. The introduction was made by my friend Stephanie Birdsall and after the Convention, the three of us plus Frank Frederico went out to work en plein air. You can imagine who magical this was for me, to spend time with two of my pastel heroes and my friend Stef.

I took this photo of Bill and Stef while on site. Later, Bill emailed me and included a photo he’d captured of me as I worked. (Luckily I printed the email as I now don’t have the original.)

Stef Birdsall and Bill Creevy in the bush around Albuquerque New Mexico!
Stef Birdsall and Bill Creevy in the bush around Albuquerque New Mexico in May 2003
Tricky to see me but I'm sitting on a stool looking down at my work - taken in a location outside of Albuquerque 2003
Tricky to see me but I’m sitting on a stool looking down at my work – taken at a location outside of Albuquerque 2003
Bill Creevy, "MTA Train Yard," pastel on CP watercolour paper, 12 x 12 in.
Bill Creevy, “MTA Train Yard,” pastel on CP watercolour paper, 12 x 12 in.

I met Bill in 2003 but I knew of him before that.

I encountered his book on pastels and purchased it in 1999. This was after I’d been working in soft pastels for a few years. His book, The Pastel Book, opened up a world of possibility. Not only did it reveal a plethora of mark-making applications, it also showed how to include various other media with pastels. I immediately went out and bought a tube of Wingel (an alkyd gel)!

Bill Creevy, "Spectator," pastel on multimedia pastelbord, 6 x 6 in. "A free associative image developed from imagination."
Bill Creevy, “Spectator,” pastel on multimedia pastelbord, 6 x 6 in. “A free associative image developed from imagination.”

So, with that book, I became a HUGE Bill Creevy fan! In 2001, I attended my first IAPS Convention (in Santa Fe). I didn’t know a soul but had the best time ever. Along with attending workshops and lectures, I spent hours wandering through the galleries of Canyon Road (heaven!!).

And then, in one gallery, as I was preparing to comment in the guest book, I saw a name above mine. It was Bill’s. But rather than write his name and info in the book, he’d just taped his business card to the page. I was stunned! Then, with only a moment’s hesitation, I whipped the card from the guest book and slipped into my pocket. (Bad girl, I know!) When I got home after the Convention, I wrote Bill a note of appreciation. Years later, when I told him the story of how I’d obtained his address, he was delighted and between laughs said that, obviously, the card had been meant for me!

And I still have that card.

Bill Creevy's business card
Bill’s business card (on top of his book)
Bill Creevy, "Gulfstream," pastel on paper, 8 1/2 x 28 in.
Bill Creevy, “Gulfstream,” pastel on paper, 8 1/2 x 28 in.

Since that first 2003 meeting, Bill and I have connected at every IAPS Convention (I only missed one). In between, we kept in touch by email and phone (sometimes with long rambling art conversations!), albeit infrequently.

Bill Creevy and me in 2011
Bill and me in 2011
Bill Creevy, "Lower Hudson," pastel on paper, 12 x 12 in, Private Collection. "This painting was something of an experiment with trying to depict deep space just with tone and light."
Bill Creevy, “Lower Hudson,” pastel on paper, 12 x 12 in, Private Collection. “This painting was something of an experiment with trying to depict deep space just with tone and light.”

It is my regret that over the last couple of years, that connection with him slipped. Bill didn’t make it to the 2019 Convention. So the last time I saw him was in 2017.

Bill Creevy and me, Albuquerque  2017
Bill and me, Albuquerque 2017
The last time I saw Bill Creevy - Albuquerque, 2017
The last time I saw Bill – Albuquerque, 2017
Bill Creevy, “Walter’s Field,” pastel on paper, 7 x 24 in. This is one of my favorite pastels ever. Its a panoramic variation of a backyard in South Jersey at sunset.
Bill Creevy with his longtime life partner Barbara Genco in the Hotel Albuquerque, June 2017
Bill with his longtime life partner Barbara Genco in the Hotel Albuquerque, June 2017
Bill Creevy, "Two Atomizers," pastel on paper, 8 x 8 in.
Bill Creevy, “Two Atomizers,” pastel on paper, 8 x 8 in.
Bill Creevy, "Egg Chamber," pastel on wood, 10 x 8 in
Bill Creevy, “Egg Chamber,” pastel on wood, 10 x 8 in

I wrote about the pastel above in my October 2017 round-up. Click here to read what I had to say about Bill’s piece!

And now enjoy these three video interviews with useful Bill tips!!

Bill Creevy, "Gentilly Road House, New Orleans," pastel on board, size unknown
Bill Creevy, “Gentilly Road House, New Orleans,” pastel on board, size unknown
Bill Creevy, "Dark River," pastel on paper, 12 x 12 in.
Bill Creevy, “Dark River,” pastel on paper, 12 x 12 in.

Through his book and his art, Bill taught me to be fearless with art-making. He taught me that the thing to do is to experiment, to try, and just see what happens! It was all about the process and discovery rather than merely the outcome. His philosophy taught me that the most important thing is to play and not to get caught up in a formula. And also, to not get trapped by habit. It’s easy to do that, to get caught up in a usual way of working, a process that’s comfortable. And I think I’m currently in that place. Sure, I push the edges a bit on occasion, but really, I need to again move into being fearless, unafraid of diving into pools unknown. So Bill, 2021 will be a year dedicated to playing and exploring and experimenting.

You made me laugh, you made me think. You were one of a kind. I sure am going to miss you Bill.

Bill Creevy, "Pear Drip," pastels, size unknown
Bill Creevy, “Pear Drip,” pastels, size unknown

If you have any stories about Bill Creevy, I invite you to leave them in the comments. That way, we can create an ongoing repository about the ways that artist Bill Creevy affected and influenced so many of us.

If you have a piece of his art to go with the story, please email it to me and I’ll include it in the blog.


Until next time,

~ Gail

PS. You can read Bill Creevy’s obituary by clicking here.

Bill Creevy 1942-2020
Bill Creevy (24 May 1942, New Orleans, Louisiana – 7 December 2020, New York, New York
Print by Bill Creevy
Print by Bill Creevy

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51 thoughts on “Bill Creevy – Pastel Explorer – In Memoriam…”

  1. I’m so sorry for the lose of The artist Bill Creevy. This has been a terrible year for so many. I hope that the vaccine becomes readily available to all of us and in the mean time stay safe, stay well.
    Best, Isabella

    1. It certainly has been a terrible year for so so many Isabella. The vaccine will certainly change everything but it will take time. And so, stay safe!

  2. Bill was an inspiration to not be so concerned with the subject. I agree that beautiful photos are not as useful as something not so perfect. I also agree about the plein air issues. I don’t necessarily enjoy being on display. I recently purchased and will be the proud owner of his pear painting from Salmagundi. My tribute to him. To remember him and continue to be inspired.

    1. Deborah, thank you for sharing what resonates with you from Bill’s thoughts.
      I’m happy you have one of Bill’s pieces and love that you will continue to be inspired by him and his work. I remember when he was doing a series on tools. I wish now that I’d pursued one piece in particular. Ah well.

  3. Thank you for this article,Gail. Like many, I did not know Bill, other than through his book, his paintings and IAPS but his memory will live on in my pastel library, alongside Elizabeth Mowry who passed away recently. Bill’s passing has emphasized the fragility of life and the need to make as many marks on life as you can, to leave a trail behind, like Bill has, for others to follow.

    Take care.

    1. Thank you John. And ohhh yes, as you say, Bill’s passing, along with others like Elizabeth Mowry (whose books are also on my shelf) are always a reminder that life is short so get on with it! I love the way you phrase it – “make as many marks on life as you can, to leave a trail behind..”

  4. Thank you Gail, my heart goes out to you. We wish him a happy journey. He has gone, but all the beautiful qualities he expressed live on.
    I love his remarks about artists’ block. I totally agree on changing. Do another medium, another subject….Picasso once said “Inspiration exists, but it better find you working.” That just about sums it up.
    May I take the opportunity to wish you –in spite of it all!!–a serene Holiday season and all the best for the new year.

    1. Thanks Nancy. And you are so right, his legacy and art live on for us to enjoy.
      I’ve always loved that quote by Picasso – thank you for reminding us of it!
      Wishing you too a beautiful Holiday Season and 2021 filled with love and laughter.

  5. A beautiful tribute to a master and your friend. I learned about Bill from your videos of him in 2017. I related to his admission of choosing to paint from a reference rather than plein air. So sad to lose him to this scourge on our world.

    1. Thank you Ruth. I am so so grateful for any time I spent with Bill and for capturing a small part of him on video. I loved that he had his opinions and didn’t mince words about them! 😄

  6. I’m sorry I never had the opportunity to really meet Bill, but I did have a lovely phone conversation with him once several years ago. I had just taken over exhibitions for our pastel society in New Jersey. The previous chair had arranged for him to come and jury our upcoming annual juried exhibition and I had emailed him to confirm and work out any details. He called a couple of days later to let me know that health concerns made it difficult for him to make the trek across the river. Of course I was disappointed but we ended up talking for 10-15 minutes. If memory serves he had just gotten an iPad and was trying to figure out how to do art digitally. I don’t know if he succeeded.

    1. Thanks Anita for sharing your connection with Bill over the phone. I’m sure you got a chuckle or two! I love that he mentioned to you on the call that he was playing around with a new iPad – a perfect example of his curiosity and exploration in things art! I’m sorry you didn’t meet him in person but that phone call would have given you part of his essence as a human being and artist.

  7. Thank you for this blog. He was certainly a master at pastel and will be sorely missed. His book was one of my first books on pastel and I cherish it. I can see his influence on your work Gail! Great blog. Thanks again and take care and stay safe.

    1. Gisela, I’m glad you have his book. Like you, Bill’s book was one of my first, if not the first, books on pastels. I know you’ll cherish it more now that Bill’s gone. I’m happy you see some of Bill’s influence on my work. This coming year, I hope to make it more apparent!

  8. I was surprised at how impacted I was when I heard of Bill’s death through mutual friends on Facebook. I never met Bill personally, but when I left a comment on his Facebook page, I was surprised by his gracious and thoughtful response. I bought his book years ago, and so enjoyed it. He will be missed. Thank you so much for this post.

    1. Thank you Lynn for sharing how Bill’s death impacted you. It’s funny how some people can have that effect, as if their passing has created a void we had no idea we’d feel. Bill’s response to your comment reveals something of the man – gracious and thoughtful indeed. I’m so glad you have his book and I’m sure you’ll pull it off the shelf to remind yourself again of what he has to offer.

  9. Thanks Gail for making the name on his book that I have come to life! So happy that you were able to have a life experience with him and sharing with us!

    1. Oh Sandy, I’m so happy that something of Bill, his being, comes through in my post. I was worried that it wasn’t enough so I’m grateful for your comment. And delighted you have his book!!

  10. These video clips are absolute gems, filled with humour and wit as well as knowledge from a wonderful artist. Thank you so much for putting this together!

  11. In college we learned about the potentiality of a pandemic. They didn’t, couldn’t, teach us how many hearts would be broken! I am sorry you lost your friend Gail. I have his book and will be revisiting very soon.

    1. Ahh Brenda, thank you for being one of those serving on the front lines, seeing the impact of this pandemic on so so many lives. Please do revisit the book. Although dated in regard to some materials, the ideas and techniques are so relevant to us today. I’m thinking as I write that we can do something related to the book in IGNITE!…..

  12. I bought his book when it first came out and was an immediate follower. I loved his experimentation with products not usually combined with pastel and his use of many different papers. I somehow felt a kinship with him because he was from Louisiana and became a New Yorker as I did the reverse, New Yorker (always) but now home in Louisiana. His work, especially his use of line: cross hatching, scribbles and loose open marks, taught me about the many different ways to build a painting. What a fabulous and forward thinking artist Bill Creevy was. I will always regret not meeting him in person at a workshop or lecture or at IAPS. The art world of Pastel and Oil has lost a master.

    1. Thank you Gailen for your musings on Bill and for sharing your reverse life journey in regard to place of birth and place of settling. As you say, it’s his use of line that mesmorizes and shows so many possibilities. My work originally started out mostly line application. Over the last few years, it has evolved into a more ‘painterly’ approach but I yearn to reincorporate line. In 2021, my plan is to reintroduce Bill’s influence into my work!

      I’m glad I could give you some hints here of the man behind the book. He was indeed a master.

  13. My introduction to Bill Creevy was also through his pastel book, an introduction to a wonderworld of light, mark making, experimentation. We never met in person. When I joined Facebook I discovered he was also a member and we became online friends. He often acknowledged my comments and was always so positive. I posted a painting once that was inspired by an article of his in Artists Magazine. I originally attributed the article to the Pastel Journal and he gently asked me which article that was.😉 I just looked up that exchange to be certain about this story and was reminded that he also introduced me to Black Multimedia Pastel Board. Along with you, I mourn his loss. His kindness, generousity, and talent will remain in our hearts, and will continue to inspire new pastelists for a long time to come.

    It would be wonderful to do a lesson in Ignite inspired by his work.

    1. Jean, thanks for sharing your story of connection with Bill – it does speak of his gracious generosity.

      And yes, I think let’s do something in the membership inspired by Bill’s work. I’ll make a plan for the new year!

  14. Gail you have masterfully written some of my memories of Bill. Thank you. I first met Bill at the third IAPS convention – in an elevator! He was on his way to the room where he was to give a demonstration about painting pastels that would require no glass for framing. He was very nervous and worried about not knowing exactly where the room was located, wether or not the room would have everything he needed, and if anyone would attend his demo. Bob and Pat Suggs were also on that elevator, and Bob told Bill he’d run ahead to be sure all was right with the room, and I told him I was going to be at his demo so we could walk together to get there. I told him I was pretty sure the room was at capacity for attendance; well duh I was right. Despite the controversial method of working a “pastel sans glass”, the demo was very successful and he got a standing ovation at the end. He invited me to have a celebratory drink afterwards, and our friendship was cemented over margaritas and tortilla chips. We painted together at Ghost Ranch in 2001 before the next IAPS convention; my sister got to meet him that time. After the 2003 convention he rode with me to OKC to visit my sister. Riding with “Billly” was a hoot. When we got into the car he turned to me to say Billy had his bag of “toys”; a notebook and pencils. Well he became entranced by the big rig trucks on the interstate, and the next thing I knew he was telling me to slowdown so he could draw “truck butts”. I don’t think I’ve ever driven so slowly on an interstate before or after that delightful trip. We flew together to Italy when Urania sponsored a paint-out in Tuscany in the fall of 2003 and each spent additional time in Rome where he met my husband who flew to join me there. Like you and Bill he or I would call one another from time to time just to chat about many different things. At every convention we were in attendance together he always made time to sit awhile to talk; often with Barbara there too so I came to know her also. I treasure the call he made to me upon his second stay in hospital after breaking his arm. In typical Bill fashion he grumbled about being there, but stoic in being cooperative about the necessity.
    I am deeply honored to have known Bill Creevy, and to have called him Friend. I still find it hard to believe we won’t be together in 2022 at the next convention.

    1. Thank you thank you Peggy for sharing your initial and deep connection with Bill. I LOVED hearing your stories. I so appreciate you going into detail. AND, guess what? Bill wrote to me after taking that road trip to Oklahoma with you! I remember him saying how pleasantly surprised he was to find out how beautiful the state was, expecting perhaps a dustbowl rather than all the greens.

      I can hear the grumbling Bill, I can hear his voice, talking to you from the hospital.
      I too am deeply honoured to have known this man.
      Thanks again Peggy.

  15. This was both heartbreaking and delightful. I never met Bill, but as I listened to his epistle on Google maps, I thought Oh boy, did I miss out on a true character. I could have spent days on end with him except I would have been laughing so much my face would hurt. The day I heard he had passed, I ordered his book and one of my end of year projects is to begin to take it in. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I can feel the love you have for him so clearly. My thoughts are with you and all who feel his loss.
    Blessings, Katy Despot

    1. Thank you so much Katy. I’m glad you can feel the love I have for him.

      And I LOVE that you have caught his humour – I smile as I write this thinking about how Bill would express himself about things and you couldn’t help but chuckle. Yup – you’d have been laughing your head off!!
      I’m so glad you have his book Katy. There is much to be absorbed from it – especially the philosophy and the breath of art-making.

  16. Thank you Gail for sharing this wonderful heartfelt tribute to Bill Creevy. His work is amazing and much admired. I’ve enjoyed reading and learning techniques from two of his books. I never met the man but after viewing your videos of him answering questions about the art making process, I can see he was very thoughtful and sharing. Sad to hear of his passing. My condolences to you and his family.

    1. Trisha, I’m so happy to hear you are already a fan of Bill Creevy’s work and teaching! I’m glad I could also give you a ‘taste’ of this giving soul through the videos. They say so much about the man and his ideas.

  17. Thank you for sharing. I actually learned of this man from your interviews, I’m still new to pastels and growing my way around. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend, sounds like he was a wonderful treasure. I enjoyed listening to his advice and his art work is beautiful and so are you. Keep artsying , its what keeps us all going and happy.

    1. I’m happy to know I introduced you to Bill through my interviews with him Valerie. He’s a treasure for sure and will be hugely missed.

      Thank you for your kind words – I hope to continue “artsying” for a long time to come, especially knowing it keeps others (like you!) going 😀

  18. Do you know if Bill treated his wc paper? Did he put gesso on it for additional with nal tooth? Did he do that to any of his papers or boards? Chris

    1. Bill most often sized his wc papers. He used acrylic gesso. I think that he often used PVA size as well. He applied the PVA size to the fresh sheets and then often often sprayed each layer…always understanding that it might affect the intensity of the pigments. In the last 15- 20 years he rarely used any other kind of final or layered sizing than these two products…though good old water and alcohol were always in his arsenal.
      –Barbara Genco (Bill’s partner)

    2. Barbara again…recently Bill had embraced Multimedia Art Board as a support. For him they became a sort of the ‘grab and go ahead and just paint!’ choice. It is dimensionally stable and can take a lot of working and changes; it really held up under his experimental applications. Have fun.

  19. I have no idea what made me google Bill this morning – his name just popped into my head, and I was so shocked to hear the news of his death to the shocking COVID pandemic that I had to write and say how profoundly saddened I am by it. I never had the good fortune to meet him but have two copies of each of his books – they are so good that I bought spares years ago ‘just in case’. Truly! His pastel book was the catalyst for me trying them and discovering how much fun and rewarding they area. I revisit both of his books regularly for his knowledge, sage advice and simple enjoyment, and am so pleased every time to find that his distinctive and resonant combining of method and media continues to inspire me in my heart. TY for providing the opportunity to say a few words and thank him posthumously for his contribution to my life and love of pastels and oils all the way on the other side of the world (in Australia).

    1. RC, thank you for sharing your experience and sadness and shock with us. And OMG, that you have TWO copies of each of his books, just in case! Bill’s Pastel Book evidently had the same effect on you as it did on me. I now wish I had his Oil Book – added to my list. There’s so much inspiration to be had from the Pastel book which, like you, I revisit from time to time. It always gives me the umph I need! Thank you for expressing how his work and words have affected you in your art life.

  20. I’m reacting a bit late. I didn’t know Bill Creevy before one of your interview videos of him, you published on You Tube. I think, it’s him who says you can looseness up better when your sketch is accurate. I even had copied one of his paintings representing a tree (quite unusual painting, so much energetic and delicately as well as boldly colored). I was ready to ask my usual bookseller to order his book and the lockdown came, all plans were delayed, some of them even forgotten. And suddenly, I read the news of the end of his passage on earth, among us. Shock, surprise, remembering my intention of buying his book. Well, thank you dear Gail and I’m going to order The Pastel Book in early January.

    1. Ahhhh Maïmouna, thank you for sharing your story. Bill’s passing is such a shock to us all. It seems unimaginable that I won’t be able to have another conversation (two-way at least) with him. I’m sorry this is the reminder to get his book. I’m hoping we will do some Bill-type experimentation in the IGNITE! membership so, as an IGNITEr, look out for that!

  21. Thanks for your tribute to Bill. For some reason I stumbled across his FB page this evening and thus learned of his death now over two years ago.
    My knowing him dates back to when I was a freshman or sophomore art student at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge around 1965-66. Bill was in grad school working toward his Masters in Fine Arts. He was a skinny young man usually attired in jeans and khaki long-sleeved shirt with sleeve rolled up. He was always generous to me, open to conversation even with the likes of me, a shy, rather unsure guy. I often drank coffee while he ate his lunch or supper in Union cafeteria on campus and we chatted.
    What always struck me about him was something in his character that was, well, rather « old world. » I knew that he was from New Orleans, somewhat of a « ‘Yat , »accent (similar to Brooklyn accent)—but more than that he had a craftsman’s bearing. What I was witnessing was his real dedication to becoming an artist. I always appreciated his kind friendliness. I’m not surprised to read the words of appreciation here for him. What better epitaph for a life well lived.

    1. William! Oh William, thank you so much for sharing your own experience and connection with Bill. How wonderful you knew him as a young man. Thank you for adding to this appreciation of this artist and man, so generous, so funny, so dedicated to his craft!

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Gail Sibley

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My love of pastel and the enjoyment I receive from teaching about pastel inspired the creation of this blog. It has tips, reviews, some opinions:), and all manner of information regarding their use through the years – old and new. Please enjoy!

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