Art is power. That’s the main message artist Randall Williams tries to convey to his students here in Burbank and across the country.
“Once you start to use art, it opens doors everywhere, because there are feelings and energy that we place in any picture,” he said.
Williams, an established artist who specializes in portrait painting, murals and street chalk painting, said he fell in love with art the first time he began finger-painting in kindergarten, and that his passion has only grown since.
After graduating from Western Illinois University with a degree in fine arts in 1979, he moved to California to immerse himself in art culture. Using his college background in design, sculpture, airbrushing and oil painting, Williams began teaching art classes in Burbank and opened his own art gallery and studio in a store front building on Burbank Boulevard.
He quickly gained respect from his peer professionals.
“He’s such a tremendous talent and has such a big heart,” said Joanne Weckbacher, an artist who has worked with Williams throughout his time in Burbank. “He has the ability to give other artists energy, no matter what he’s working on.”
Teaching art and interacting with other artists like Weckbacher, Williams discovered more about the arts himself, he said.
“I realized teaching actually increased my abilities,” Williams said. “I like it a lot, so I teach everyone from little kids to people in wheelchairs.”
Although Williams likes to dabble in arts of all kinds, his passion for street chalk painting has grown to be his favorite since his father-in-law first introduced him to the Italian street painting festivals in Santa Barbara in the mid-1990s.
“Chalk is so great because you’re doing it outdoors on the street and interacting with everybody that’s walking by,” he said. “People’s heads are constantly turning. It’s a great way to interact with the public and mix it with art at the same time.”
Williams has been involved in many chalk painting festivals during the last 15 years throughout many parts of California, but it was his work with the Light Bringer Project in the Pasadena Chalk Festival that earned him the honor of traveling to Atlanta to teach art lessons at Spelman and Morehouse colleges.
The art department of the two historically black colleges contacted the Light Bringer Project, a community organization dedicated to discovering local artists, and asked if Williams could lecture about chalk painting. Although Williams said he enjoyed the teaching aspect of the March endeavor, it was his learning about 1920s black artist Hale Woodruff that opened his eyes the most.
“When I learned that a mixed black artist interacted with Diego Rivera and (Pablo) Picasso, mixing so many different cultural art forms of the era, it showed me that so many different cultures, like blacks and Mexicans, are closer in sharing art culture than they realize,” he said. “It’s a cool story that shows how art has evolved and how it’s all shared throughout the world.”
Williams said the sharing of art culture relates back to his main message — art is powerful. He said he plans on teaching this healing message to kids in inner cities with the help of Light Bringer and fellow artists.
“I’ve been able to reach a lot of students this year,” he said. “As artists, we take a blank surface, draw something on it and charge that surface with energy. I want other people to see this beauty so they can enjoy art all the time.”