By Dustin Turner
As a professional artist, Billy S loves to sell his paintings. After all, it lets him pay the rent and buy groceries. He gets an even bigger thrill, though, when he inspires others to let their creative juices flow.
“One of the best side effects of my art is that somebody will come up and say they were inspired to do their thing,” he said. “And even if it’s just clip art or whatever, they’ll get that buzz from doing it. They will be amazed at how good it feels just pouring paint on a canvas.”
Often quirky and surreal – think Yellow Submarine – but always colorful and fun, Billy’s paintings incorporate music (he often includes his blue guitar), love (hearts are common), nature (birds, butterflies and landscapes) and messages of peace (“love” and “love one another” appear often). His works can be found all over the Augusta area, including Beveled Edge in North Augusta, New Moon Café and Nacho Mama’s in downtown Augusta and at all three area Mellow Mushroom locations. He even added an artistic touch to the Broad Street restaurant’s back door. He paints signs and on canvases, wood and even roofing metal of all shapes and sizes.
Billy S didn’t become such a prolific artist by taking classes or going to art school. In fact, a small painting his aunt did set his sights on art. “I remember looking at it, and I’d look at the back of it, and I was wondering how this image was on the cottony fabric and how my aunt did that. It gave me the idea that if my aunt had painted, maybe that it’s in my blood. Often what our parents or adults can do around us, we think we can do that.”
A computer drafting course in college persuaded Billy to stop drawing precise, measured lines and get creative. “I could draw a straight line with a ruler, but it had to look like things and be correct, and there are all these details that have to be precise and not artistic. For me, that was a foundation. I knew I didn’t like having to make it perfect. I didn’t feel like that was my job, and for me nowadays, I really don’t feel like that’s my job.”
Billy often paints with a specific person in mind. He tells how he started painting a fish and used colors that reminded him of a friend from high school. He thought she might be interested. “So I called her and told her, ‘I think I have your new painting.’ I sent her a photo, and she said, ‘I’ll take it.’”
“I think every one of them is for something or somebody,” Billy says. “I especially love it when they are given as a gift. I traded something for my art or got paid for it, which is wonderful for me, but then that painting is given as a gift to someone else. It blows my mind that it goes again to be a blessing to somebody, and maybe that person is inspired to do their own thing.”
Billy is so excited to inspire people to create their own art that he doesn’t care if they do it out of spite. “I don’t mind people coming by and going, ‘Oh, I can do that!’ Because they probably could!” he says with a laugh. “I actually love to hear that. If they can, go and do it! Don’t think I’m going be mad. I’m happy even if it is spite-inspired.”
When he is painting, Billy likes to keep things positive and inspirational. If there is grass in a landscape scene, the word “love” or the phrase “love one another” is probably hidden in another shade of green. Sometimes it’s more obvious, such as paintings where the words, “Love One Another” are the main subject. “I sold a Love One Another sign to a man who put it in his yard facing his neighbor’s house. I love it when my work is used for the greater good,” he says.
On another occasion, he was painting in Augusta Common during a March for Jesus event when his two favorite things happened: He painted something inspirational and it was bought as a gift. ”I had painted an angel – I paint a lot of angels – and a woman asked if I would sell it to her so she could give it to a friend. That is still my favorite thing,” he says. “Selling art allows me to eat and pay my bills and have electricity, but what it does other than that is my absolute favorite thing.”
Billy doesn’t just limit himself to painting. A singer and songwriter, he even keeps his music uplifting. He realized that people with big hits had to sing and perform those songs a lot. “If you’re singing a song, you’re usually living it, so if it’s a terrible sad song about a huge heartbreak and it’s a hit, well, I might have the money to buy a boat but I won’t feel like riding on the boat! I always try to write a happy, uplifting song.”
For Billy, being able to inspire and uplift others is the most important part of being an artist. Sometimes, though, the landlord wants his rent money. Paying the rent, in fact, turned into a teachable experience. He tells it like this:
“So, the rent was due TODAY, and I’m sitting there trying to figure out what I can do immediately. This little voice in my head kept telling me to go check my mail. Instead, I thought my friend would let me hold $200 for the night for my Strat – my good guitar – but that wasn’t enough. I thought I could quickly whip up a cat painting or two and sell them quickly – everybody buys cat paintings. But I was still hearing ‘Go check the mail!’ I finally checked the mail, and it was something from House of Blues. I thought it was an invitation to their annual weekend art festival. I opened it and thought, ‘Why does that invitation look funny?’ But they had sold some of my paintings I had there, and it was a check. My name was on it. I looked over at the amount, and it was exactly what I needed for my rent. It matched my exact need for the night.”
From that experience, Billy decided he would create art and not worry about the money. “My actual thought is to make the art for where it’s going go. I think the money will always come because it always has, so I never can waste time going, ‘Where’s the money coming from?’ I just have to believe it will come on time.”
For more information on Billy S, his art and music, find him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/billysartmusic/ and www.facebook.com/billy.s.777.
This article appears in the August 2018 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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