Nature is often all the inspiration needed to create captivating art. Just ask renowned Fort Worth artist Billy Hassell, who uses his masterful skill to capture the outdoor world through bold and vibrant paintings on canvas. Growing up in nearby Dallas, “I would find a creek, follow it for miles and draw the things I observed,” he remembers. “I sought out places that were more natural.”
The same holds true today. While Hassell works out of a charming 1920s storefront studio in Fort Worth’s historic district—painting up to seven hours daily—he references his sketching journals full of detailed watercolors painted in observation of nature throughout Texas, New Mexico and beyond. “I flip through my journals when I return to the studio from sketching trips and begin painting. They are a big part of my process, collecting ideas and keeping notes of what I see,” explains Hassell, who often displays those watercolors alongside the finished canvas paintings they inspired at his art shows.
Hassell’s preferred subjects tend to take flight. “I’m fascinated by things that fly, and I love birds for their markings and distinctive patterns, such as blue jays, cardinals, woodpeckers—and mockingbirds, which I often see in my garden, are a favorite,” he says. Influenced by folk art, which Hassell has admired and collected for years, his paintings on canvas similarly depict subjects in a manner both highly stylized and color saturated. “I like folk art for its directness and lack of pretension. It’s also frequently full of character and raw charm,” he adds.
Represented by William Campbell Gallery in Fort Worth and Conduit Gallery in Dallas, with a show at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas in Beaumont scheduled for spring of 2022, Hassell also hopes his art has a positive impact. To that end, he has produced works for organizations including both Texas Parks and Wildlife and Audubon Texas, for which he has created two series of five limited-edition color lithographs in celebration of their conservation initiatives. “Art brings you to a place where you can integrate all kinds of interests like the study of animal behavior, folklore, conservation—and every project has led to something equally interesting,” he says. Reflecting upon the natural world he’s loved and studied since childhood, he adds, “I hope my work sparks a dialogue and makes people think about topics like endangered species. I want it to be captivating but also embedded with a message.”