Werner Willis

The key to great art, Werner Willis advises, is sketching. “So many artists these days don’t take the time to draw,” he says in a voice distinguished by the Germanic quick clip of his first language that’s been softened with a slight southern drawl after living in North Carolina for almost half of a century. “But to create believable realistic, representational works,” Werner warns, “You must spend lots of time training for and perfecting the craftsmanship of drawing.” Only through drawing, he continues, can an artist truly capture elements like anatomy, muscle tone, colors and the fine nuances of perspective and atmosphere that create believable people and realistic representations.

Born in 1940 near Vienna, Austria, Werner’s drawing abilities were evident at a very young age. Guided by a very strict Munich master artist, Werner practiced the exacting styles and disciplined techniques of the European old masters, learning what Werner refers to as “the science of painting”: drawing and painting with great attention to even the finest detail.

Werner’s formal art training ended at age 17 when his family settled in his stepfather’s native United States. After graduating from high school, Werner started a commercial art studio in Charlotte, North Carolina. His illustrations grew in popularity throughout the years, including the beloved Benji illustrations for Little Golden Books, magazine covers and national advertising campaigns.