Bill Ford wears many creative hats, metaphorically speaking, of course; wearing many dapper bow ties is really more his thing. He’s an interior designer, a painter, a calligrapher, a teacher and a patron of the arts. He’s a Paducah icon. His signature, which is part of his interior design company’s logo, is readily recognizable to Paducah-dwellers, but on the 13th of April Bill Ford will be showing his signature like never before at Ruth Baggett Gallery 1025 in an aptly-titled exhibit, Bill Ford: Signature Collection. “Everybody loves Bill,” Ruth Baggett said. “He’s one of the most iconic personalities in Paducah. He’s so sweet and he gives so much of himself and of his time and talents, I’m honored to have this show for him.”
Though Bill has shown and sold his artwork before, this will be the first exhibition that is all his own. His collection includes a mix of pen and ink, watercolors, acrylics and even a few lithographs and etchings, but the highlight of the show will be his collection of doodles.
Doodling implies quick, unfocused drawing that happens while your attention is elsewhere. It’s like drawings’ version of stream of consciousness-style writing. Anyone can do it, but when done by a master it becomes a thing of beauty.
“There’s an art to doodling,” Bill said, “and people are doodling all the time.” Bill will tell you he never really knows what he’s doing exactly when he starts doodling. “It just starts! It’s just a-happening,” he’ll say, but there’s a depth and seemingly-effortless balance to his work - especially his doodles - that could only come from Bill and his life spent immersed in art and design.
“When you look at his work, you know it’s part of Bill,” Ruth said. “You know it’s from Bill. You can just feel the joy in his work, and that’s a reflection of him, an extension of who he is.”
His work is immediately appealing, whimsical and fun, but Ruth said one of her favorite things about Bill’s work is its sense of discovery. One of his watercolor/pen and ink doodles, for example, looks rather abstract at first, but as you continue to gaze at its interwoven lines and shapes, something starts to emerge. Suddenly it’s so very clear... it’s an iguana!
“I like to take images and hide them, to make you look for them. It just makes it a little more interesting!” Bill said. He likes for you to be a part of the art.
His doodles always start with a straight center line, sometimes vertical or horizontal, sometimes slanted. He then works outward from the center, sometimes building abstract forms from lines and shapes, or projecting what he sees around him onto the paper before him. His artistic hand turns animals and everyday objects into magical, whimsical things; the calligrapher in him loves to use pen and ink, but all he really needs is a ballpoint pen.
An important and very personal part of any and every piece Bill creates is his signature. It’s always in some way connected to the lines of the drawing - it never stands alone - and it always includes an extra “B.”
“The ‘B’ stands for my mother,” Bill said. “I was very close to my parents. The first art job I got after my mother died, I thought, ‘I think I’m going to dedicate all my work to Babalu.’ Her name was Louise, but I called her Babalu, so I always put a ‘B’ in every signature that I do.”
Bill, bow-tied and smiling, explained this detail as he stood in his cozy and (of course) well-decorated house in which nearly every wall is covered in art, most of it local. He quickly moved on from talking of himself to talking about the local artists whose work he so loves.
“Bill is such a great supporter of local art,” Ruth said. “Now it’s our turn to support him.” You can see Bill Ford’s fantastical doodles and other works on April 13 at Ruth Baggett Gallery 1025 from 4PM to 8.