9/12/2013 3:00:00 PM Bill Roberts of Bennington:
artistic talents take many forms
If, as they say, "A picture is worth 1,000 words," then Bill Roberts of Bennington has nearly 300,000 of them.
Always having an interest in art, his creativity has taken several avenues through his life; and for the past three years that creativity has been expressed through painting and pen and ink sketches.
"I've always been able to do a little bit of drawing," Bill Roberts said. "I was in Florida and a church friend of mine is a painter and teaches painting down there. One day at church I told him I'd always wanted to do this, and he told me to come up to the store anytime I wanted to."
His friend's 'store' was a tire and auto shop, so Bill Roberts showed up one day with his own canvas while his friend supplied the paints and brushes and lessons.
"He was always there when I'd get stymied a little bit, and my first painting came out a whole lot better than I thought it would - but I had a lot of help."
That was in January of 2010, and during that winter in Florida Bill Roberts did about six paintings, honing his talents and learning all he could from his friend and others.
Bill Roberts' first painting was done in Florida, but its subject was very close to home.
The painting came from a photograph that Bill Roberts had taken of the stream and waterfall along Bennington Pike, near the home of Bill Carpenter.
When he and wife, Mary, got back home that spring, Bill Roberts was hooked.
"I came home and turned my office into an art studio," he smiled. "It was a place to paint and a place to put them against the wall. I didn't hang any, I just put little shelves and sat them up there.
And how many pieces of art has he created since that January day three years ago?
"To date I've done 290," Bill Roberts said. "I got interested in pen and ink drawing because I can do that in the house or wherever I wanted, so I started doing pen and ink and I love that. I've probably got 90 paintings and the rest are pen and ink water colors."
A selection of those paintings are being featured in the Community Art Center at Main and Ferry streets all this month. Bill Roberts was on hand on Friday night for 'First Friday' and again on Saturday to chat with visitors who wanted to know more about his art; and he plans on being at the Community Art Center tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday to meet people again.
When asked if he has a favorite subject to paint, Bill Roberts has a pretty long list.
"Switzerland County landscapes," he says without hesitation, "I've been down in about every creekbed in this county around here taking pictures. Creekbeds and water, and roads - Bennington Pike. I do churches and also old barns."
Bill Roberts uses photographs to work on his artwork, and he estimates that he has been taking pictures since he was in his teens.
"I had pictures of old barns here in the county that are no longer in existence," he says, "So I painted a lot of old barns and old houses and things like that. I've got three different paintings of the school (Vevay High School)."
And what's the hardest part about painting?
"Mixing the colors," Bill Roberts said. "I still use the paints where I went and bought a tube of every color, but there are artists who just use three colors and then mix the exact color that they want. They look so much better. I'm trying to learn to mix colors rather than painting right out of the tube."
Along with the painting and the photography, Bill Roberts is also well known for building swings and rockers and gliders. He figures that he and the people he employed have built about 8,000 pieces.
He was also a contractor, building everything from most of the houses on the west end of Vevay to structures that were put onto pontoons for houseboats that were sold along Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake.
The 1954 graduate of Vevay High School went to work for the Ashland Oil and Refinery Company, working up and down the river from Ashland, Kentucky to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Working two 30-day shifts as a hand, the traveling up and down the river gave him the opportunity to hone his photography skills.
After that, he returned to Vevay.
"My grandfather died, and he had Roberts Lumber Company; and my dad didn't want it," Bill Roberts said. "So I asked my dad to give me a chance, so I went into that."
The Roberts Lumber Company sat at the bottom of Vevay Hill where the Jefferson-Craig firehouse now sits.
Going to Florida on vacation, Bill and Mary Roberts, the couple fell in love with the area, and soon Bill Roberts found a mobile home business for sale. After some negotiation, the whole family relocated to Florida, and his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren all still reside in Florida.
Bill and Mary Roberts winter in Florida six months out of the year.
"I've really enjoyed life," he said. "I really have. I think I've been blessed to be able to do exactly what I've wanted to do."