Will grew up in Kings Mountain, NC and graduated from the University of North Carolina School of The Arts’ high school. He attended the San Francisco Art Institute, where he earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Painting. After college, Will moved back to North Carolina and worked as a graphic designer for many years before pursuing his dream of being a full-time painter, which he has been doing now for five years. He specializes in painting animals (his dad is a retired veterinarian and his mother an artist) including pet portraits and paintings of what he calls outcast animals, like bats, bears and raccoons. Will sells his work at art shows and on his website willeskridge.com. He is currently getting ready for a series releasing in March and is in the planning stages of Cats of Athens, a series that will be displayed at TinyATH. Will also just completed a mural at Clarke Central High School. In addition to being a full-time artist, Will is a full-time work from home dad. Will lives in Northwest Clarke County in the Oconee Heights area with his wife Marie, a teacher at Coile Middle School, their son Doc, a dog and two cats.
What do you love most about your career?
It is probably the schedule. I am dedicated and disciplined, but I get to have a flexible schedule, so If something comes up with Doc, I don’t have to “miss work” I can adjust my schedule around that. That is probably the best thing. If I am feeling sick or I just feel like I have worked my sixty hours, or whatever it is, I can take a day off. I don’t have to ask a boss. I could just take the day off and go hiking with my son or whatever. It is definitely the schedule.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Athens?
Definitely number one is hiking at Sandy Creek Nature Center. I can’t tell you how many times my son and I have treaded those trails. It is so fun, and sometimes on the weekend Marie will join us. Pre-Covid there was Bad Movie Night over at Cine. This guy Matthew used to host it and a buddy and I started going to them pretty religiously and sometimes my brother would join us. They show just horrible movies and it is kind of like a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 thing, with people just talking through it and making fun of it, eating popcorn and drinking beers. Third is playing rock ‘n’ Roll with my band, Forbidden Waves. Those are definitely top for sure. I definitely miss that, but it will come back.
If you could see any band or show, what would you see and where?
If I had to say one, it would be The Who at Rolling Stone’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus. I was going to say Isle of Wight, but I think I would say Rock ‘n’ Roll circus because they were still kind of mod and that is The Who that I kind of prefer.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Have no fear. I would say that the day I walked [at Graduation] to just go right into fine arts, don’t stress about the money, don’t stress about a 9 to 5 career. That is what I would tell myself. Have no fear and trust in it being able to be done, being a full-time artist.
Do you have a favorite artist or an artist who has inspired you the most?
I do. There are a few. It sounds cliche, but I would have to go with Van Gogh. The colors and the textures, I am really directly influenced by and always have been. There have been a few others along the way like Edward Hopper, Paula Modersohn-Becker, but if I had to pick one it would be Van Gogh.
Do you have a favorite book that you find yourself reading, referencing or re-gifting most often?
I do, it’s the book The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I fell in love with it when I was coming of age and I have read it probably five or six times at least. I am not a big reader, but when I do that one is number one.
Do you have a favorite movie or remember the first movie you saw in a theatre?
It’s too tough to pick one absolute favorite movie, but I do remember going to see Raiders of the Lost Ark. I was five years old, but I remember the whole family went. Mom and Dad took us all. I have a distinct memory of going to see that in 1981 at The Flick (which is now the Don Gibson Theatre) in Shelby [North Carolina]. I remember that quite vividly.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
Right now in this moment in time, I would go to either Bracken Cave in San Antonio to watch the largest colony of bats emerge. It would be tough right now because everybody is hibernating. I would fast forward to April when the bat viewing season gets going out there, or Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin to see the bats emerging over there from the bridge.
If you could have lunch with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and where?
My gut is saying Stephen Hawking and we would have lunch at T’laloc.
What is something interesting about you that most people might not know?
I collect dollar bills and coins from all over the world.
What three words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word “home?”
Dogs and cats, bed and harmony.