My Interview with Bill Pruitt

Bill Pruitt is a painter with a passion for detail and realism in his pieces.  From a young age Pruitt knew he wanted dedicate his life to art.  He graduated from the University of Missouri in 1987 with  bachelor of fine arts degree.  In 1991 he moved to Los Angelas to pursue his love for painting.  He paints everything from people to cars to animals.  His most notable work is his portraits of Sylvester Stallone.  Stallone has purchased 7 portraits of himself from Pruitt.  Pruitt’s passion and talent for painting has turned into a lucrative business. 

Let us learn about Pruitt’s passion for art and why he decided to devote his life to this field.

Becoming an artist

When did you first get into art?

I have been an artist really since I can remember. Since about age 4. It came to me pretty naturally.

Why did you want to pursue art-particularly painting?

I thought it was the best thing I could do and I enjoyed it, so I majored in it in college and got my degree in BFA. Also, regarding painting, I enjoyed that after I took a class in it. I really like the way you can get bold colors and details with oil paint.

Tell me about your first painting.

hmmm, that’s hard to remember which was my actual first painting. I did dabble in it in jr. high in classes and did those in acrylic. I remember doing a landscape of a sunset/desert scene that my parents still have in their house. It wasn’t bad.

Your projects

My projects now are plentiful. I never run out of things to create. Currently, I am doing a commissioned portrait of this 1 year old baby but here’s the kicker: The customer only provided photos of him as a boy from ages 6 and 10. I have to use those photos to paint how he MIGHT look as a 1 year old. Challenging but its looking very good so far. He was adopted at an older age. Hence, no early photos. After this, I am gonna do this movie poster style “Indiana Jones – Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” piece. Can’t wait to start it. Will submit it to George Lucas and Steven Spielberg for consideration in the future.

You are a major fan of Sylvester Stallone. You have painted many pictures of him in various movies. Your most recent painting have included Sly in Rocky Balboa and Rambo. What inspired you to paint these incredibly realistic renditions of Sylvester Stallone?

Thanks. Well, he inspired me to paint them. He gives off this aura of strength and power (especially as those characters) and to me, that is inspiring to paint.

Stallone has also purchased 6 of your paintings. How did he find out about your work?

Actually 7, but who’s counting. When I was living in Missouri, I contacted him in the summer of 1986 by writing a letter(with copies of my work included) to the owner of the Santa Monica bodybuilding Center where Sly worked out and asked him to please give the enclosed package to Sly. About 3 months later, I received an autographed picture of Sly and a letter from his personal assistant saying he was not interested in purchasing anything at that time but they’ll keep my samples in their files. I then had a direct contact to his office and assistant. I followed up by doing a really nice montage painting of him and sent an 11″x14″ exact photo print of it just to give to him. About a week passed and I wasn’t expecting it but I recieved a call from his assistant regarding Sly being interested in the original. I gave her a price off the top of my head and she asked if it was a “firm” price. I said yes and she said she’ll get back to me tomorrow. She called back and informed me that I sold a painting!

What was it like to have Sly buy your paintings?

It was very exciting to say the least, having been a big fan since I saw “Rocky” in the theatre.

What was it like meeting Sly?

It was a nice experience each time. He was very kind. The first time was on the set of “Lock Up” in L.A. He, personally invited me inside the soundstage to watch filming. That was an incredible experience.


What advice would you give to those who are just getting into painting?

Well, depends on if they were pursuing a career in it or if just a hobby. If it’s a career, then I’d say study other painters, particularly ones you really like. Then I’d say paint from your heart, doing what you REALLY want to paint for yourself. That’s the only way you can grow because you’re enthusiastic about it. This prepares you for later to have the skills to do commission jobs that you might not be so enthusiastic about. Also, in today’s digital age, it might be a good idea to learn computer graphics to have as a backup.

What advice would you give to those who have been painting for a while?

To just keep painting and try making and selling prints of your work whether it be on Ebay or art shows, etc. Prints can be lucrative and can be made as you need them so its not a big up front investment for the artist.

After all the paintings you have done, what have you learned to do better or different?

Good question. I am constantly learning. I believe you never “peak” as a painter. I have learned how to give my paintings depth so they look 3-d by making the backgrounds blurry or foregrounds too. I have learned how to make lighting more dramatic. Having a good understanding of light hitting a person or object will result in a more 3-d painting. I have learned how to make better compositions so the painting is balanced. Also, have learned how to bring a person to life as opposed to the photographic reference I use. Bringing them to life is all in how you paint the eyes. I have learned how to get the likenesses more dead on too.

What type of mind set should a painter have?

A very visual mind set. They should always be observing things in life especially how light falls on a person or object and not take that for granted. True artists/painters see things much differently than a “non” artist (I say “True” because so many people call themselves artists when they’re really very amateur). Painters should also be patient with their careers and do what you have to do to pursue it whether it be having a part-time job or even a few jobs.

What types of mistakes do painters usually make and how can they avoid these mistakes?

Not being so hard on themselves. I have been guilty of that and still am. True Painters are their own worst critics. To avoid this mistake, you just have to have the courage to call a painting finished and not to keep trying to perfect it. This has been my biggest obstacle.

General thoughts on being a painter

What is it like to be a painter full time?

You gotta make a LOT of sacrifices. Meaning social life and personal life. Managing your time is very important. You have to give it 110% because it is not a stable job with a weekly paycheck. You have to work that much harder to get ahead.

What do you like/dislike about this job?

I like the actual painting part and sketching ideas part. The whole creative process I like. That part is therapeutic. I dislike the business part of it really or dealing with ignorant people who are shocked by my very reasonable prices for commission work.

What should people who want to get into this profession know about this job?

They should know most of the stuff I mentioned above and that is has its ups and downs. When the economy isn’t so great like it is now, you have to always have money saved on the side because art is usually the last thing people need or want in a slow economy. It is not a necessity but a luxury.

What type of art supplies do you use?

I use water mixable oils, color pencils and sometimes acrylic paint. The brushes are various bristle brushes. I also paint on canvas and illustration board.

What is the most difficult and time consuming project you have worked on?

My Rocky Balboa spiritual painting because it was totally created from scratch by using well over 100 reference photos for total accuracy In all, it took over a year to complete.

Describe a typical day at the studio.

A lot of time isn’t in the studio but running errands like going to art supply stores or post office to send off prints I sold on Ebay. I do make my own prints in the studio and I paint as well after I get the errands done. Then in the afternoon, I usually go to my studio away from home at Universal City walk(right next to Universal Studios-Hollywood). I paint my own paintings up there and sell prints of my work that are on display.

Other Hobbies/Interests

Doing magic is another hobby and watching movies. Working out with weights is something I try to do on a regular basis just to feel better and help keep my mind clear. I also do power walking outside to get the heart pumping and to clear the mind.

What is your favorite movie?

My favorite movie is without a doubt “Rocky”. I have never felt better leaving a theatre as I did with “Rocky”. It was that inspiring and uplifting even as a jr. high kid.

What did you think of Sly’s latest movie, “Rambo”?

I think its really good. Really the best artistically of all the Rambo’s. The first one was great except for the national guardsmen. They were a little too much comic relief. 2 and 3 were more like fantasies but Very entertaining movies.

Tell me about your future

My future? Just to keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully somehow break into the movie poster art business but from what I understand, it is mostly all digital art from photos. I am hoping someday the trend goes back to traditionally hand painted poster art. Also, to find representation one day soon so I can concentrate more on the art and a lot less on the business part of it.

What are some projects that you are working on right now?

I mentioned that above as well – the baby portrait, then Indiana Jones and then I also have on the drawing board another Rambo piece of him in the jungle with rain. Look very forward to the Indy piece and Rambo.

To learn more about Bill Pruitt and his work, please visit his website: 

1 Response to “My Interview with Bill Pruitt”

  1. 1 Dianna Trent March 11, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    Mr. Pruitt does such excellent work that 1/2 the time I don’t know if I’m looking at a photo or a painting!! He’s just that good!!
    (It was also nice of him to email me a thank you letter.)

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