Art Watch: Peter Willard

Local artists ‘tears’ into his art

By Lele Galer, Columnist, The Times

UTColLogoGalerPeter Willard is the subject of this week’s Local Art Watch focus. Peter has been painting most of his life but only recently decided to throw in the towel to his life in the numbers  world, and pursue painting as a full time career. Peter has a degree in economics and political science but was given his first watercolor lessons one summer in Maine as a child, and that stuck with him.

I first saw Peter’s work in a wonderful  small show of local artists that is a special annual event in the barn of an East Marlborough resident. Who was this incredible painter and why had I not seen his work before? Peter is not on everyone’s radar yet but he will be. You may see his work now at the terrific Station Gallery in Greenville Delaware ( .  His newfound commitment is a truly exciting mix of passion and talent and creativity.

Peter Willard photo

Peter Willard

If you look at any of his featured works, you cannot help but be reminded of Turner, the famous 19th Century English artist that was a favorite of the critic John Ruskin. Peter’s work certainly conjures up the idea of landscapes, windscapes and other natural forms and phenomena but they are not tied down to a specific place or time.

“It is a process of recalling, not imagining. If you are making it up, imagining, then you’re not letting the paint do the talking. If you’re recalling a place and letting the work unfold, then that is real.”

image (1)His work is also not tied down to a specific medium. Watercolor, acrylics, pencil, ink markers and glue often  mix and are scratched and scuffed from the surface; painting and sgraffito combine. In every piece there is a little whirlwind of energy akin to Cy Twombly’s scribblings.  What does Peter use to scuff up his surfaces?

“Anything within reach. For scratching I like long sharp pointy things like roofing nails, deck screws or broken chop sticks.  For dabbing I use dried-out old sponges, steel wool or crumpled paper.”

As you look closer to any of his images you see the hand of the artist at work; you see the strokes of the brush and the tears from the sharp objects gash at the flesh of the paper. It is really cool. There is texture, energy, terrific use of earthtones, and a skillful, confident brushwork.

image (2)If you would like to see Peter Willard’s newest work please come by Galer Estate Winery this Thursday, September 12th from 5-9pm. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Chester County Art Association’s new building fund. Peter’s work can be seen in and you may reach him at You should really see his work now before he becomes too famous to afford.

This is the fourth in a series of weekly articles that will highight one local artist every week. Lele Galer is an artist who has chaired numerous art shows, taught art history and studio art, public art and has chaired, written and taught the Art in Action Art Appreciation series for the UCFD schools for the past 12 years. She worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and wrote for the Asociated Press in Rome.  She has been dedicated to Art History and art education for most of her adult life. Lele and her husband Brad own Galer Estate Winery in Kennett Square and she is President of the Education Foundation and co-Chairs the CCAA’s New Building Campaign.


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