Nashville’s visual art scene is nothing short of arresting. We have world-renowned artists in our midst, with a thriving community of artists wielding their impressive craft. Scoot over, New York City. Nashville is the new art scene! We here at Sports & Entertainment Nashville spoke with Herb Williams, one of our most remarkable local artists, whose intriguing work with the ubiquitous crayon catches everyone’s eye, whether you’ve seen it at the Nashville International Airport, the new Music City Center or at many places worldwide. Read on to discover more about one of Nashville’s own – how his use of Crayons first began, how he creates his work and what makes him tick.
Williams says that he started working with crayons about 12 years ago when he was asked to do a show on how to fanatically respond to 9/11. The first piece he made was an American flag and he chose crayons as his medium. Williams used so many Crayola crayons the first year he came to be considered a wholesaler. So now Williams receives his crayons in 50-pound boxes of 3,000 of an individual color.
The crayon-creations can have in the vicinity of 30,000 crayons, like the Nashville skyline that was created for the Music City Center in Williams’ effort to support the art scene in Nashville – or hundreds of thousands of crayons, like the piece titled “Plunderland,” that required 250,000 crayons and a year of Williams’ time to create.
Artists enjoy a great feeling of accomplishment for their work, and some, like Williams, say they also have some pretty good friends who help him reach his accomplishments from time to time. “I’ll invite some of my friends over. I’m working on a really large project to help me cut down some of the crayons I know I’m going to be using. All of them have to be about ¾ of an inch long, so we will all sit around, order pizza and beer and catch up and cut crayons for a couple of hours. My friends who are lawyers or accountants get a lot of satisfaction out of finishing a task. So many of the things they do, they never see the end result.”
Williams continues, “I love surface and want to create things that people want to touch, even if they can’t. I think if they don’t want to touch it, then you’re not really succeeding in your work. You really want children to fight back the urge to reach out and hold it.”
Though Williams has a history with sculpting and bronze work, he is best known for his work with crayons. Still, Williams feels the material should match the concept so is always working with different materials to match whatever the idea is.
When asked if he has some favorite pieces, Williams confesses, “Usually, the last thing I did is my favorite…but on older pieces, I’m really proud of them for getting me to the point where I’m at now. I’ll always be happy with the Johnny Cash, the “man in black.” It’s always going to be one of my favorites. Or the pink slip that’s over at the Hotel Preston. They’re some of my favorites. They’re so iconic. I’m always doing something new, and I try not to dwell on what I’ve done if there is something new that I can do. You’ve got to constantly be paddling upstream to be relevant in your field of work. You can’t get too comfortable in what you’re doing or you’re dead in the water. So I’m always trying to find what’s next.”
For more information on Herb Williams and his art, you can find him on Facebook or google and you’ll find many stories on Herb Williams artwork.