lyrical tones of songbirds and river water rushing over rocks accompany
the soft humming and occasional bursts of musical verse that come
from the slim, smiling man walking along the shore.
The man is artist Bill Worrell (’74 M.F.A.), and the river
is the Llano. It banks his Texas Hill Country studio in the small
town of Art, just outside of Mason.
The natural beauty of the landscape and the energy of the land and
the river mirror the spiritual tone of the artist’s work.
Worrell creates three-dimensional, modern interpretations of the
drawings made by the primitive people of an ancient American culture
who began painting in the caves of Texas and the Southwest around
“The connection between myself — and all of modern humanity
— and these ancients is a beautiful mystery that can’t
be solved, but can be explored,” Worrell says. “My work
is an exercise in exploring that spiritual connection.”
a connection that resonates.
Since 1986, Worrell has earned considerable acclaim creating and
selling his shaman art interpretations across the United States
and around the world.
It has led him to friendships with people from all walks of life.
And it has provided opportunities he never could have imagined.
then, as Worrell says, that’s the way it is with fate and
blessings in disguise.
In fact, he discovered the content for his art — that would
lead him on a journey more joyous than his wildest dreams —
during one of the most violent storms he’s ever encountered.
In 1979, Worrell set out on a canoe trip down the lower 66 miles
of the Pecos River to do a magazine photo essay. Another experienced
canoeist was supposed to accompany him and two novices on the trip.
At the last minute, the other experienced river man couldn’t
make it, leaving Worrell no other choice but to put the two new
canoeists together and handle his boat with all the supplies alone.
“We spent six days on that river and only twice did we see
other people,” he says. “But the hardest part of that
trip was surviving the fiercest electrical storms and heavy rain
this Texas boy has ever seen.”
When the skies opened up, the small group pulled ashore to wait.
They sought shelter in a cave along the river.
“There were all kinds of pictographs on the walls of that
cave, and I remember thinking, ‘The Indians have been here,’”
he says. “I had no idea what I was looking at, but I immediately
connected to their beauty.
“When we got off that river, those images were still in my
head and I felt this need to make them my own, explore them and
try to understand them and their creators.”
from the heart
years, Worrell researched the ancient people who lived along the
Pecos and perfected the shapes and figures he would use for his
interpretations of the shamans drawn on the cave walls.
His sculptures are designed in wax and cast in limited-edition bronzes.
After the casting is extracted, Worrell creates dramatic contrasts
on the bronzes by applying patinas to some areas and polishing others.
The sculptures range in size from small enough to be worn as jewelry
to more than 17 feet tall, as is the case with the bronze “The
Maker of Peace,” which was commissioned to stand guard at
the ancient Fate Bell rock shelter at Seminole Canyon State Historical
Park west of Del Rio.
The works of Worrell, who was introduced to the world of gallery
representation nearly 20 years ago, can now be found in eight galleries
across the nation. He presents five one-man shows of new work each
year and runs his Shaman Arts business with his sister, B.J. Worrell
DelMonte, out of the studio in the Hill Country and a studio in
Santa Fe, N.M.
But Worrell says the first big break he had was not when his work
was accepted by a gallery — rather, it came in his graduate
studio at North Texas.
remember being so poor as a student that I didn’t have two
dimes and a nickel to make a quarter,” he says. “And
to save money I’d buy cheap paints and dilute them to get
them to go farther. But I could never get exactly what was in my
head out, so I was making just really horrible stuff and I knew
“One afternoon Professor Wilfred ‘Flip’ Higgins
came in my studio to look at my art, and he didn’t say a word,
but I could tell by the look on his face he was disappointed. And
that look set me free. I decided no matter the cost — real
or personal — I was going to paint from my heart and soul
and make sure I loved every piece I created.”
The next time Higgins came to Worrell’s studio, he invited
his student to attend an opening at the Dallas Museum of Art.
“Higgins saw that I had lost my fear and gained confidence
about what I was doing, and a lot of creative expression centers
around having self-confidence,” Worrell says.
work continues to energize his creative spirit, which is as Texan
as his work boots. And the outlet for his creativity now is more
than visual — it’s verbal and musical.
A quick-to-smile cowboy with a deep streak for wit, Worrell finds
joy in the everyday, and he expresses that joy in writing poetry
Never without one of his guitars nearby or music in his head, Worrell
is just as prone to break into song during a conversation as he
is to tell a fascinating story.
And dinner at Keller’s Roadside Store, the small restaurant
at the end of the dirt road leading to Worrell’s studio, often
becomes an impromptu singing session.
at the stage of my life now where I’m interested in improving
my social calendar and enjoying every minute I have, so I sing when
I want to and I write when the muse strikes, and I make art as I
His favorite time of day — the madrugada, the hours before
dawn — inspired him to write one of his favorite songs.
“It’s a song about the rarely explored
topic of love,” he says with a slow-growing grin. “I
like to write music about uncommon subjects.”
En la madrugada, full moon above, on the sands in the river
we danced until dawn.
En la madrugada, Texas deep in our blood, siempre amor dulce,
forever live this night of sweet love. …
In addition to the music that fills his life, Worrell has written
two books of prose. They explore his thoughts about his work and
the mysteries of life. He is currently working on a third book that
will discuss his experience in the creative and business world of
But whether he’s writing in the notebook that never leaves
his side, picking the guitar that’s always in the back of
his truck, or shaping wax to pay homage to the human spirit, Worrell
is always smiling.
And he’s always thankful for the song of the birds, the lullaby
of the river and the beauty of the stars in the Texas night sky.
en la Madrugada
Full moon above
On the sands in the river
We danced until dawn
Texas deep in our blood
Siempre amor dulce
Forever live this night of sweet love
Beneath Texas skies
By the crystal clear waters
Stars in both of our eyes
me diste tu corazon
I gave you mine in return
In the Hill Country dawn
With a perfect love song
Noche de amor
Dancing with you
I desire nothing more
Fondest dreams have come true
What could be better
Than Texas and you