bill wheeler 300William "Bill" Wheeler

"I was born and grew up in what was then Port Arthur and is now Thunder Bay, located in Northern Ontario on the north shore of Lake Superior. After finishing Grade 13, I came to Toronto in 1951 to attend the Ontario College of Art, earning my AOCA. My BA came much later, a combination of Fine Arts, Anthropology and Geography credits. In Toronto, I worked initially as an illustrator and then became a high school teacher, and ended up the Head of the Art Department at my school.

Aircraft have always fascinated me. As preteens my friends and I would watch for the Can-Car-built Hurricanes and then Hell Divers that were being test-flown by Orville Weiben and Shorty Hatton. I would later have the pleasure of meeting Shorty and getting his story for the CAHS Journal. And I once had a ride in a Cessna from the Fort William airport with Orville. We flew around Mt. McKay, then down the lakeshore and back.

I have always like to draw and was encouraged to do it. In Grade Eight I won an Ontario-wide competition for a forest fire prevention poster. The prize was $5. Initially, I drew Buck Rogers-inspired rocket ships and Curtiss biplanes based on Don Winslow and Tail-Spin Tommy "big-little" book illustrations. These small books are now valuable collectors' items. There were also Flying Aces magazines with dramatic Jo Kotula watercolour covers. That era, lasting into the 1970s, was a golden age for illustration of all kinds. The computer and clip-art have a lot to answer for!

At present, my work is mostly ink drawing in a sketchbook, of almost everything but aircraft. I've been drawing "ships and boats and things that float", but I am still fascinated by aircraft and the people who work with them.