Biography of Willow

Q&A with WillowWillow Bader

I am a great painter, not a writer. And writing about myself seemed especially challenging. So I invited a journalist friend, Alex Evans, to interview me and create a biography from the process.

Q: Let’s begin with the obvious – your name – Willow – please explain.

A: It’s my real name – a lovely gift my mother gave me the day I was born. And I’ve always cherished it. It’s unique enough that many people don’t even know or use my last name. And I sign my paintings with it alone.

Q: Tell me about your birth.

A: February 16, 1979. Delivered by a midwife in a log cabin built by my father – way up in the woods on the edge of an Indian Reservation in northeastern Washington State. An only child. And no, my parents weren’t hippies, just people involved in a simple style of life. No electricity or indoor plumbing.

Q: And you grew up in that environment?

A: Until we moved to rural Whatcom County in Western Washington when I was around five. My education through 8th grade was in nearby Bellingham in a Waldorf school, which was perfect for me. The school supported me in becoming an artist, which is all I’ve ever wanted to be.

Q: And then?

A: Quickly went through a combination of public high school and junior college. More than anything I wanted to go to a serious art school as soon as possible and get on with my career.

Q: Where did you go?

A: To the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia – the oldest art school in the U.S. and one of the most traditional in its approach to training artists. It was an intensive four-year program focused on drawing and painting.

Q: That’s a big jump from Western Washington.

A: Philadelphia and art school were a shock, but I wanted a challenge and I got what I went for – with no regrets.

Q: I see from your resume that you succeeded – won prizes and awards and a major travel scholarship. Are you still traveling?

A: Whenever I can – I want to be a citizen of the world. So far I’ve been in Italy, Spain, Greece, the Czech Republic, Canada, Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico, Bali, and Hawaii.  I would like to make more trips to Argentina, and Portugal and Japan are high on my go-to list.

Q: Speaking of Argentina, you dance and paint tango, right – why?

A: Another challenge! And for someone who had never done any social dancing, tango was a scary place to begin. But I was attracted to the romance, the complexity, the history, and the beauty of it. Tango is deep. And it remains an ongoing part of my life and art.

Q: You paint entirely in encaustic medium – and I know you have details about that on your website and in videos, but in a few words, why encaustic?

A: It’s like tango – warm and fleshy and sensual – a very old medium. And I own it in the sense that I taught myself how to use it and developed my own technique and tools and style.

Q: After Philadelphia you returned to Washington State – why?

A: I learned I wasn’t a city girl. I missed the out-of-doors, the mountains and ocean and fresh air. And it would be another challenge to make an art career work outside major art centers like New York or L.A.

Q: I’m told that you do more than paint – that you make some of your own clothes and jewelry.

A: To me, being an artist means being creative in every way in everything I do. Some say an artist should always look at the world with open eyes and an inventive mind – and never turn away from an opportunity to express one’s imagination. And I agree.