His parents always figured he would be a starving artist, but at age 87, Bill Dula can safely say he never had to find work outside of the arts arena. His artistic talent took him all the way.
Bill started drawing at age five. Growing up in Brooklyn, NY, his first hint of success came when he was just a schoolboy. He won second prize in a contest held by Macy's to design a float for the Thanksgiving Day Parade. At age 17, gaining a job scholarship through cleaning classrooms and stacking easels, he studied at The Art Students League on 57th Street in New York City. "There were so many good people who taught and went to this school-Norman Rockwell, Dean Cornwell."
At first, Bill struggled to pick up freelance illustration assignments. However, it wasn't long before he found himself with steady work drawing covers of romance novels for Dell Publishing, Doubleday, Bantam, and Classics Illustrated. The image on the cover of Pink this month is a painted illustration Bill did years ago for one of these novels. Since, he has illustrated hundreds of book covers and television posters. One of his most favorite freelance projects was drawing the black and white images for men's adventure magazines. "They paid good money and they were quick," added Bill, showing me his work over the years.
Eventually, Bill gained employment with NBC, drawing the "heads" for The Nightly News, working along side Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, John Chancellor, and a burgeoning Tom Brokaw. "Photos weren't in color back then, so all the images shown with the news stories were drawn, usually in color pencil. That's what I did."
In 1994, after a conversation with his friend, fellow artist Joe Bowler, he decided to look into retiring to Hilton Head Island. He and his wife, Marie, looked and decided it wasn't for them. However, his sister-in-law urged them to take a look at Beaufort-they did, and it has been home ever since.
A member of the Society of Illustrators in New York, Bill still paints everyday. To look at the four walls that surround his easel in his studio is to take a trip down memory lane. They are covered from floor-to-ceiling with his works, both old and new. So how does he decide what to paint? "There are no set rules. I paint what I want to paint, the way I want to paint it. There are no art directors involved anymore." With that, he smiled, and showed me more of his work.
Bill and Marie Dula have been married for 59 years. They have five children, including a set of triplets. Bill's work can be seen at I. Pinckney Simons Gallery on Bay Street and the Art Supply Store on Port Republic Street, both in Beaufort.