William C Harrison

William C Harrison


William C. Harrison Cityscapes capture excitement in Black and White capturing the full impact of a scene.
Working in black and white is generally thought of as a photographic skill, William C. Harrison of Portland, Maine had made his reputation doing it with pen and ink. His use of fine lines and dots textures produces intensities of light and shadow which gives the distinct impression of color on color. This ability is used with great effect in Harrison’s panoramic sky cityscapes. Each drawing took up to 200 hours to complete, though Harrison says, “I’m really working all the time.”

Harrison, or “bil” as he sometimes signs his name, was born in Chesapeake, Virginia, in 1944. He had been a commercial success since the age of three when his grandfather paid him 25 cents an hour to draw anything he wanted to, just so long as he drew something. This led eventually to six years of formal art training in oil, acrylic, watercolor, and pen and ink. His closely rendered style is largely self-taught, however, and developed out from his 10 years of experience. “No matter what I’m doing, I’m always looking for that perfect view, the right light, the important detail. You could say that each drawing took all my life to do,” he says.

After he decided to do a particular scene, Harrison would spend hours choosing just the right angle. “Every town has a vantage point from which you can see its whole personality. That’s what I look for,” he said. He worked from photographs, and would take up to 150 color shots in order to find that one “just right” view.

Why color photography and not black and white? Because Harrison achieved a dimension in his work that few others do by translating directly from color to black and white. Harrison had a photographic eye and worked in meticulous detail, leaving nothing out. “It’s the opposite of impressionism,” he said, “I try to capture what the eye sees.”

His work has appeared nationally in such publications as Better Homes and Gardens, The New Yorker, Field and Stream, and Wooden Boat. His technical understanding of printing led him to adapt his technique so prints of his work reproduce like the originals.

Prints of Harrison’s Cityscapes are signed, limited editions, and his originals are in demand. Some limited edition prints have sold out, and are now sought by collectors. He was determined to do at least one cityscape in each of the 50 States. Then he wanted to do the capital cities of Europe. And then? He would grin out through his beard, “And then, there’s always the rest of the world.”

We lost Bil over Labor Day weekend, 2016. He will be sorely missed.

Hardcover Art Book: A Collection of

Portland Maine

Cityscape Gallery