Think Beastmaster: strong men wielding swords, animal skins on warrior princesses. This is not the art you hang on your walls because it goes nicely with your wallpaper, Walt’s style speaks of strength, passion and protection in an unforgiving world.
Walt Bayless is an artist with a bold and ephemeral style. His paintings are full of action and emotion. Walt says, “Every painting is like a self portrait, a fitting description because Walt is a real life martial arts warrior.
Bayless can’t remember a time when he didn’t have an interest in art. He can clearly remember drawing at age four. He drew monsters and dinosaurs and says, “They meant so much to me. I felt like I was creating a little friend.” He went on to say it was like using another language or another way to express himself and a way to get approval.
A self-taught artist who, “likes putting people and animals in motion,” he tried art classes, but to him, they seemed pointless. Teachers would assign a subject to draw and then just walk around the room observing. He decided early on that you could either talk about something or do it. That is not to say he didn’t have any influential teachers or role models.
He remembers a teacher who was an encouraging influence. One day during class, his history teacher spied one of Walt’s creations while conducting his lecture, slamming his hand down on Walt’s desk he exclaimed, “Yes!” That simple and abrupt validation from a teacher he admired encouraged him to keep developing as an artist.
Since he wasn’t enamored with art classes, Walt looked to his favorite painters for inspiration and technique. He admires Frank Frazetta, whose work features strong scantily clad warrior women beside roaring saber tooth tigers, influence visible in Walt’s work. He also likes Hal Foster as well as other fantasy and comic artists.
He studied the old masters on his own, their style and application. He was particularly drawn to Giovanni Tieplo, whose work features Biblical scenes in a regal and somewhat mythical presentation. He asked himself, “How do I get my stuff to look like theirs and then keep going until it gets better.” The answer came in the form of dedication, self study and inspiration.
Walt went through a time when he stopped painting. He feels his art started to reflect the personal turmoil in his life. He says, “There was a time when I was surrounded by people who wanted to monetize my life. My art became commercial based rather than art based. When I shed the bad elements in my life, the art came back because I was happy.” During that time he had a gallery exhibit of some of his wildlife paintings. He was so unhappy with his work he says, “I wanted to feed myself to the animals in the pictures.”
When the problems in his life resolved he picked up his paintbrushes again.
Walt decided the best way to enjoy his art was to keep it in the realm of his life of pure passion and artistic liberty. He did this by deciding to no longer sell his pieces in galleries nor accept commissions for fantasy books. Now Walt’s art is purely for “self-fulfilment and happiness.” He shares his work through social media with friends and family.
Walt works in pencil, charcoal, pen, ink, acrylic and oil, but right now he really loves working in watercolors. He says, “Watercolors allow me to be abstract and subjective at the same time. It is not natural to see things as a camera does.”
He is also a martial artist and developed a system of jiu jitsu called Walt Bayless Combat Jiu Jitsu. Along with his desire to return to painting he realized a desire to return to
teaching martial arts.
He is an amazing natural athlete and those who have studied under him are devoted. Many still keep the shirts with logos he designed from 20 years ago and hang on to the set of VHS tapes he made to demonstrate his techniques and philosophy. Walt believes that is it all about connection, whether in painting or training. He says, “People long for perfection. You can see a picture or visualize a move and it makes you think it could happen. It’s about making a door to walk through.”
When asked which painting is his favorite he decides it is one called, “Stand Against the Demons”. It symbolizes the fight in his life to get where he is today. He also says, “The paintings that are important are the ones I haven’t done yet.”
Walt posts many of his paintings on his website, www.waltbayless.com.