Dennis Paul Williams might seem different to those who first meet him, and that’s not a bad thing. Williams is a gifted artist and musician. His inspirational and spiritual works of art are directly representative of his upbringing in the creole communities of southern Louisiana.
Every culture in the world has representatives who express unique facets of its people and beliefs through art forms. For the creole communities of southern Louisiana in the United States, Dennis Paul Williams is one of those representatives. A gifted painter, Williams uses his medium to express an immense energy and deep spirituality in a way that few other artists can capture.
Born into a Gifted Family
Williams was born in St. Martinville, Louisiana on 10th August 1959 as the middle child of sorts in a family that included 10 children. From a very young age he used to collect both pencils and crayons given to him, many from his father. He displayed a natural talent for creative drawing from early on, and faced hardships along the way as well.
He was raised predominantly by his mother and grandmother after the death of his father, at the age of only 38 years. It was at this point his mother and grandmother, along with his oldest brother, took a guiding role in the life of Williams, his older siblings, and his three younger brothers. As a 10-year-old child, when his father died, Williams struggled with educational tasks and felt as though he was on the fringes of his community. He was not able to learn like other children in the Catholic schools his siblings attended or the public schools in the area.
Despite those struggles, he was always happy to turn to his drawing as an outlet for his creativity and the opportunity to express himself. His early inspirations came from saying prayers and doing his rosary each day following his father’s death. Over the years, his inspiration has played out over the pages of countless notebooks, many of which he still has stacked in his home to this day.
Inspiration for his Art
If you ask Williams a simple question about the source of his inspiration and just move on, you’ll only hear half the tale. He admits that his Catholic upbringing played a significant role in the development of his skills and his artistic leanings. Give him time to fully answer the question, and you’ll see the depth that makes him the artist he is:
“Well, (my inspiration) comes from my Catholic upbringing, my spiritual upbringing. It’s not too much about religion, it’s about spirituality. Most of my work involves the imagery that’s positive and they’re Madonna figures because I guess my mother brought us up on her own”.
The process of transforming those ideas, those concepts, from a thought or image in his head to something tangible on a piece of paper or canvas is a complex one at times for Williams. He admits to being compulsive about his works. He takes his time to study an image, the corners, its space, and edit things to narrow them down to the lines, spaces, and textures that fit the slide-show of images in his mind.
While his works are often classified as spiritual and religious, Williams would contend that his works merely have an underlying theme of enlightenment and consciousness that happen to align with spirituality in the modern world:
“I can tell you they have the same type of sentiment because there’s an undercurrent that I’m always trying to deal with. The idea is to stay focused and that’s what spirituality is, no repetition, but that you continue to experience a newness of the same. In other words, it’s a moment every moment, and it’s an epiphany, enlightenment”.
An Artist in Many Media
Williams is not just a well-known painter, but also a musician who performs in the family business. He doubles up as a guitarist in the family’s zydeco band, Nathan Williams and the Zydeco Cha-Chas. His journey to becoming a guitarist almost became a life-altering path that took him away from art, but instead became an opportunity to express himself in other ways.
As a middle-school student, his art career was nearly derailed by a teacher who didn’t believe in his talent. However, while working at a print shop in high school he taught himself to play the guitar courtesy of an inspirational co-worker. One of the men working at the print shop would practice as Williams swept the floors of the shop. When Williams came in to work one day with a different temperament, his co-worker noticed and surprised him with a guitar of his own.
Williams taught himself to play the guitar, and can even read sheet music a little bit as well. Starting in the 1980s he began playing more, joining the Zydeco Cha-Chas and performing alongside his family members.
Visions for the Future
Williams has sold numerous paintings throughout his career, and hosted exhibits in places like New York, California, Atlanta, and Florida in the US. At this point in time though, he has larger goals for his career. He isn’t working on small exhibits or individual paintings at this moment. Instead, he is focusing on his goal of putting together a large exhibition:
“What I’ve been trying to do is finish these big old pieces and I do not want to invest any time in trying to show painting until I really complete them. I want to do 50 large ones. I’m ready for a museum kind of thing. I’m ready for a big space”.
Williams is proud of his work, as well he should be. He stands out from the crowd with inspirational artworks, each of which has its own story, and each of which is a bit like a prayer: coming straight from the heart.