As an artist, I choose to use the name Guillermo Willie. It is a combination of the name my mother and father chose for me, and what my first grade teacher preferred to call me because she couldn't pronounce Guillermo.

I have been an artist ever since I can remember. My very first drawing was of the cow on the can of Pet Evaporated Milk, before ever I went to school. Years later, in high school, I showed my teacher the drawing I did of "a muscle man" striking a pose. The teacher chuckled and shook his head, asking what was the matter with me? Why was I drawing a picture of a naked man--- didn't I like women? I didn't know what to think. But I stopped drawing.
Several years later I found myself trying to draw tattoo patterns, while in the county jail, and couldn't. (My life had taken a drastic turn and I found myself in and out of jails, Youth Authority, and prison. I was not a good human being for quite a long period of time.) I had literally forgotten that I could draw. I kept at it through the years and little by little it started coming back to me.

 

                  The below images are part of my "Birthing Man"series, the

                      struggle of man looking within, in search of his higher self...

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There came a point in my life when I began to question myself. Some very serious soul searching took place. I looked closely at how I was treating others, myself, as well as what I was doing with my life. Choices and decisions were made that changed the course of my life drastically and helped me to become a much better person than I had been for many years. (Interestingly, this is the same period in time when creativity began to flow out of me, when I found I could draw without needing to copy from pictures.) I had remembered that I am an artist, and a human being with responsibility to all that is around me --- and that is where I am now.

I continue to grow, to learn, to consider others, and I no longer forget that I am an artist. Now I paint and draw my heart.

 

I learned to paint while in prison, participating in drawing, writing, and painting classes sponsored by The William James Association's Prison Arts Project, via Arts In Corrections. I received so much from this program that to this day I continue to support them and give back however best I am able to. (View Prison Arts Project on facebook.)

I am also an actor with Poetic Justice Project, "unlocking hearts and minds with bold, original theater." Poetic Justice Project advances social justice by engaging formerly incarcerated people in the creation of original theatre that examines crime, punishment and redemption. (Check us out on facebook.)

 

I have found, throughout my own personal journey,  that ART has been one of the key factors that has led me to freedom, inside and out.