Skip to content

Reese Papers

William F. Reese Papers

William F. Reese Papers, 1973-1992
4.2 cubic feet (8 archives boxes, 2 oversized folders)
Location: 0018; 0020; 0022; 0024; Flat File 2/Drawer 4
Collection #: 059
Accession #: 2002.214


The papers and photographs of William F. Reese a contemporary post-impressionist artist and art instructor whose work embraces landscape, portrait, still life, animals and wildlife, and scenes of the contemporary west. This collection covers a relatively narrow slice of Reese’s career, with the bulk of the collection dating from the 1980s. Most of the collection documents the writing, design, and production of the 1984 Mary Balcomb book William F. Reese, which was published by Reese’s own company, Blue Raven Publishing. All aspects of the book are covered from the earliest drafts through final publication. Post-publication marketing and sales are also documented. The painting workshops conducted by Reese during the 1980s are another major focus of the collection. Correspondence with workshop participants provides insight into Reese’s abilities as an art instructor and his philosophy of art and art education. The collection also includes general correspondence primarily focusing on Reese’s art and his art-related activities. Correspondents include artists Clyde Aspevig, Mel Fillerup, Ramon Kelly, Ben Stahl, and Hollis Williford. Other collection material includes some scattered financial records and publicity news clippings. The bulk of the photographs in the collection are from the William F. Reese book project. Included are virtually all the photographs from the book, many with crop marks and other notations, as well as 4 x 5 transparencies of the Reese paintings featured in the book.


William F. Reese was born in Pierre, South Dakota on July 10, 1938, the eldest of five children. His family moved to Seattle, Washington when he was two-years old and later to an apple ranch in Central Washington. Growing up in rural Washington he was exposed to horses and cattle, which instilled a lifelong appreciation and love of animals that is evident in much of his work. Bill started drawing when he was three or four-years old. The Charles Lederer book Drawing Made Easy, given to him by his grandmother, served as his first exposure to art instruction. At thirteen his parents gave him a set of artist’s oil paints to further explore his burgeoning interest in art.

After high school Reese was briefly enrolled in the art program at Washington State University. He later worked on a dam construction project near Wenatchee, Washington, and, after a short time as a sign painter in Los Angeles, California, he worked as a sign painter in Eugene, Oregon. At this point he married his wife Frances, whom he met while working in Wenatchee. The couple would have two children, Dean and Shelly. Later they moved back to Los Angeles, where he worked at sign painting during the day and fine art painting at night. During this period he became very proficient in sign painting and attended a class in pictorial painting at Los Angeles Trade Tech. The new degree of self-expression that was possible in pictorial sign painting further whetted his appetite to fully express his art, which led to his enrollment at the Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles.

A decade of sign painting by day and easel painting by night had passed, the Reese family had moved back to the Seattle area, and Reese decided that a career in painting, rather than just sign painting, was what he desired. Fran and Bill started to save a nest egg so he could paint full-time in an attempt to make fine art painting his career. The majority of the nest egg had been saved over a two-year period when, in 1970, near tragedy struck. Reese sustained a ruptured appendix that developed into peritonitis and almost ended his life. This experience changed his outlook on life and he resolved to begin fine art painting full-time as soon as he recovered from his illness, only taking outside work when the money ran out. At this time Reese also developed a friendship with Gene Lynn, a Washington contracting entrepreneur whom he met through his father. Purchases and commissions from Lynn helped Reese through some lean years, although Reese and his wife turned down an offer by Lynn to become Reese’s art patron and support him full-time. Fran assumed the important role of business manager, and her activities in that capacity are well documented in the collection.

In the years since his decision to pursue art as his career Reese has developed into a widely respected artist. He works mostly in oil, but also in watercolor, pastel, sculpture, drawing, etching, and lithography. Reese terms his work as “post impressionist with a touch of expressionism.” He works from live models and in the field, rather than from photographs, relying heavily on personal observation. Reese had his first major exhibition at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle in 1972. His work has since been shown throughout the United States and abroad, including the first exhibition of contemporary western art to be shown in China since it reopened to the West. Reese has had numerous one-man shows and has earned many awards for his work. He has been involved in art education through workshops and demonstrations, which is documented in the collection. Reese’s work has been featured in numerous published articles and in an award winning 1984 book written by Mary Balcomb in collaboration with Reese. The publication of this book was made possible, in part, by the financial backing of Gene Lynn, and its writing, design, and publication is well documented in the collection. After painting in the Seattle area for many years, in 1994 Reese restored an historic building in Wenatchee for his gallery and studio where he continues to paint and sculpt.

Scope & Content Note

The papers of William F. Reese are arranged in five series, Blue Raven Publishing, General Correspondence, Painting Workshops, Subject Files, and Photographs.

Series 1: Blue Raven Publishing (1978-1989)
This is the largest series in the collection and primarily concerns the writing, design, and publication of the William F. Reese book by Mary Balcomb. All aspects of the book’s production are covered including Reese’s extensive handwritten drafts of his artistic philosophy and other opinions about art for the Artist’s Notes section of the book, which is perhaps the most interesting material in the collection; working drafts of the manuscript with notes, changes, and corrections; design prototypes for the cloth cover, dust jacket, section titles, and the book itself including a final pre-publication mock-up of the entire book; the selection of a printer and the printing process; contracts with writer Mary Balcomb, book designer Amie Balcomb, and entrepreneur Gene Lynn, who loaned Reese the money to publish the book (to be repaid out of sales profits); and correspondence, including extensive correspondence with writer Mary Balcomb touching on many aspects of the book and its publication. Other aspects of book publication covered in the collection include marketing the book through the placement of advertising, the solicitation of consideration for a variety of book awards, sending books for review, direct mail marketing through flyers and book review reprints, and invitations to book signing events. Bookstore sales of the book are documented by a number of invoices, while several receipt books and a cashbook show sales directly to individuals.

The Balcomb book was published by Reese’s own company under the name Blue Raven Publishing, and so many technical aspects of publishing a book are included such as securing a copyright, an International Standard Book Number, and a Library of Congress catalog number. Several aspects related to setting up Blue Raven Publishing are also covered including the design and registration of the Blue Raven logo and trademark. In addition to the extensive material on the publication of the William F. Reese book, the collection has some additional Blue Raven material such as scattered financial records, material on Reese’s efforts to market his equestrian themed etchings to “horse people,” and a venture to use several of Reese’s paintings as the decoration for “wearable art” shirts.

Series 2: General Correspondence (1973-1991)
This series is primarily concerned with Reese and his art-related activities. Correspondents include Clyde Aspevig, Mel Fillerup, Mrs. Wilson Hurley, Ramon Kelly, actor George Montgomery, Ben Stahl, and Hollis Williford. Topics include positive comments about the William F. Reese book, compliments from persons who own or would like to own Reese’s artwork, artist and gallery friends discussing the business of art including compensation and the problems of producing work for which there is no prearranged buyer, gallery and museum correspondence about receiving or returning Reese’s work, requests to do workshops and demonstrations, and appreciative comments about help and critiques given by Reese. Among the most interesting correspondence are letters from Mexican friend Alberto Rodriguez in which he talks about illegally immigrating to the United States; a letter in which Reese critiques the work of Washington artist Clayton Rippey and Rippey’s response, which is both appreciative and defensive; several letters about Reese’s attempts to obtain payment from a gallery that apparently sold one of his paintings and then bounced Reese’s check; a letter from artist Ben Stahl in which he makes a pointed comment about western artist Olaf Wieghorst; and a letter from Oklahoma City businessman Allen Coles that relates positive comments about Reese from guests at a party attended by Reese.

Series 3: Painting Workshops (1982-1991)
This series consists of material about a series of painting workshops conducted by Reese in the 1980s in Washington State, Jackson, Wyoming, Scottsdale, Arizona, and other locations. The material is of two types, correspondence from persons interested in attending the workshops and documents relating to the administration of the workshops. Although much of this correspondence is quite repetitive, there are also a number of letters that give insight into Reese’s abilities as an art instructor. A number of letters thank Reese for how much was learned during past workshops and how much his insights are appreciated, including those that favorably compare the quality of Reese’s workshops with other workshops attended in the past. Some letters thank Reese for helping them find their own artistic vision, while others discuss painting theory. The workshop participants seem to be both “weekend painters” and more accomplished artists who have achieved a certain degree of success. Workshop administrative files include class rosters, financial records, workshop information sheets prepared by Reese for his prospective students, some documentation about marketing the workshops through advertising, and a variety of mailing lists and slips of paper containing contact information for potential future workshop participants.

Series 4: Subject Files (1975-1992)
This series comprises a small amount of subject specific material collected by Reese. Included are a number of exhibition invitations and programs featuring Reese and others; financial records, including his painters union withdrawal card (dated 1975) and some property insurance records; several art-related newsletters; some scattered notes about the sale of art and other topics; publicity news clippings about Reese; early drafts and correspondence related to Art West and Southwest Art articles on Reese; and two draftsman-like sketches of a chuck wagon that may have been drawn by Reese.

Series 5: Photographs
This is a small series mostly documenting the William F. Reese book. Included are the majority of the photographs and artwork images featured in the book, either as print, negative, or 4 x 5 transparency. Many of the prints have crop marks and other notations for the printers. The artwork transparencies are enclosed in Mylar sleeves with notations about the painting title, size, media, size in the finished book, and the page on which the image appears. There are also some notations about the quality of the transparency and several of the images appear in multiple versions of varying quality. Additional transparencies of Reese paintings that do not appear in the book are also part of the collection. A small number of photographs that originally accompanied correspondence are also included, with the source noted on the separation sheets.

Subject Terms

Personal Names:
Balcomb, Mary N.
Fillerup, Mel
Reese, Frances
Reese, William F., 1938-
Stahl, Ben, 1910-1987
Williford, Hollis

Corporate Names:
Blue Raven Publishing

Subject Headings:
Art education-Washington
Art education-Wyoming-Jackson
Artists-Exhibitionsv Artists-Washington-Seattle
Book illustrations
Commercial art galleries
Pastels (Visual works)
Publishing industry-Washington-Bellevue
Sales promotion

Processing Information

The William F. Reese Papers was processed by Jonathan Nelson in late 2002 and early 2003. When the collection material arrived it was loosely arranged into four series, general correspondence, Blue Raven Publishing and the William F. Reese book, painting workshops, and some miscellaneous subject specific material. This original arrangement has been substantially retained, although photographs have been extracted to their own series and other aspects of the arrangement have been refined to make the collection easier to use.

Preferred Citation

William F. Reese Papers, Box ##, Folder ##, Dickinson Research Center, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Container List

Series 1: Blue Raven Publishing

Box/Folder # Folder Title/Description
Art Book Sales
001/001 Art book sources, 1984-1986, n.d.
001/002 Book catalog, n.d.
001/003 COSMEP Newsletters, 1985-1986
001/004 Financial Records, 1982-1985
Other Ventures
001/005 Equestrian art, Etchings, n.d.
001/006 Equestrian art, Marketing, 1986-1987, n.d.
001/007 Wearable art shirt, 1987
William F. Reese Book
001/008 1983-1988
001/009 Mary Balcomb, 1982-1986
Design and Production
002/001 Cloth cover sample books, 1978-1983
002/002 Contracts, Paragon Press, 1983-1984
002/003 Contracts, Printing estimates, 1982-1983
002/004 Art folder, limited edition, 1983
002/005 Design prototypes, Book, 1983
002/006 Design prototypes, Book, Final mockup, 1983
003/001 Design prototypes, Cover, 1983
003/002 Design prototypes, Dust jackets, 1983
003/003 Design prototypes, Section titles, 1983
FF2/D04 Printer’s worksheets, 1983
003/004-005 Small sketches for layout, 1983
003/006 Artist’s notes, Early drafts, 1981, n.d.
003/007 Artist’s notes, Final draft, 1983
003/008 Changes and corrections, 1983
003/009 Final draft, 1983
003/010 Index and notes draft, 1983
003/011 Questionnaire, 1983
003/012 Testimonials, n.d.
003/013 Working draft, 1983
004/001 Advertising, Correspondence, 1983-1985, n.d.
004/002 Advertising, Printed advertisements, 1984-1985
004/003 Advertising, Proof sheets and camera-ready art, 1984-1989, n.d.
004/004 Book awards, Correspondence, 1984-1985, n.d.
004/005 Book awards, Lists, n.d.
004/006 Book reviews, 1984-1985, n.d.
004/007 Direct mail, 1983-1985, n.d.
004/008 Event invitations, 1984, n.d.
004/009 Cash and receipt books, 1983-1984
004/010 Invoices, 1985-1986, n.d.
Self-Publishing Activities
005/001 Contracts, Amie Balcomb, 1983
005/002 Contracts, Mary Balcomb, 1982-1983
005/003 Contracts, Gene Lynn, 1982-1989
005/004 Copyright, 1984, n.d.
005/005 International Standard Book Number, 1983-1986
005/006 Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication, 1983-1984
005/007 Logo design and registration, 1983, n.d.
005/008 Permissions, 1983-1984
FF2/D04 Permissions, Worksheets, 1983
005/009 Self-publishing checklists, 1983-1984, n.d.
005/010 Stationary, ca. 1983
005/011 Trade name registration, 1983

Series 2: General Correspondence

Box/Folder # Folder Title/Description
005/012-013 1973-1986
006/001 1987-1991, n.d.
006/002 Draft Correspondence, 1985, n.d.

Series 3: Painting Workshops

Box/Folder # Folder Title/Description
006/003-006 1982-1986
007/001-002 1987-1991, n.d.
Workshop Administration
007/003 Class rosters, 1983-1989
007/004 Financial records, 1983-1989
007/005 Information sheets, 1988-1989, n.d.
007/006 Publicity, 1986-1987
007/007 Workshop contacts and mailing lists, 1982-1991, n.d.

Series 4: Subject Files

Box/Folder # Folder Title/Description
008/001 Exhibitions and Programs, 1978-1991, n.d.
008/002 Financial Records, 1975-1992, n.d.
008/003 Newsletters, 1985-1986
008/004 Notes, 1985-1991, n.d.
008/005 Art West article, 1983
008/006 News clippings, 1978-1987, n.d.
008/007 Southwest Art article, 1985-1986
008/008 Sketches, n.d.

Series 5: Photographs

Box/Folder # Folder Title/Description
008/009 Art West article, transparencies [19]
008/010 Prints [18]
008/011 Transparencies [12]
Blue Raven Publishing
008/012 General, prints [4]
008/013 William F. Reese book, Negatives [31]
008/014 William F. Reese book, Prints [65]
008/015 William F. Reese book, Transparencies [76]
008/016 General, prints [15]
008/017 Painting workshops, prints [2]

Stay Connected

Sign up for our e-newsletter