Werner Willis was born Werner Karl Heinz Beutel in Karlsdorf, a village near Vienna, in 1940. When he was eight, his mother remarried an American airman during the allied occupation of Austria. His new stepfather recognized Werner’s artistic ability and provided him with lessons from a Munich master who taught the exacting, disciplined principles of drawing and painting. These techniques are very apparent in all of his work.
Werner operated a commercial art studio in Charlotte, North Carolina for fifteen years. Some of his clientele were Coca-Cola, Hearst Corporation, Curtis Publishing Company (Saturday Evening Post), and Western Publishing Company that hired him to illustrate the “Benji” books.
It was an illustration for the Carolina Freight Trucking Company that altered his career from commercial to fine art. Norman Rockwell had declined a commission to do the company’s annual report cover, so they hired Werner to duplicate his famous style. The painting was so well received nationally that it precipitated the career change.
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