Academy of Art College

photo: John Hazeltine, 1999

San Francisco, CA

1-800-544-ARTS or 415-274-2200


Bill Maughan, Director of the Fine Art and Illustration Graduate Programs at San Francisco's Academy of Art College

by Stephanie Humphrey, December, 1999


When asked what brought him to the Academy of Art College in San Francisco ten years ago, Maughan responded, "Richard Stephens, president and owner of the college asked me, 'What school would you send your children to if they wanted to become traditional painters like yourself?' This was an interesting question considering I was in my sixteenth year of teaching various painting and illustration classes at another college at the time. The program was not a traditional one and I honestly could not think of a single school that taught the art of still life, landscape and figure painting."

Maughan said his response was, "There isn't one; I would teach them all I knew and then have them study with other artists I respect."

When Stephens asked Maughan if he would bring those artists together under one roof and develop a traditional program like no other, he accepted the challenge. He and a fellow colleague, the figurative painter Craig Nelson, developed the fine art program at the Academy. Maughan and Nelson were co-directors of the Fine Art Department until Maughan, seeing the need to provide students a stronger foundation, developed the Foundations Department in 1994, with professional artists teaching foundation drawing and painting classes. His responsibilities as teacher and administrator have included developing curriculum, creating course content, interviewing, selecting and training instructors in method and theory, reviewing student portfolios, advising undergraduate and graduate students, as well as developing and overseeing the department budget. Nelson continued to run the Fine Art Department and still does today.

Drawing from plastic casts, discerning the distinct differences between form and cast shadows to describe structure, principles of atmospheric perspective and value pattern; learning to mix from the six tertiary colors rather than the three primaries to produce harmony through analogous color relationships, are the fundamental skills Maughan has passed on to students over the years. Courses he has taught at AAC include Analysis of Form; Color and Design; Figure, Advanced Figure, Heads and Hands, and Advanced Head drawing classes; Pastel, Portrait and Landscape painting classes; Book Illustration and Advanced Portfolio Preparation.

The Fine Art Department now has over 40 classes with 60 sections and about 30 instructors, with three concentrations, including painting and drawing, printmaking and sculpture. The Foundations Department now has about 40 instructors that teach over 80 sections of six foundation classes.

Under Maughan, the Academy teaches students the fundamentals: realism-based drawing, design concepts, value, form, color and composition; they are then encouraged to develop a unique style and direction. Award-winning faculty who are practicing professionals are hired by Maughan to successfully prepare students for careers as artists.

This past semester, Maughan relinquished his duties as director of the Foundation Department to direct and continue his mission with the Fine Art Painting and Illustration Graduate School programs at the Academy.

When asked what personal benefits he derives from teaching at the Academy, Maughan responded, "my greatest accomplishment as an artist, when my life in mortality comes to an end, will be measured by the lives I have influenced for good and that I was instrumental in developing this great talent of art within so many." He added that his own work has matured as a result of his teaching, "Every teacher will admit the teacher learns more than the student as he or she explains why and how."

An asset to the Academy and its students because of his success as a professional illustrator and fine artist, Maughan has managed to both teach and have a successful career. "None of the instructors are teachers only," Maughan pointed out. "I recommend to all instructors that they give only part time to the Academy to allow the time necessary to pursue their careers, as I have done."

Maughan said being only steps away from the Maxwell gallery on Sutter Street, one of several galleries that represents his work, has been a wonderful experience. Gallery owners Colleen and Mark Hoffman have graciously allowed him to bring classes into the gallery so that he may lecture on works by Plein Air painters William Wendt, Edgar Payne, Guy Rose and Granville Redmond. "What a blessing it has been to teach from originals rather than books or prints," Maughan added.

Born in Long Beach in 1946, Maughan received a BFA in Illustration from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena in 1973, graduating with distinction. He gives credit to his college instructor Lorser Feitelson, leader of the California Post-Surrealist movement, for teaching him how to draw in the tradition of the old masters. His love of color and form was nurtured early in his life by his grandfather, who he remembers fondly as a colorist with superb penmanship.

After graduating from college, Maughan was chosen to work with some of New York's most accomplished illustrators. This was a highly active period of study and skill application. In the late 1970's, the versatile illustrator moved back to southern California and over the years has provided numerous illustrations for such companies as Woman's Day, TV Guide, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, CBS, Universal Studios, Wells Fargo Bank, Chevrolet, GMC, Franklin Library, New American Library, Avon Books, Pinnacle Books, Signet Books, Tor Books, Doubleday, Harcourt Brace, Knopf, Oxford University Press, Danbury Mint, Fenwick and others.

Western fine art became Maughan's focus after a trip to Sedona in 1981. Influenced by the power of drawing by Western artist Don Crowley, Maughan began painting Western motifs, a concentration that continued into the early 1990's.

Maughan had established himself as a widely sought-after illustrator and painter of Western scenes when a new painter's vision was born after seeing Monet's "Waterlily" during a trip to the Marmottan Museum in Paris in 1992. After spending hours analyzing the magic, magnetic color fields of Monet's palette, Maughan's whole theory of color changed. He then developed his own color theory based on an analogous split-complementary color scheme which asks for mixing of secondary from tertiary colors, allowing the tertiaries to dominate the field. He also began to work with pastels, a medium he feels comes naturally to him since it allows for a spontaneous approach to the palette. A challenge Maughan faced with his new focus of impressionism in oil and pastel however, was to translate the richness of pastel to his oil paintings.

This new vision and artistic interpretation of a purely painterly approach marked a turning point for Maughan, which continues today and has been handed down to the hundreds of students passing through various programs at AAC. Regardless of students' concentrations, whether it be fine art, illustration, motion pictures & video, computer arts, interior architecture & design, sculpture, fashion, 2D & 3D animation, photography, advertising, graphic design or industrial design, they must first learn the foundations.

Maughan's fine art can be found at the Maxwell Gallery in San Francisco, the Garden Gallery in Half Moon Bay, the Gallery Americana in Carmel and the May Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is represented in the field of illustration by Mendola Artist Representatives in New York City. For gallery inquiries, contact the artist at For illustrations, contact

When he's not teaching at the Academy, Maughan paints in the vineyards of Napa Valley, where he lives with his wife, Susan, and their seven children.


11/6/06 Editor's note: Since the above article was published the institution has changed its name to Academy of Art University.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 11/26/10

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 1999 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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