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.
Werner's painting, "The Old Man on the Motorcycle" was used in an advertising campaign for Carolina Freight. The company distributed 20,000 copies.
Werner uses color and the play of light to capture the atmospheric effects as well as the realistic representation which is so highly regarded in his historical subjects. He investigates every clue and researches every item of information necessary for his paintings to be informative and accurate. Werner is immersed in two periods of American history that hold great appeal for him-- the Southern theater of the American Revolution and the softer, gentler side of the South at the turn of the century.
This same quality is reflected in his paintings of nature. Werner relaxes from the rigorous demands of his historical subjects by expressing his love of nature with landscape, animal, and floral paintings. He is refreshed by sometimes painting in the style of the Impressionists. Whether bringing a historic milestone to life, or simply creating a beautiful moment in time, Werner weaves a rich tapestry of information and emotion with his art.