Will Cloughley “The Artist”

At my drawing desk on Potrero Hill


Will Cloughley is a San Francisco-based artist and writer whose work includes essays, poetry, illustrated artist’s books, mixed media drawings, and slide animation shows used in immersive media installations.  He has an MFA  in creative writing and art history from the State University of Iowa, and  presently teaches at the San Francisco Center for the Book.  His animation work has received three awards at festivals in Munich. And  in 2011 his extended Red Rock Black Sun  Book & Video project won Cloughley the honor of being chosen as one of ten Bay Area’s artistic “Masterminds” by SF Weekly.


Will Cloughley is a mixed media artist  whose oeuvre encompasses works on paper and the art of the book, as well as slide animation shows, immersive media installations and photography.

He has an MFA from the Writer’s Workshop program at the State University of Iowa and presently teaches sketchbook/journaling at the San Francisco Center for the Book.


Having been a “black book” artist since the late 1970s, he officially entered the realm  of the artist’s book in 2009 with the exhibition of his unique sculpture/book, RED ROCK, BLACK SUN, at the international Codex Book Fair in Berkeley and subsequently shown at the Donna Seager Gallery in San Rafael.  The graphic-novel-style RRBS was adapted for print and published under the Wonderella imprint.  In 2011 he produced an animated video from the book’s digital files, adding an original soundtrack and narration, which won him recognition from SF Weekly Magazine as one of ten Bay Area “Masterminds” in art.

 In 2006 Cloughley was given a major one man retrospective that included his Box Collage series, mixed media works on paper, black sketchbooks, and media shows at Gallery 276 in San Francisco.



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 Will Cloughley’s artist statement about the Atmospheres and Iterations Series of drawings

Inspired by the view from above — layers, densities and primal fluid shapes meet the hard edges of iterating fractal geometries… my abstract signature for the industrial infrastructure, the grand and ominous project of a few hundred years of western technology.  The active Earth still speaks with releases of energy that propagate like sound waves, creating beautiful new upwellings from the core of the Earth, paralleling the upwellings in the human psyche from a collective ecological unconscious. 




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One-of-a-kind hand crafted artist’s book

Will Cloughley 2011

41.2-ElectroJ-Farhat Art Museum-Will Cloughley
Item # 41–Handcrafted artist’s book by Will Cloughley. 2011 Title: ELECTRO JUNGLE. Materials: Orange plastic, aluminum and brass fittings, paper, photography and printed text. Size: 7 1/2“x 7 1/2” x 1 1/8“ closed.
41-ElectroJ-Farhat Art Museum-Will Cloughley
Item # 41–Handcrafted artist’s book, “ELECTRO JUNGLE,” by Will Cloughley, 2011. Showing accordian structure.

This book is my humorous/serious take on the issue of electromagnetic pollution in modern urban space.  The most visible sources of this pollution are the telephone and high-voltage electrical transmission lines strung from poles throughout our cities, a hold-over from the beginnings of electrification early in the 20th Century.  I was inspired by reading Dr. Robert O. Becker’s book, Cross Currents, an early researcher who cited numerous  experiments that showed the animal body is attuned to the Earth’s electromagnetic field and insisted that the alteration of this field by technology is likely to have a strange impact.  When I was visiting a musician friend, who is also something of a science head, he said, “Listen to the sound of the fan in that computer, now listen to the hum from the fluorescent ballast box; it’s the same note.”  He  struck a key on his grand piano. “Hear it, the whole industrial infrastructure is tuned to B flat.”

 My construction utilizes a garish, glowing orange plastic for a cover, that I drilled out in a pattern to attach resistors that would spell the book’s title.  The accordion pages are attached to the cover with metal strips, countersunk screws, and adhesive.The pictures recessed into the paper are my photographs worked in Photoshop to alter the color that, like the orange plastic cover, is intended to suggest an artificial intensification of certain bands of the spectrum just like the pervasive 60 cycle hum.  The pictures are accompanied by wild little flash fictions all having to do with paranoia about the electrical environment.

Both sides of the accordion are used for picture and text.  The back cover has its own motif.


RED ROCK, BLACK SUN sculpture/artist’s book project



One-of-a-kind artist book

Conceived, written and illustrated by Will Cloughley, 2009

Collaborators:  David Dion, sculpture

Howard Munson, book binding with wooden cover

RED ROCK, BLACK SUN is a vision quest through the canyon lands of the American Southwest, a philosophical walkabout created by author and visual artist, Will Cloughley, in a format that is a cross between the illustrated story and a graphic novel. The only character in the story is the author’s doppelganger, Silhouette Man, in dialogue with the spirits of a pristine and mystical landscape that has spoken its more-than-human truths to generations of shaman, poets and painters.


Originally RRBS was created as a one-of-a-kind artist’s book designed to be enclosed in a wooden sculpture that is an abstraction of the sinuous, water-carved forms of the canyon lands.


 It was re-designed for offset publication in collaboration with Wonderella Printed in Berkeley. Subsequent to this I created an animated video from the digital files for the offset book, commissioning an original sound track and performing a voice-over of my own text.  This extended project won me the honor of being chosen as one of ten of the Bay Area’s art “Masterminds” by SF Weekly Magazine in 2011.

Here is what various readers have said about RRBS:

“A mysterious artifact, radiant with telluric intelligence.  The darkly luminous images coalesce with the rhythm of the prose to open the reader into the eroded, stratified, and sinuous topography of the deep bodymind. A glimpse into one pioneer’s ongoing exploration into what matters at this teetering moment in our species’ unfolding.”
David Abram, author of  “The Spell of the Sensuous” & founder of The Alliance for Wild Ethics

 “Edward Abbey and his Monkey Wrench Gang would love RED ROCK, BLACK SUN for its beautiful vision of  what they really were striving for!”
Lawrence Ferlinghetti – poet, painter & founder of City Lights Books

“This book took my breath away.  I could feel the chaparral organism alive under my feet, the eye of the single lizard, the flow forms of spiral desire.  More than anything, in this Black Sun I see my own peaceful death into more existence.”
Bethe Hagens, PhD – author, anthropology researcher & faculty at Goddard College & Walden University

“A masterpiece. Anyone with even the most feeble of magnetic centers will be sent spinning… an active expression of Beauty and as close an approach to Objective Art as to be found in this culture.  A piece of Real Work.”
Stephan Wells

“By dent of sheer artistry, Will Cloughley allows us access to the mystery of geologic time, the cross-cut of which shows us the strata of our own evolved, preserved and revealed consciousness in the ‘cut-out’ persona of  Silhouette Man.”
Charles MacDermed – composer, philosopher & founder of The Yosemite Road Forum

“Like the best literature, ‘Red Rock Black Sun’ is a canyon whose many charms coalesce in its depths.”
Craig Conley, author of  “Magic Words: A Dictionary”

“Will Cloughley’s drawings and writings in RED ROCK, BLACK SUN are the most comprehensive assimilation I have ever read of how a man and his environment are connected through higher vibrational states of self  study.  Cloughley is telling each of us to seek out a natural environment that will enable the kind of self examination that is only possible in reciprocity with the more than human realm.”
Vranas – painter, North Beach muralist & international teacher of The Work

“Beautiful book!  If you’re on the journey toward your authentic self, toward the place where everything interconnects, RED ROCK BLACK SUN will resonate and inform. Especially in how so much transformation happens at the edge of cognition.  If you’re not yet on the journey, this book could be your seminal inspiration, and the time could be now.”

Clive Matson, author of “Chalcedony’s Songs

42.3-Cycling-Farhat Art Museum-Will Cloughley
Item #42–CYCLING–(detail of drawing) Artist’s book by Will Cloughley–The drawing depicts the bearded philosopher on his heavy cruser, re-discovering the bicycling joys of his boyhood.
42-Cycling-Farhat Art Museum-Will Cloughley
Item #42–The CYCLING book by Will Cloughley, 2010, is an original one-of-a-kind artist’s book, featuring Will’s poem and panoramic drawing.

Title: CYCLING, 2011

hand crafted artist book by

Will Cloughley: poetry, drawing, & book block

Collaborator: Howard Munson, book cover and slip case

In this book I celebrate the physical joy of bicycling that  involves us in a rhythmically pedaled circle moving through space, while using that action as a metaphor for the many cycles that we participate in as we travel through life. I have always been fascinated with cycles in Nature, especially the cyclic concept of Time that informs  so many ancient myths.  The waxing and waning of the Moon is a cycle readily evident, yet a little mysterious, and periodically punctuated by eclipse.


Abstract design motifs are carried through every element of the book from the artwork inside to the book’s cover and slipcase.

The book begins with my poem, CYCLING:

Cycles, we insist

have a destination.

Our feet,

one after the other

are taking us somewhere.

To that end

left and right are ingeniously

hurried into a circle.

Pedaling, all over town.

going,  returning

going,  returning

While all over the sky

streaming clouds vanish

to secret places.

October sings

the octave of light

a note lower  and

the moon,

Queen of cycles,

turns red with eclipse.


An ingenious positioning button guides the hand symbolically to the axis of the motion cycle.  Mounted on the inside cover, the button fits through a hole on the outside cover.

Book construction permits the panoramic drawing to be displayed like a shoji screen. The drawing by Will Cloughley is executed in graphite, Prismacolor and ink on 100% Lenox rag paper.

As he travels toward the Queen of Cycles, there is a moving center to his mantra of exertion.


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