William D. Berry, Wildlife Artist

This page is devoted to one of my favorite wildlife artists, William D. Berry. It sometimes seems like I am the only person who even knows he existed, but every rare now and then I actually meet another person who knows this artist. In fact, at a Jackson Hole Artist's Workshop back in 1997, someone was leafing through my sketchbook and told me," You know, you probably don't know who this is, but your work reminds me a little of William D. Berry's work." Gasp! That was a compliment of the highest order!:) Yet so few know of this amazing artist's work- everything he drew looked like he'd spent years just studying and getting to know that one subject! His grasp of anatomy and movement was second to none.

I've spent years trying to find out anything about him- I only knew him through the illustrations he did in some of the used books I've picked up through the years. Recently, however, I came across a book on ebay and snatched it up- it was "William D. Berry- 1954-1956 Alaskan Field Sketches". It had a small biography and I was finally able to learn a little about this man. Here, now, is a short biography and a collection of his sketches and illustrations from various books I own. Enjoy!


William D. Berry was born on May 20, 1926, in San Mateo, California. His family soon moved to Arizona, where they lived for seven years. He spent countless hours outside studying everything that moved, reading animal books, and watching Disney films. He kept several small critters in his room and begn drawing animals as soon as he could hold a pencil. He completed his first book- on slugs- when he was five! As time went on, he became more known to the public. He wanted to work for Disney and even went to the Art Center in Los Angeles in 1943, but World War 2 intervened. He served his last military year as a cartoonist for "Stars and Stripes". When he returned to civilian life, he attended the School of Allied Arts in Glendale, CA. However, most of his knowledge came from hours spent at the Los Angeles County MUseum, where he drew skeletons and studied the structure of dozens of birds and mammals. He ended up illustrating a book for them, entitled "Birds of Southern California", by George Wollett. Over the years, Berry worked as a Curator of Science at the California Junior Museum in Sacramento and did numerous commissions, ranging from paintings to illustrations to murals. Invited to visit Alaska, Berry and his wife, Elizabeth, eagerly accepted. Alaska soon had a hold on them that appently never let go. Elizabeth Berry recalls in the book about a time in Denali National Park when their jeep got stuck. "....The guest was a different kind of person, to say the least, and while he made angels in the snow and praised the ancient gods for letting us experience this magnificent country, we were busy using the garbage can lids as shovels. We finally extricated the jeep and started back to Camp Denali when Bill yelled at us to stop and took his turn at praising the gods- actually a whole line of exuberant profanity. Then my eye caught what he had seen- several black dots that resolved themselves into wolves. It was a family of eight black wolves, the first wolves we had seen in three summers at Camp Denali. The scene is etched permenantly in my memory, and I love looking at the sketch Bill did of the place and the moment. He worked a couple of days on that one sketch, aiming to capture exactly how the scene looked. Our guest was sure that it was his praising the gods and our getting stuck that brought such a good omen."

After the years spent in Alaska, Bill and his wife returned to California for a time, where their first son, Mark, was born in 1959. Bill finally worked at Disneyland! Then it was off to Denver, Colorado where he worked on a diorama for the Denver Museum of Natural History. The Berry family returned to Alaska in 1961, where a second son, Paul, was born in 1962. They lived at Deneki Lakes until 1965, when they moved to Fairbanks. Bill taught drawing classes at the Tanana Valley Community College and was working on a mural for the children's book room of the Noel Wien Library in Fairbanks at the time of his death in 1979. The children's room was renamed the Berry Room in Bill's honor.

It seems that if anyone remembers him, it would be people in Alaska- he seems to be held in high esteem there. (I've never been to Alaska *sigh*, so I wouldn't know.) Outside Alaska, he seems to have been largely forgotten- a fate he doesn't deserve. This is my attempt to let people see his work and remember a great wildlife artist- and, it would seem by all accounts, a good man.

The pictures!

Sketches from the Alaskan Field Sketches book.

Here's the aforementioned wolf sketch.

Here's another (color)wolf sketch of a captive pup.

Here's a color study of a (dead) lynx.

Fox sketches

Snowshoe hare sketches.

King Eider and others in color.

Beaver sketches.

A battle between a wolf and caribou.

Various (ravens, flicker, etc.)bird sketches.

Bear sketches.

Illustrations from other books

Deneki: Mother moose and the bear.

Deneki: A landscape pic with grouse- I love this one!.

Deneki: Deneki and his mom.

Buffalo Land: Scenic shot of buffalo moving through a prarie dog town.

Buffalo Land: Coyotes!!!!!A sequence of scavengers- wolves, coyotes, and ravens.

Mammals of SFBay Area: Blacktail deer doe and fawns.


Books I have:

Berry, William D.(1965): Deneki- An Alaskan Moose

Berry, William D.(1961): Buffalo Land

(University of Alaska Press, 1989) Compiled with Commentary by Elizabeth Berry: William D. Berry- 1954-1956 Alaskan Field Sketches

Berry, William D. and Elizabeth : Mammals of the San Francisco Bay Area

(Awani Press, 1955): Animal Friends of the Sierra

Pruitt, William O.(1966): Animals of the North

Books I Do Not Have:

Wollet, George: Birds of Southern California

Brown, Vinson (1958): How to Understand Animal Talk

McLaughlin, Charles A.(1959): Mammals of Los Angeles County

(Awani Press, 1957): Animal Friends of the Northwest.

Wong, Herbert H.(1960): Ducks, Geese, and Swans

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