Booklyn Artists Alliance

Scott Williams, San Francisco, CA


"It's like painting underwater!", Scott Williams on painting in San Francisco.

Books, exhibitions, paintings, and stencils of Scott Williams are now available from Booklyn!

Watch Your Step!, 2007
Be sure to check out Scott's lush and color saturated new collaborations:

Watch Your Step, 2007 with Dana Smith and Fred Rinne, edition of 10, airbrushed stencil on digital photography and text. One copy available.

Boston Athenaeum, MA
Biblioteque nacional du Luxembourg
Jack Ginsberg, Johannesburg, SA
Kunstbibliotek, Berlin, Germany
Library of Congress, Wash. DC
San Diego State University
Stanford University
State Museum of Berlin, Germany
University of California, Irvine



Collect Call from the Spirit World, 2006 with Dana Smith, edition of 10, airbrushed stencil on digital photography and text. Two copies available.

Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME
Chapman College, Orange, California
Kunstbibliothek, Berlin State Museum, Germany
Lafayette College, Easton, PA
Stanford University, CA
University of California Berkeley, CA
University of Connecticut, Storrs
University of Vermont, Burlington

Amerika Cup, 2006
An amazing hand painted book in an edition of ten by San Francisco cult(ural) icon and stencil artist Williams. Fred Rinne’s astounding tale of seaward psychosis stretches the San Francisco Beat poetry tradition onto a 21st Century collision of Bukowski and Philip K. Dick. Gorgeously bound by Rinne the book sports fabulous hand painted covers. Stenciled airbrushed imagery and screen printed text lushly illustrate the ‘nautical’-noir mystery of the Amerika Cup Yacht race’s relationship to the Holy Grail and John Frum’s Micronesian, pidgin speaking, anarcho-pirate cargo-cult.

Amerika Cup is in the public collections of:
Art Library of Berlin, Germany
Library of Congress
Stanford University, California
University of California, Irvine
University of California, Santa Cruz
University of Southern California, LA

Scott Williams, was chosen as the 2005 Adaline Kent Award artist by the San Francisco Art Institute Artists Committee. The award is named for SFAI alumna Adaline Kent and has been given annually to a California artist since 1959. Williams’s work involves complex layering and repetition of imagery appropriated from history and popular culture, including Communist icons, the American West, Hollywood, pulp fiction, marine life, advertising and comics.

Williams received a cash award, a solo exhibit (with catalog) at SFAI. The catalog (featuring an expansive article on Scott's work by another Booklyn artist Aaron Noble) will be available in time for a solo exhibition of Scott's work at Track 16 Gallery in Santa Monica. The Neo-Fake:Books and Paintings by San Francisco artist Scott Williams, October 15 - November 12, 2005

Scott Williams and Fred Rinne's Horses West is almost out of print with just one book left in the edition. Another astounding hand painted book in an edition of ten, its a chilling cautionary tale about the forgotten western Californian town of Chloride. Visit Horses West for images of all the pages.

Gemstone Fever, 2003, text by Fred Rinne.
An amazing hand painted book in an edition of ten by San Francisco cult(ural) icon and stencil artist Williams. Gorgeously bound by Rinne the book sports fabulous glittery hand painted covers. Stenciled airbrushed imagery and screen printed text. A ‘psychodelic’-noir mystery set in contemporary San Francisco.


See pictures of the SFAI exhibit and enormous amounts of Scotts work at The Stencil Archive

Scott (and Fred's) artwork is in the public collections of:
The Athenaeum Music and Arts Library, La Jolla, CA
The Boston Athenaeum, MA
Chapman University, Orange, CA
The Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, MA
The Library of Congress
Mills College, Oakland, CA
The Museum of Modern Art, NYC
601 Bisang Design Institute, Seoul, Korea
Scripps College, Claremont, CA
The University of California, Irvine
The University of Nevada, Reno
The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque
The University of California, Santa Barbara
The University of Southern California, LA
The Waskomium, Burlington, VT


July 27 – August 2, 2005, Vol. 39, No. 43

Sonic Reducer
by Kimberly Chun

Not easy being green

THE SAD FACT of life is art and green cookies don't always mix. I realized this at this year's Mission Creek Music Festival at the Lab, where Aquarius Records stalwart, Wire scribe, and onetime Bay Guardian columnist Jim Haynes was tag-teaming on a lengthy piece with fellow Bay Area sound artist (ext.) from behind a bed sheet. Yellow and orange lights pulsed. Textured noise induced lapping waves of paranoia. Apocalypse Now village watering hole chatter morphed into what sounded like Mos Eisley Cantina bum fights. The foldout chairs became increasingly uncomfortable. Mission Creek founder Jeff Ray closed his eyes and appeared to be lightly dozing in the seat beside me. I probably resembled Marlon Brando emerging from the jungle, peepers rolling to the back of the head and jibbering about the horror, the horror of certain sonic frequencies and maybe the South Beach Diet.

I decided to sit out the rest of the war on the step of the Lab's foyer, holding my head. But little did I realize that the swirling green and blue images around me, on the walls of the entrance, were created by another artist, who happens to be accustomed to altered states and, well, seizures. He knows all about lost time. Mission District artist Scott Williams spray-painted and stenciled those surfaces, and while he's starting to get some deserved recognition as the recipient of the San Francisco Art Institute's 2005 Adaline Kent Award (his artwork is on display at the SFAI through July 30), you've probably seen his handiwork 'round town for years: on art cars, at Clarion Alley and Artists' Television Access, on the walls of Burger Joint and the DNA Lounge, in collaboration with Rigo. That mascot on the Leather Tongue banner is his.

Williams still quietly does his part in the local activist/art community, as I learned talking to the artist a few months later, at his flat/studio, watching him offer a "reworked" real-estate sign to the organizers of a community art event put together in an effort to stop the demolition of the nearby 20th Street Quonset hut. He has firsthand experience with housing woes, being once the center of a lengthy artist eviction, which ended in '82, at the Goodman Building.

"It was fun living there – it was an artists' building," he says, remembering the place that was once home to Margo St. James and painter Margaret Senger, and where he first started working with photo-based stencils. "There were wild characters, like an old IWW hobo – he'd get free food from places, big batches of stew."

The artist is now fairly settled in a 'hood that has changed radically over the years ("Gone to hell in a handbasket," he laughs ruefully), although his flat of 16 years remains, if not the same, then an amazing work-in-process. Spray-painted scraps of text, butterflies, cowgirls, quizzical faces flit across the walls of his painting alcove. Embellishing the kitchen are chunks of drywall and metal, resurfaced with familiar icons like Mona Lisa and Geronim. If there were any bare walls, you wouldn't know it, because Williams seems to have covered all surfaces with an almost obsessive scrim of images, patterning, collage.

Despite the fact that his stencils have shown up on walls 'round town, Williams would never call himself a graf artist, though he seems to have been working on a parallel track. These days he prefers water-based paints to spray paint for health reasons – a decision that left him without an income for a few years. "I have epilepsy, and it was getting worse," he says. "So I thought I should cut back – all these warnings on the side of the can. You can't drink a quart of vodka every day while you're trying to kick the flu."

The change in media led him to work smaller, in books, and he's now collaborating with writer Fred Rinne on fantastic hand-painted and stenciled volumes, at the urging of ATA cofounder and Booklyn director Marshall Weber, who has sold the pair's works to the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, the Library of Congress, and Harvard's Fogg Art Museum. "Marshall saw my sketchbooks, and he was like, 'Oh, yeah, if you just had better binding I'd be selling these for you, no problem," Williams explains, adding that 160 hand-cut stencils might go into a book that earns him a $1,200 check.

Still, it's amazing that Williams, 48, hasn't gotten more attention: Nick Gorski made a short film, Spray Paint, in 1991, about the artist, which was shown on PBS. But the soft-spoken Williams doesn't exactly come off like an avid self-publicist. "It actually came out the same time as the R. Crumb documentary, and they were shown together, and he had wild tales and crazy brothers, and actually I didn't really like talking in front of the camera," Williams says, somewhat wistfully. "I'm a little worried about what this catalog will do. Might have talked too much. I do have crazy tales."

Scott Williams's works was on exhibit at Walter Gallery and McBean Project Space, San Francisco Art Institute, 800 Chestnut, SF. Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Free.

Contact Kimberly Chun at

This page is maintained by Marshall Weber.