Editor’s note: We asked celebrated medical illustrator Bill Westwood to describe his ties to his hometown. Here is his response:
I was born and raised in Albany, Ga. and am a proud 1963 graduate of Albany High. My Father was F.B. (Doc) Westwood, a well known Albany optician and businessman. He and my Mother, Shirley (Maddox) Westwood owned and operated Westwood Optical Dispensary on North Jackson Street for many years. (My father passed away suddenly in 1961 and my mother continued to operate the business until about 1985.)
I grew up in Albany doing lots of outdoors things, hunting, fishing, swimming at Radium Springs and loved every minute of it. I have a younger sister Nancy (Westwood) Hart) who is a horticulturist, lives in Charleston, S.C., and owns a large commercial greenhouse operation. My parents were charter members of Sherwood Baptist Church, where I was baptized about age 12. I was artistic from a very early age, even before I started grade school, and pursued art passionately, mostly on my own, without formal training, until college.
After graduation from high school, I attended Mercer University in Macon. I majored in English literature and minored in art (because I didn’t want to be a starving artist and saw no way to make a living at art during a time when abstract expressionism “ruled” the art world).
It was in the beginning of my third year at Mercer that I first heard about the field of medical illustration. The head of the Mercer art department, Marshall Daugherty (a celebrated sculptor), had a former student who had become a medical illustrator and encouraged me to visit the School of Medical Illustration at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, one of only five such graduate programs in the U.S.
Shortly afterwards, I arranged a visit and upon arrival, was so taken with the field that I knew immediately I had found my calling – although I was more than a little intimidated when I found out that they only accepted four students a year out of 200 or more applicants. (The program encompassed what used to be the first two years of medical school – all of the basic sciences – and all classes were taken with the medical students, so space was very limited.) It was (and still is) a demanding curriculum.
I managed to get accepted, finished two years of the three year program, got drafted (a whole other story), went to Germany, served with the 26th Medical Illustration Detachment, came back finished graduate school, got a position at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. (1972), spent incredible 10 years there before leaving to start my own business, moved to Albany, N.Y. in 1990 and the “rest is history”.
My connection to Albany, Ga., has remained strong over the years, with frequent visits, until my mother’s death at 90 seven years ago. Albany and Georgia will always be “home”. Much of my mother’s family still lives in and around Perry, Ga. I still order my yearly supply of pecans from Sunnyland Farms in Albany (can’t get by without those Georgia pee-cans).
PHOTO BY MICHAEL P. FARRELL
Albany, Ga., native Bill Westwood, a medical illustrator who just received the lifetime achievement award from the Association of Medical Illustrators at his studio in Albany, N.Y. Photo used by permission (Albany Times Union).