About Roland Roycraft
Victor Roland Roycraft, AWS, MWS
Artist, Author, Engineer, Designer
The following is a short biography for Roland Roycraft...
Graduating from Duluth Central High School in 1935, Roland took post graduate work
at the school, painting signs and entering art contests. As a child, his grandfather
would set around on Sunday afternoons entertaining the family with drawing sketches.
Roland drove a cattle truck for two summers while working on Grandpa Rowland's farm
earning $15.00 a month and all he could eat. To further his education, after saving
$359.00, in 1939 he went to Chicago by bus carrying a suitcase, laundry bag, and
a box. After getting off the bus he had to carry two items a few feet and go back
for the third box, until he got to the YMCA, where he stayed.
While attending classes, he worked as a bus boy in the Ontra Restaurant for $1.60
a day, which paid for his lunch and dinner. For breakfast he would eat one Life Saver.
The restaurant was not far from school and he would run from class to work and back
again. He was sometimes late for class for he had no car. He designed sheet music
covers to pay his rent and art supplies.
Graduating in 1941 from the American Academy of Art with an associates degree in
technology and a major in graphic arts, Roland got a job at Pontiac Engraving designing
year books, making $20.00 a week.
Living at the YMCA was another story. There was a single bed with bars going through
the wall to the other side room. The bed set on that bar and when the person in the
other side moved, you did too. There was just enough room to set on the bed and prop
the easel on the chair. The monthly rate was $14.00 with a community bathroom down
The YMCA was not far from the EL track in Chicago, The EL whined as it went around
the curve and that is how he lost some of his hearing.
World War II was on so Roland went to night school at Northwestern University to
study engineering and drafting. The Personnel Director from Northwestern Tool and
Die Co. spotted Roland in the class and hired him for $40.00 a week plus overtime.
He really thought he was rich, working there until the end of the war in 1945.
The military was drafting and he did not want to be under the ground in a fox hole,
so he enlisted in the Navy. The war ended two days before he was to report for duty,
so he was never in the military, however his job at Northwestern Tool was done too
as they had military contracts.
Roland went back to school where he studied art under the late Herb Olson another
To earn extra money, Roland designed sheet music covers for the Clayton Summey Company
In Chicago, Roland worked for Royal Art Studio, Keneliff Breslish and Co., and then
O'Grady Anderson and Grey advertising. When the company moved, he worked for Vaco
as advertising manger. While he worked for Mr. Breslish, Roland designed 11 dust
jackets for the OZ books.
Illness in 1974 caused an early retirement. Roland was in the hospital for two months
with a strange blood disorder caused from the chemicals in the rubber cement that
destroyed the red blood cells. During that time he received 22 transfusions.
They put him in the death ward and he would hear them saying what he thought was
"Little Boy Blue" but in fact they were saying "Code Blue."
It was not until he was feeling better that he realized where he was. The doctor
told him his commercial artist career was over.
Roland was in the process of building his summer home in Beulah. He needed to complete
the art project he was working on, leaving the commercial work, he moved to Beulah.
Roland said moving to Beulah was the best thing that happened to him. A whole new
world opened up. Engineering did not fulfill his creative energies. It did install
the discipline necessary for a successful 35-year career as a commercial artist,
art director, and advertising manager in Chicago.
While pondering his career, he drove school bus for Benzie Central Schools. The scenery
on his route inspired him to head home and paint.
Teaching watercolor classes eventually led to his writing a book, "Fill Your
Watercolors with Light and Color," selling over 100,000 copies and making it
a best-selling art book. As a result, students from all over the world attended workshops
throughout the country. In 2001 his second book "Fill Your Watercolors With
Nature's Light" was published; it expanded on the compositional technique.
In Chicago, Roland was area director for the National Ski Patrol, traveling all over
the Untied States and Canada.
In 1995 Fox Animation Studio (A division of 20th Century Fox) in Phoenix, AZ contracted
Roland to teach their background artists and animators the Roycraft theory of light
and color. He worked closely with them teaching his theory of landscape painting
it was used as the background surrounding the animated characters for the movie
Roland loved cars, Thunderbirds, then vans for his art, on to BMWs and Toyota Prius
for gas mileage. He liked going for rides, being outdoors, and seeing scenery through
an artist's eyes.
The church was important to Roland, singing in the choir for 35 years until ill health
prohibited his movement. From time to time he would do Children's Time telling about
color and painting. Roland was proud to have designed the Memorial Gardens and the
Bell Tower for the Benzonia Congregational Church.
Roland was active in the Crystal Lake Art Center, which began in 1964 by the bluffs
in an old barn near Crystal Downs Country Club. In 1974 Roland would take turns staffing
the art center and doing some painting. He enjoyed the outdoor setting.
Roland was a signature member of the American Watercolor Society and a life member
of the Transparent Watercolor Society of America. His art work has been in traveling
art shows and mentioned in many publications along with Who's Who.