Wiley Purkey has been painting in the Historic District of Ellicott City for nearly fifty years.
He took up painting at the age of thirteen, after purchasing his first oil painting set at Olin’s Art Shop on Main Street.
His creative energy was ignited in 1967 by the colorful album cover and interior art of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper album.
Wiley’s work is the end result of having been born in the Ellicott City Historic District, growing up in the the town as it experienced it's rebirth, and returning to paint the town and be part of it’s continuing history. He and Ellicott City and their journey together are inseparable, and it shows in his life’s work, his art.
From racing handmade go carts down Mulligan"s Hill, walking to school, sliding down granite boulders, following Indian trails along the river to escaping the wrath of hurricane Agnes in 1972, the sum total of the life of artist Wiley Purkey is made up from bits and pieces of old Ellicott City. His art, his life's work has been drawing and painting the Historic District in precise detail, much of it from cherished memories of the recent past. It's an Ellicott City of streetcar rails going down Main St., of Art Shows on Main St. In Spring and Fall, of Taylor's, Sach's, and Rosenstock's department stores, Patapsco Pharmacy, the Ellicott Theatre, Bob's Five and Dime, Olin's Art Shop, and Eddie's Luncheonette.
Wiley helped organize the 1970’s period art shows on Main Street in the Ellicott City Historic District, and participated in the shows from 1969 until the shows ended, often winning the “Best Painting of Ellicott City” category. He has produced numerous prints of Ellicott City over the years, beginning in 1969.
He continues to exhibit his work, always looking for unusual opportunities to do so.
After 1980, he turned his attention away from Historic Ellicott City for inspiration, painting landscapes in the 1990’s, and more recently, flower gardens.
Wiley has recently returned has to his original inspiration of Ellicott City.
In 2012, he began to track down his favorite paintings from collections, and has made prints of many of them.
He works with watercolor, oil paint, egg tempera, chalk pastels, oil pastels, most kinds of drawing materials, and has recently turned some attention to making constructions out of re-purposed materials, and the Historic District of Ellicott City remains his favorite subject.
Wiley is primarily studio artist, but frequently paints outdoors.