Biography

Detail from: Self-portrait from Mirror, 18" w x 34" h

Billy Pappas was born in New York City and grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore. He studied visual art before and throughout high school, and graduated in 1990 from Maryland Institute College of Art.

Formal recognition for Billy’s work began in the late 1980s–early 1990s, when several of his drawings were selected for exhibit by the Society of Illustrators in New York and Los Angeles. During this same period, Billy had a solo exhibit in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Turner Auditorium, and another at Cafe Troia in Towson, Maryland. It was at this time that Billy decided to change his focus from illustration to fine art.

In 1994, Billy began a project whose aim was to set a new standard for realist, or naturalist, imagery: his portrait of Marilyn Monroe. Billy worked full-time on the portrait for nearly nine years, finishing in January 2003. Throughout the process, the portrait was seen privately as a work-in-progress and championed by Walters Art Museum Director Dr. Gary Vikan. 

Upon the work’s completion, Dr. Vikan helped to orchestrate a private viewing of the portrait between Billy and famed artist David Hockney. Concurrently, Dr. Vikan introduced Billy to Julie Checkoway, who went on to direct a feature-length documentary about the creation of the portrait titled Waiting for Hockney. The film had its world premiere at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival in 2008.

Billy Pappas is single and lives in Baltimore, Maryland.