When dry-erase masterpieces mysteriously appeared on a hallway whiteboard at IU Health University Hospital in Indianapolis, passersby were at once awestruck and perplexed. Who was creating these incredible works of art?
It was soon discovered that the anonymous artist was William Minion, an IUPUI student who worked part-time on the hospital custodial team. During his lunch breaks he would dabble in dry-erase art on a vacant whiteboard outside of an operating room.
“On the weekends, we’d have a lot of down time, so I figured I might as well put something up while I’m here,” Minion told The Indianapolis Star.
His modestly described “somethings” were intricate, detailed wildlife drawings that included an elephant, iguana, stallion, blue jay, rhinoceros, and a tiger.
However, most impressive of all might be Minion’s lack of formal training.
“No training,” he explained. “I just practice. Honestly, it’s not even something I can take credit for. It’s something I’ve been gifted.”
Sharing that gift lifted the spirits of health care workers during one of the most tumultuous periods of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s kind of the exact opposite of what I thought I would find on [the whiteboard],” noted Dr. Meghan Lark, a resident at IU Health University Hospital. “I was so taken by it. It was a breath of fresh air.”
To show their appreciation, the hospital’s doctors and nurses would often write notes of gratitude on the whiteboard.
The power of art to uplift and inspire isn’t lost on Minion. For his part, he was happy to brighten the days of the hospital staff during an otherwise bleak period of recent history. In that way, Minion’s fleeting drawings left a permanent mark.
The IU Alumni Association talked technique with Minion and commissioned a drawing of a jaguar, the IUPUI mascot. The artwork took Minion nearly 100 hours to draw using only dry-erase markers and a small paintbrush.
“I used to use Expo markers, but I [found] that Pilot markers were more precise,” Minion said. “Expo markers are also slightly brown, [while] the ink in Pilot markers is a [purer] black. Plus, they’re refillable, so I don’t go through as many markers. I used roughly six refills for the jaguar.”
Minion completes every dry-erase piece the same way. First, he sketches the piece in pencil—the art medium he feels most skilled at. Then, he draws an outline of the animal head on the white board before using a seven-by-seven-inch plastic sewing ruler to create a grid.
“I drilled holes in the ruler the size of a dry-erase marker,” he explained. “This makes it easy to transfer the sketch square by square.”
The texture and shading that gives the artwork a 3D effect is created with the smudge of a finger or the very tip of a paintbrush.
“Dry-erase art is easier than [other mediums],” Minion said. “If I’m drawing with pencil, I take my time to be detailed and precise, but with a marker you’re limited, so it forces you to keep thing simple, and that’s fun and relaxing.”
Check out more of William Minion’s work by following him on Instagram @dub.does.art.
This article was originally published in the 2022 issue of Imagine magazine and the Fall 2023 issue of the Indiana University Alumni Magazine.