Born on March 3, 1927, William Kurelek was the oldest of seven children. His family had immigrated to Canada from the Ukraine and his artwork featured both Ukranian and Canadian themes. His family owned a grain farm in Alberta and later a dairy farm in Manitoba.
When William decided to pursue art, his father argued that his son was being lazy—this was something William never forgot.
To create a painting, Mr. Kurelek would apply acrylic or oil paint on a board, outline his images in ballpoint pen, use colored pencils to create texture, and then scratch, scrub, or brush the surface for detail. He finished by further outlining details in ballpoint pen. Particularly well-known for his paintings of prairie life, he created more than 2,000 works of art in his lifetime.
He came to writing children’s books later in his life, winning the New York Times’ Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award for A Prairie Boy’s Winter and Lumberjack, and the Canadian Association of Children’s Librarians Illustrators Award for A Prairie Boy’s Summer.
William Kurelek died on November 3, 1977.