Revisiting ancient forms: Doug Billings at Gallery 12

In 'A Passage in Time,' the veteran printmaker and painter takes inspiration from shapes and forms found in paleontology and archaeology

Revisiting ancient forms: Doug Billings at Gallery 12
Doug Billings, "Rock Stories," acrylic, 2024

Through June 1, visitors to Gallery 12 will find themselves visually whisked through time, back to the prehistoric era of cave paintings — rich in depictions of animals and humans and figures that are both — and further back, to when dinosaurs roamed our world.

“I think climate change was the starting point for this series,” Doug Billings says about the new direction in subject matter he took up about two years ago. “At first, I focused on the Earth’s changes in climate and geology, and the extinction of animals going back to at least the dinosaurs. But then I decided to start including into my compositions the prehistoric images of the first artists.” This thought process is illustrated in the works in "A Passage in Time," most overtly in his “The Nature of Things #3” (2023). This acrylic painting brings to mind Upper Paleolithic painted images from France’s Lascaux Cave and juxtaposes those with depictions of the moon, wheat, tornadoes, and the tempestuous Kansas skies that are stylistically rooted in his own earlier oeuvre.

Doug Billings, "The Nature of Things #3, acrylic, 2023

Born in Landstuhl, Germany as an Air Force brat, Billings lived in Europe until he was 10 years old, when his family moved to Wisconsin. After earning a printmaking degree from Mankato State, he was accepted into Wichita State University’s noted graduate program in printmaking in 1979, graduating in 1982 with a Master of Fine Arts. His artistic repertoire includes drawing, oil and acrylic painting, pastels, lithography, serigraphy, intaglio, relief and digital printmaking, papermaking, book art, ceramics, and photography.

For Billings, two basic aspects of all creative expression are process and play. “I can’t do the same things over and over,” he says. “I’ve got to break it up, take on new subjects, play with new processes.”

For his newest series, he focused on acrylic painting and various types of printmaking, including linoleum relief (“Rock Art,” 2024), copper (“Ancient Times,” 2023) and solar plate (“First Gallery,” 2024) etching, stone (“Humanity’s Legacy,” 2023; “The First Artists,” 2023) and aluminum plate lithography, the latter of which he took up just late last year. As a printmaker, he is technical-minded and process-oriented, steeped in details of complex, step-by-step processes. “Stone lithographs date back to the mid-1800s,” he notes. “They are very heavy, very expensive and new ones, as well as large ones, are impossible to get. Ball grained aluminum plates are a cheaper way of making hand-pulled lithographs. They can be ordered in a variety of sizes, which allows me to work larger than what I can do with the stones.” His “Legacy Rock” (2024) is one dynamic example of aluminum plate lithography.

An instructor of printmaking and acrylic painting at Friends University, Billings also teaches those subjects at Mark Arts (formerly Wichita Center for the Arts). In 2002, he started the center’s printmaking program. While he enjoys explorations in many different art forms, printmaking is central to him: “My printmaking always comes first. If I am happy with a print and want to do another version larger than what I can do with a print, then I’ll do an acrylic painting.”

Taking center stage in "A Passage in Time" is the painting “Rock Stories” (2024), which, despite its dominate images of death, swirls alive with energy and motion, chronicling as it does the vast expanses both inside and outside human life and history. “My strongest academic subject in both high school and college was history,” he says. “That’s a subject I have never lost interest in, and it carried over into archaeology and paleontology. My personal library is loaded with books on these subjects, and I subscribe to several magazines and online newsletters updating me on recent discoveries.”

Doug Billings, "Rock Stories," acrylic, 2024

A member of Wichita’s longest running cooperative of artists, Gallery 12, established in 1977, Billings is also a member of the Society of American Graphic Artists (SAGA), the American Color Print Society, and the Boston Printmakers. He is a past president of the Wichita Artists Guild and the recipient of the Otto Lambert Grever Award for Lithography, the H&D Hutton Award for best intaglio print, and, most recently, the Ernest D. Roth Memorial Etching Award presented at the 87th SAGA Print Exhibition at the Salmagundi Club in New York.

Ranging from the smallest 4-by-5-inch print to his largest 24-by-36-inch painting, Billings’ works in "A Passage in Time" collectively usher viewers into a sort of geometric, geological time warp space, a place not unlike the site of a modern-day archaeological dig or a cave gallery of rock art.

The Details

"A Passage in Time," a solo exhibition by Doug Billings
May 3-June 1, 2024, at Gallery 12, 412 E. Douglas Ave. in Wichita
Gallery 12 is open to the public 12-6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Learn more on the Gallery 12 website.

Connie Kachel White is a writer and editor who has written about the arts in Wichita for going on three decades now. White, whose communications gigs range from book-editing to investigative reporting, is the founding and current editor of Wichita State University’s The Shocker magazine. More of her writing can be found online at and

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