Edward Williams always knew he was going to become an artist.
"As a friend of mine told me, I was born an artist the way some people are born with a beauty mark. It's just a given," said Williams, sitting on a sofa in his living room, surrounded by his colorful paintings that line the walls of his home in the Paradise neighborhood of Catonsville.
"As a little kid, I always drew," he said. "When I was in middle school, I took private art lessons from an artist in my neighborhood on Saturday mornings, and that's when I really started learning to draw from the figure."
The 52-year-old artist, a native of Bucks County in Pennsylvania, moved to Maryland more than 30 years ago to attend the Maryland Institute College of Art. He earned his bachelor's degree from the school in 1984 and has been a resident of Catonsville since 1988.
Williams has been a driving force behind the growing artist community in Catonsville for several years. He is president of the Baltimore Artists Guild, a four-year-old nonprofit organization, which is trying to set up an art center in Catonsville that Williams said could turn the area into a "destination."
He envisions the center as having art classes, holding events and having a performance space.
Williams said there are a couple of buildings available that the organization is trying to acquire to be used as a center, but did not want to go into detail.
He admits it may be wishful thinking, but Williams said he believes the organization will have an art center within the next two years.
Williams is known for his service to the community, which he attributes to his involvement with the Boy Scouts when he was a youth.
"He is very community centered," said Jane Byers, a longtime Catonsville resident who met Williams about four years ago when she put on an exhibition of local artists at Christian Temple.
She recalls that during the process of setting up the exhibition, Williams was the only one who asked, "How can I help?"
The two had a common goal of uniting artists in the area, and formed the Catonsville Artists Guild. That organization eventually evolved into the Baltimore Artists Guild, Williams said.
"He is extremely creative. I think he has Catonsville's best interest in mind," said Karen Gatzke, a friend and fellow artist who is a real estate agent with the Coldwell Banker office in Catonsville.
Williams defies the stereotype of a starving artist, in that he is able to support himself with his paintings and murals.
"He is making a living being an artist. He works his tail off to live his passion," Gatzke said.
He runs his own business called The Studio 33 out of his house, doing commissioned paintings and faux finishing work.
The interior displays his appreciation for aesthetics — from the colorful tiles he's painted on his kitchen back splash to the ornately patterned rugs that decorate the floors.
His dining room is utilized as a studio space.
Last week, a large painting of purple flowers he was commissioned to paint sat on an easel, half the work still remaining to be done.
His brown eyes light up when he talks about the light, color and composition of his paintings.
He said lately he's revisited oil paint, which dries slowly and is more malleable than acrylics.
"I like the smell of linseed oil," he joked.
Williams is known for the murals he paints in the Catonsville area, often in collaboration with members of the community.
A short distance from his residence, a mural at the Paradise Bus Loop shelter depicts a scene of people sitting on a park bench on a sunny day.
Williams collaborated with children from Kaleidoscope Arts Camp on the mural, part of an effort to revitalize the Paradise community.
The mural was funded by the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce. It is one of four murals he's painted in the area, efforts that he said, "visually upgrades the community."
He likes making public art because he gets to work with people, he said.
Williams also teaches art to at-risk youth at Art with a Heart three times a month in Baltimore City.
"They're so excited and thankful that I come. It just warms my heart," the artist said.
He enjoys sharing his passion with the kids, who haven't had much exposure to the visual arts, he said.
"If I won a million dollars in the lottery, I'd still want to do that because I just enjoy it," Williams said.
To learn more about the Baltimore Artists Guild, go to http://www.baltimoreartistsguild.org.