Bill Hosko (39) is an architectural illustrator and painter who lives a life among the tall buildings of downtown St Paul and another under the immense sky of northeast Montana. Simple and complex? Bill does not believe so.
Almost weekly Bill travels fifteen hours overnight by train between two different worlds. Leaving the train behind in northeast Montana, he drives his old Ford pickup an hour north to Lonesome Prairie, an 1800's era homestead he built for himself and his “family”, a ragtag band of (like himself) misfits. They include eight goats, five chickens, three cats, two horses, and two dogs. They live atop a windswept ridge overlooking the Canadian Border.
Those high northern grasslands are his favorite landscapes on earth. He never tires of the winds, the early season snows, or the late season snows, such as this year’s latest snowfall, May 25th! Fantastic summer afternoon storms can be seen hours in advance and hours after they have passed in the clear evening twilight. Ethereal and beautiful the Northern Lights are a frequent and welcome occurrence. When people believe there is nothing to see or do there, Bill will smile. For him ways to pass the time are plentiful, and visions of beauty are everywhere, if one is willing to look.
In Montana, Bill carries the handle “Bill on the Hill,” a name bestowed upon him by some of his friendly neighbors. Few people live in that quiet corner of America. Folks consider themselves, and are neighbors though they may live five to ten miles apart. Lonesome Prairie is 180 acres in size. He does not think of it as a ranch, since in this part of the world, his amount of land is considered smallholdings. Another reason is because he is a vegetarian living in the heart of cattle country. Bill smiles when he recalls that he knew he was considered “okay” by a rancher and farmer a couple of years ago while at the local cafe this rancher said to the owner, “Darlene, why don’t you get Bill some vegetarian hamburgers?”.
Lonesome Prairie has five small buildings in a tight formation for protection against strong winter storms. The house has three rooms and no modern conveniences. There is no TV or radio. Bill will tell you he does have running water; he runs and gets it. Cooking and bathing water are heated on a small wood stove and when nature calls, it is an outhouse with a rather grand view of Canada. Two other structures house feed for the animals, tools and six thirty gallon water barrels. The last small building, a barn, is a happy “cooperative” for the animals.
Eight miles away is a little town, population 120. Like so many other Great Plains towns, it gets a little sleepier with each passing year. Bill has helped with a number of improvement projects there. The nearest town to the south or east is fifty miles. Given this remote location, and having a paved highway coming in from the east and another passing through from the south up to Canada, Bill believes that with strong leadership the town can survive.
In an artistic sense, Bill doesn’t care to work when in Lonesome Prairie, thanks to too many outdoors distractions. However, when he returns to Saint Paul by another train ride (over 375 of them to date) he hits the ground running and makes up for it.
He is passionate about his hometown. Since the age of nineteen Bill has amassed a large collection of articles about the ongoing development of downtown Saint Paul. For years he has envisioned ways to improve its place in the world, and has used his abilities to put those ideas on paper for others to see as well as hear. A few of those ideas have become reality or are now part of city planning. With a smile, Bill feels a few of his best ideas have been overlooked victims of political planning. His concern for Minnesota’s capital city is unwavering and he continues to share thoughts and ideas with the leaders of Saint Paul.
At twenty three Bill attended the downtown Minneapolis Technical Institute to study architecture and commercial art. Here he was introduced to the technical pen and the skills needed to create true perspective illustrations two defining experiences in his life. He was offered a job with a home planning firm six months before graduation, and he took it with no regrets over not having graduated.
In 1989 he began branching away from doing only architectural presentation art for Twin City home builders and architects. His greatest love is illustrating city skylines and great architecture. It was during this time he made his first “prints” available to the public. In more recent years he has begun doing works in color.
“Bill on the Hill” has now been a self-employed architectural illustrator for twelve years and an owner of Hosko Gallery in downtown Saint Paul for nearly nine. He laughingly refers to himself as a depression era child, for he has certainly seen some lean times. Yet slowly and surely he continues to build his business.
Pleased and always appreciative is the way Bill feels toward those who find pleasure in viewing and purchasing his works.