- BSS degree in history from Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
- Also attended School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Corcoran Art School, Washington, D.C.
- In later years greatly enjoyed continuing study at the North Shore Art League in Winnetka, IL and Evanston Art Center, Evanston, IL.
- His watercolor paintings, which pursued the effects of color and light, depicted contemporary scenes of Chicago as well as landscapes done on location in Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean and Tahiti and the Indiana Dunes.
- Numerous awards and exhibits across the Midwest as well as gallery representation by Princess Street Gallery, Harbor Island, Bahamas.
- President of Ray College of Design in Chicago, 1968 – 1995.
- Early career as freelance illustrator and designer with clients such as Knopf Publishers and Abbott Laboratories.
- Author and Illustrator of the children’s book A Train to Spain.
- Avid reader of history and collector of toy soldiers.
- Devout member of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Wilmette, IL.
- Married to Helen Ray for 57 years and they had 6 children.
Princess Street Gallery (Harbour Island, Bahamas):
Chicago born artist Wade Ray speaks candidly about his approach to painting; “I paint on site responding to the immediacy of varying light and color. I work against my eyes to avoid copying the likeness of what I see. I’m more interested in capturing the essential elements such as shape and color. Very often, I create paintings upside down. If I’m painting a person, I’ll start with the legs, giving the figure a lot of movement. Painting upside down lends spontaneity to what I do. Painting occurs as you paint; you must find ways to immerse yourself in the process.” Ray admires abstract painters like Frank Stella, “because he makes us focus on shape and color.”
Ray “has paints, will travel,” moving between local scenes in Door County, Wisconsin, or the Indiana Dunes, to a regular sojourn in the Bahamas. There, in Harbour Island, he finds both creative solitude and the encouraging company of numerous other artists, all drawn to the open vistas and visceral experience of nature at a point where the sea and land meet hard on.
“It’s Winslow Homer country,” Ray said, referring to the American painter who created timeless images of seemingly-endless water and sky. “The ocean shades from green to blue and gray, and the horizon is tinted purple. The color and light change dramatically with the time of day. Things are bright yellow in the morning and then soften to grayish-green by evening.
“In Harbour Island many of the artists drive around in golf carts, piling their supplies in and moving around as the light changes. I remember once I was absorbed in an especially beautiful sunset and I turned around and saw eight golf carts right there. Everyone was painting the sunset.”
Ray grew up in Kenwood on Chicago’s South Side. He began painting full-time in 1995, when he stepped down as president of Ray College of Design, a position he had held since 1969. The design school, founded by his parents as Ray-Vogue School was a venerable Chicago institution, and was instrumental in his development as an artist. He studied there and at the School of the Art Institute, and continues to take classes at the Evanston Art Center.