Greater Des Moines architect Bill Ludwig was just a brush stroke away from a degree in fine arts at Iowa State University, but he turned to architecture to make a living.

"When I was at Iowa State, I took every arts course from furniture- making to ceramics," he said. "My fourth-year design critic would say 'look what the painter' has done today. Not all of those art courses counted as credits toward graduation. 

If he was working on a hospital design, chances are he was painting daisies or an abstract view of the Earth as viewed from the sky. Maybe he was turning that vision upside down, fusing paint and an array of materials.

Ludwig's paintings and multimedia designs have been on display at his Clive offices since a Christmas party on Dec. 16. He has sold about a dozen of the pieces, and on Christmas Eve he anticipated that a business meeting might turn into a private showing.

The tools of his trade as an artist have included pen and pencil drawings, watercolors, painting on metal, and collages from a variety of materials, including string and burlap.

Ludwig did a series of paintings depicting the construction projects of Orville Crowley, and he was surprised to learn recently that those pieces, many of which were lost to memory, remain on display in Crowley's home.

He has done portraits of significant Greater Des Moines businessmen, including the late John Ruan.

Inspiration can come from his travels or from world events. As the manager and an owner of the old Butterfly nightclub on Court Avenue - a spot now occupied by a parking lot - Ludwig dabbled in what he called "high color" for its interior and the building's flaming yellow front door. He also did a painting titled "Economy? Hang in there."

"That was done in 2009 when everything was collapsing," Ludwig said.

After visiting his daughter in the winter of 1994 in Los Angeles, he developed what might be called an obsession with flowers - they were in bloom in California during the winter. His home has a watercolor wall of flowers.

Much of the time, the artwork follows his professional design work, Ludwig said. In fact, he comes home from work most nights and paints late into the evening.

A big inspiration is the sunrise as viewed from his deck. The view might not be so inspiring to his wife. 

"She'll be sleeping, and I'll say you've got to come out and see this," Ludwig said.