Tillyer was born in Middlesbrough northern England, studying painting at The Slade. Tillyer has evolved into an astonishingly diverse and talented artist, and today he is one of Britain's most respected artists, with a still growing reputation. In an age where personality has become a cult, Tillyer is concerned to let the painting speak for itself and to withdraw his own personality as much as possible.
William Tillyer’s approach to painting is constantly evolving. His work redefines and reinterprets classic subject matter, like landscapes, the still- life, and portraits, in methods that challenge historical traditions and vary between bodies of work. During a time in which Tillyer believes art is too often a projection of the artist, he attempts to initiate instead a dialogue between elements of paint, surface, and subject. His “Helmsley Sky Studies”, for example, are based a cloud series by 19th-century Romantic painter John Constable. Unlike the originals, which Constable controlled solely by oil paint and precise brushwork, Tillyer incorporates grids of metal lattice; as the paint conforms to the wire mesh, the focus is shared by subject and materials, thus separating it from the confines of the traditional landscape.