Billy J. McCarroll was born in Santa Barbara, Cal. in 1937. He received a golf scholarship to California State University in 1962 and played varsity golf while pursuing a BA in visual arts.
In 1969, McCarroll completed his MA at California State University, and two years later joined the Department of Art at the University of Lethbridge.
McCarroll taught printmaking, drawing and painting from 1971 to 1994 and was director/curator at the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery from 1972 to 1981, during the formative years of the collection.
McCarroll continues to be an active member of the southern Alberta art community, participating in collaborative projects such as The McIntyre Ranch Project and group exhibitions, as well as numerous solo exhibitions. McCarroll is also an accomplished jazz musician and continues to be an avid golfer.
McCarroll's early work focused on procedural abstraction, as he created paintings composed of layer upon layer of paint, building up textured surfaces. His practice then became preoccupied with geometric abstraction until 1983, when Calgary artist (and McCarroll's frequent golf partner) John Will gave McCarroll a copy of the instructional book, Sam Snead's Natural Golf.
McCarroll began appropriating images from the book as the focus of his paintings, prints and drawings – and has continued to do so for over 20 years. His use of stylized shapes, thick black outlines and vibrant colour palette often cause McCarroll's work to be categorized as Pop Art, referencing figurative art of the 1960s that drew on advertising imagery.
Much of the critical response to McCarroll's work has made a link between his subject matter and a philosophical life approach. The challenges inherent in the game of golf are often presented as metaphors for the wins and losses we face in contemporary life.
It has also been suggested, however, that McCarroll himself somewhat rejects the deep symbolism imparted upon his work. It is not difficult to imagine advice he has imparted on the golf course as also influencing his art practice: "analysis leads to paralysis, keep it in one piece, stop thinking so much".