William Cotton trained as a portrait painter at the Cowles Art School in Boston & at the Academie Julien in Paris. He exhibited at the Luxembourg Museum, the Corcoran Art Gallery, & the Art Institute of Chicago, before he became an illustrator. During the Great Depression, Cotton began doing caricatures of Broadway stars, writers, & politicians for Vanity Fair & the New Yorker. He also worked as a muralist, & he founded the National Association of Portrait Painters. He worked for Vanity Fair from 1931 to 1936 as an illustrator. From 1932 on, he was one of the illustrators of the "profile" department of the New Yorker magazine. He painted murals in theatres in New York City at the Capitol, Apollo, Times Square, & Selwyn theaters, as well as in the Hotel Gibson in Cincinnati, Ohio, & in Easton's Beach in Newport, Rhode Island. As a playwright he wrote Andrew Takes A Wife and in 1931, The Bride the Sun Shines On which starred Henry Hull & Dorothy Gish on Broadway.