Born and raised in Los Angeles California, Willoughby Elliott graduated with a BFA in painting from the California Institute of the Arts. He graduated with an MFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design. Settling into the southcoast of Massachusetts in 1967, Willoughby became a Professor of Painting and Printmaking in the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Umass Dartmouth. After spending many years as a printmaker with a national reputation, Willoughby turned his attention to painting. He eventually found himself immersed in the landscape of the region, where he developed his expressive response to the landscape.