William Kurelek was born in Whitford, Alberta in 1927. In 1934 his family moved from Alberta to a dairy farm near Stonewall, Manitoba. To date Kurelek was raised speaking only Ukrainian, however he began attending the English-only Victoria Public School in Stonewall at this time. He then studied at the University of Manitoba in 1946, while beginning work at a lumber camp in Neys, northern Ontario the following year. In 1949 he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in Latin, English, and history. He then studied at The Ontario College of Art in Toronto.
In 1950 Kurelek moved to Edmonton and begins painting full time. Later that year he embarked on travels through the American mid-west and west coast to Mexico. He began to study modern Mexican art in San Miguel de Allende, however disatisfied he returns home to his parents farm in Vinemount where he works various jobs to save money to travel Europe.
In 1952 he arrived in Europe, shortly after admitting himself to a psychiatric hospital. Within the year he is released as an outpatient and settled in London working on streetcar tracks and painting during his free time.
In 1954 he attempted to commit suicide and is institutionalized for treatment. Once released he returns to London to paint. By 1956 he had returned to Canada to live on his parents farm again where he worked.
In 1957 Kurelek joins the Roman Catholic Church, he also began night classes in framing, cabinetworks, and book illustration at Hammersmith School of Art in Barons Court.
In 1959 Kurelek travelled widely seeking inspiration for his planned illustration of the Gosepl of St. Matthew. He visits places such as Jordan Israel, France, Switzerland, Italy, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Syria.
Upon his return to Canada Kurelek applied to the Ontario College of Education, but was seen as unfit psycologically to teach.
Kurelek then moved to Toronto, Ontario and became involved with the Catholic Information Centre, he sought to convert many to catholicism. His religious beliefs and conversion had a tremendous influence on his artwork.
In 1960-1970 he begins work as a framer at The Isaacs Gallery. His first exhibition was also at The Isaacs Gallery and occured the year he was hired. Following this exhibit he had many more solo and group exhibitions at The Isaacs Gallery.
In 1962 he married, and in 1964 he took his family to tour Western Canada where he sketched and painted.