In 1921 he entered Sandhurst and in 1923 was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Scots. He was forced to resign his commission in 1925 after marrying a nightclub hostess, Eveline Fisher, without the permission of his regiment, whereupon he moved to Australia; the marriage ended in divorce around 1928 or 1929.
In the mid-1930s, he began working for a Sydney-based fetish club as an illustrator and photographer; around this time he began a relationship with Holly Faram, one of his models, and they married in 1942. He was an early enthusiast for the writings of Jorge Luis Borges, and invited the Argentinian to Australia in 1938, to give a short series of lectures in Melbourne, sponsored by Bohemia magazine.
Around 1945-47 Coutts moved to New York City via Montreal, in order to publish his bondage and fetish magazine Bizarre; Holly chose to remain in Australia. At this time he adopted the name 'John Willie'.
Bizarre was published, somewhat irregularly, from 1946 to 1959 (compare with ENEG's work in Exotique magazine, published 1956 - 1959). The magazine included many photographs, often of his wife, and drawings of costume designs, some based on ideas from readers. There were also many letters from readers; he was accused of inventing these letters, but insisted that they were genuine. The letters covered interests such as high heels, bondage, amputee fetishism, sadomasochism, transvestism, corsets and body modification.
As a bondage artist, he is best known for his character Sweet Gwendoline, which he drew in a clear, anatomically correct style that influenced later artists such as ENEG and Eric Stanton. Other characters include U69 (censored to U89 in some editions) as the raven-haired dominatrix who ties up Gwendoline and Sir Dystic d'Arcy, the only prominent male character and probably a parody of Willie himself.
The comic strip was published by Irving Klaw, who forced Stanton to paint clothes over the whip marks on the originals of "The Missing Princess".
After publishing 20 issues of Bizarre he moved to Hollywood, California. He developed a brain tumor in 1961 and was forced to stop his mail order business. He destroyed his archives and returned to England, where he died.