You may have heard that renowned American artist Richard Schmid passed away last weekend. The art world has lost a true master of painting and a generous man. I imagine that thousands of today’s professional painters would list Schmid as an influence in their development. He certainly influenced me. I’d like to give him credit here and honor his lifelong commitment to making the world a more beautiful place.
I first learned about Schmid in 1996 or so from one of my college painting instructors. My classmates and I were in awe of the virtuosity he displayed in his work. As time went by, I enjoyed crossing paths with him in person at a couple of different art events. I didn’t get to know him well, but his book ALLA PRIMA: Everything I Know About Painting feels like a trusted friend when I flip through its pages. (It was recently updated and expanded into ALLA PRIMA II.)
I bought a signed copy of ALLA PRIMA when it was first published in 1998. Schmid’s ideas had a great impact on me in my early artistic development. He clearly shared his insights into the fundamentals of painting, and they were the perfect springboard for me as I built upon what I had learned in college. I used the palette colors he recommended, made color charts that he described, tried techniques he demonstrated. The knowledge he shared also helped shape the information I use in my own teaching.
Schmid emphasized truth, solid working habits and an ongoing pursuit of beauty. He dedicated his entire adult life to understanding painting and how it relates to all facets of life. He published several books, produced instructional videos, held workshops and gave seminars. I hope he realized how helpful he was to so many aspiring artists like me.
Beauty Lives On
Hopefully you agree that Schmid’s paintings speak for themselves. But he was also gifted at communicating with his writing. Here are two beautiful quotes of his from the end of ALLA PRIMA. Perhaps they will give you a sense of who he was, and give you a glimpse of the heart he had for encouraging painters pursuing their dream. I think he would want us to remember that even though our time is short, beauty lives on.
“Even though you share countless similarities with others, you are unique. No one has your mind or your feelings. They do not notice what you notice, and do not have precisely the same sensitivities or fears. No one has the same idea of God as you. No one longs to embrace life or ponders death and beyond as you do. No one is human in the same exact way as you are. Once you understand this, your task is to get in touch with yourself. Find out what moves you, what you believe in, what you truly understand about life, who you are, and what this great experience of being alive means to you. Then put it in your paintings.”
“Somewhere within all of us there is a wordless center, a part of us that hopes to be immortal in some way, a part that has remained unchanged since we were children, the source of our strength and compassion. This faint confluence of the tangible and the spiritual is where Art comes from. It has no known limits, and once you tap into it you will realize what truly rich choices you have. May each painting you do from that sacred place include an expression of gratitude for the extraordinary privilege of being an artist.”
In honor of Richard Schmid, 1934–2021.