This past weekend, I traveled to New England to once again visit with Richard Schmid and the Putney Painters. The group, which formed eight years ago around Schmid and his wife, Nancy Guzik, meets sixteen times a year to paint together and discuss art. As it was the last day of their first eight week session, Schmid decided to do a couple of painting demonstrations, a rarity and treat for the Putney group, and I was privileged to be a part of the event.
Schmid’s first painting of the day was a figurative work, for which he posed a young model at a table out-of-doors, in front of a garden full of lilies. He concentrated on capturing the model’s likeness first, since she was the aspect of the scene which would be most affected by changes in the sun’s position during the painting session. Once he was satisfied with the block-in of the model’s head, Schmid moved onto other aspects of the painting, relating the drawing, hue, chroma, and value of the rest of the image back to the initial lay-in of the figure. He was open to queries from the group all morning, and paused often to answer questions, including offering illustrated responses, which he painted on the side of the canvas opposite the model.
In the afternoon, Schmid returned to the garden in order to construct a floral painting. After estimating the movement of light across the yard during the time he allotted for this painting, Schmid set up his easel with his back to the sun, safely away from the encroaching shadows from the nearby trees. To create the composition he wanted, Richard trimmed some of the flowers away, and duct-taped others in place, until he was satisfied. Schmid emphasized that the first half-hour of painting was the most important, and that mistakes made then would result in spending the rest of the process only making corrections, instead of being fully engaged in creating a painting. The outcome was beautiful, being both painterly yet controlled. Schmid ended by commenting that, “Looseness is not how the painting was painted, but how it looks,” in further support of his canon, “Paint only as quickly as accuracy will allow.”
Before the evening ended, there was a planning session during which the next eight Putney Painter events were scheduled, and everyone expressed their gratitude for the lessons they had learned during the day, and throughout their association with Richard and Nancy.
Learning from Richard Schmid
During both demonstrations, I sat behind the talented, young artist, Katie Swatland, author of the online teaching service, “Learning from Richard Schmid.” I had been told she was an incredible documentarian, but this was the first time I was able to observe her note-taking in action.
There was a synchronicity between Richard’s hand and Katie’s; with each dip of the brush into a new pigment, Katie’s pen moved across her notebook to log Schmid’s choice. The entire day was chronicled by Swatland through her shorthand, audio recordings, and her photographs taken from Schmid’s perspective, and individually, I think we all approached Katie at some point during the demonstrations to seek some clarity on Richard’s processes. Her archiving of Richard’s methods is unparalleled.
If you have not already examined Swatland’s “Learning from Richard Schmid,” make sure that you do. Her subscription service fulfills Schmid’s wishes of passing on his lessons, and enables Swatland to continue the time-consuming process of cataloging Schmid’s words and paintings.
On Richard’s Easel
Richard Schmid’s New Landscape Book
I was able to get a sneak peek at Schmid’s upcoming landscape book, and it looks amazing! Though I only saw the first dozen or so spreads, I think there were only two paintings in that group with which I was previously familiar. Schmid was putting in the final touches, including a series of newly created pencil and ink drawings at the beginning of each book section, and had hopes of completing the project and having it ready to ship to the printer by this past Monday.