Putney Perambulations

by Matthew Innis |
originally posted August 14, 2009

 

Putney Painters

 

 

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.

 

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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.

 

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On Richard’s Easel

 

 

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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.

 

17 comments

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    Hey Matthew, this is a terrific post. THank you for sharing us the valuable information. I was wondering if it was possible to see these pictures in larger versions somewhere?

    Thank you and keep up the great posts!

    Cheers from Finland,
    Jussi Tarvainen
    http://www.jussitarvainen.com

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    Thank you so much for this great post!

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    This comment has been removed by the author.

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    Hey Matthew, I concur, wonderful post. Thanks for sharing. I’m looking forward to Schmids new book as well.

    Best Jason
    p.s. Is Schmid’s palette made from a paint storage box that has had the lid removed and legs added? Ive always wondered about that.

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    Great post, indeed! Waiting eagerly for Richard’s new book.

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    Great Post. You must have learned a lot!

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    THanks so much for sharing this! I love Schmid’s looseness that is built upon such a strong foundation of drawing.

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    Lovely post!

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    Jason-

    Richard loves to work in his woodshop, and I believe all of his boxes he’s had over the years were made from scratch (he confessed that his first box was made from some beautiful woods, but unfortunately weighed over 40 pounds empty, so he had to give it up).

    His current box is about 20″ X 30″ with a hinged lid. Under the lid, he carries his glass palette for transport, but it slides into metal rails on the outside of the lid when he’s ready to use it (in the photos of Richard painting the lilies, the lid is open to provide shade on his palette, and the glass is just resting on top of the inside compartment). The box is about three inches deep, and is divided for holding his supplies. The legs are also hinged, and couple together with a cabinet clasp when closed up. He made this box from several sheets of luan, and it weighs about 14 pounds empty.

    The one Katie Swatland currently uses is made from a large painting box, with legs and glass rails added. She’s just made a new one from scratch that offers deeper storage and has some hidden features (like a secret slot for a T-square). I haven’t see it yet. I think she has drawn up blue prints for it, and may eventually post them in her online lessons about Richard.

    Matt

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    Hey Matthew,

    Thanks for the info. Schmid’s paint box is a pretty cool idea. I think Im going to attempt to build one myself. Katie Swatland’s sounds interesting as well.

    I have an old paintbox that I think Ill start with. When Im finished Ill post some pictures to my blog.

    Best, Jason

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    Matthew, you have probably the best posts in blogger world. Great post. I would love to meet him. If I do visit any artist, he will be the first. Next would definitely be Wendy Artin, then on to Nathan Fowkes and Erik Tiemens.
    I may actually sit down and plan this.

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    This is great, thank you so much, am highly anticipating the new book. Thanks once again.

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    8-}

    Anonymous
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    Heading down to the studio in the pouring rain to paint Carol Arnold’s kids again. (Rachael sat for us on the day Richard painted) Carol is a superb portrait artist trained by many weeks in Putney Painters. She is also a great mom and makes divine chocolate chip cookies! Matthew, thanks for bringing sun into this very rainy day by reminding me of the sun beating down at Schmid’s. It was a revelation as always to see how Richard works his values and edges and knows his palette even when it all is washed out in a high light situation. Cheers! Andrea

    nancy mercury
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    Thanks for a great insight into your time with Richard. Unfortunately the link to Kate Swatland’s site online is
    not functioning. Are you able to get in to it?
    Thank you, Nancy

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