More impressions from the Richard Schmid event in Denver.
LUNCHEON GALA: After birthday cake, we learned various things, chief of which was that the gallery was opening early and we could purchase our lithographs ahead of time. The official opening reception was scheduled for 6 p.m., and the prints were to go on sale then; but the gallery owners decided to go get stuff ready after the luncheon, so we were welcome to come early. I thought this sounded ideal Not only could I get there early and improve my chances of getting a print, but I wouldn't have to dress up and stand around at a reception, making small talk. Everyone at my table thought it sounded great, as well.
The nice Oklahoma collectors asked if I knew where the gallery was, and I described what I remembered of the map my hotel concierge had so carefully marked for me. They listened politely, and then the husband - an Elder Statesman type - inclined his head and thoughtfully inquired, " ... Where are we NOW?" So I drew a map in my sketchbook. He asked me to autograph it in case I become collectible sometime in the future.
First, though, we had the panel discussion about drawing from life and what various folks had learned from Richard Schmid. The honoree and his party had left, and things were less formal. The panelists threw shade at one another and claimed to be unprepared. First up was Scott Burdick, who lives in North Carolina at the foot of the Appalachians. He said Richard wouldn't talk about technique; instead, he spoke of philosophy and what it means to be a painter. "The technical stuff - that's like grammar and spelling to a writer," Burdick explained. "It's what you use those tools to do that matters." He was a little straight and earnest, but at least he was prepared.
Judy Stach, from New Jersey, reminisced about painting from photographs, not life - until Richard taught her the difference. She quoted from his Landscapes book - which I want with all the lust in my acquisitive heart - something to this effect:
"Landscape painters, like bird watchers or bassoon players, live in a different world."
Bassoon players! I should have asked Mr. Schmid if he knows any.
My favorite panelist was Daniel Keys, described as Mr. Schmid's "youngest protégé - currently." He said his claim to fame was that "Mr. Richard" once put two brush strokes on one of Daniel's paintings, giving it a touch of magic that Daniel can't make out to this day. He has a very endearing, self-effacing sense of humor. He described the Christmas when he was 15 and his mother gave him a subscription to The Artist's Magazine. "I thought it was an awful gift," he said. "You know, you sit there and look at the subscription card. It's like getting socks." But Richard Schmid was the cover feature in the January edition, and Daniel made it a point to find this wonderful man. He attended a demonstration and afterward spoke with "Mr. Richard," who very kindly told him, "Come see me if you're ever in my neck of the woods."
"Well, I went home and bought a ticket, didn't I?" Daniel shrugged. "I said, 'It so happens I'm going to be in your area ...'" Laughing now, he complained his brain probably wasn't developed enough to understand the subtleties Mr. Richard was trying to teach him, "but someday it will be." He wished he could go back and correct a lot of things on his earlier works - and then stopped himself to apologize to anyone who owns those earlier works. It was hilarious and sweet, and only enhanced by gallery owner Quang Ho interrupting him to poke fun: "You do know Richard is his FIRST name? He has a surname?" Daniel replied, petulantly, that Mr. Schmid had said "Call me Richard," but Daniel - who I think is 31 - couldn't do that, so they settled for "Mr. Richard."
As a final testament to the spirit of Richard Schmid, one of the artists - I can't remember if it was Burdick or Keys - recalled a time when Schmid had painted two paintings of the younger man's wife, and offered the couple whichever one they wanted. The gift of a masterwork was breathtakingly generous. Later, the narrator was teaching a workshop on the bank of a river. An old fisherman wandered by and admired our guy's painting - so he gave it to the fisherman. Some of his students were aghast. "But you have to remember," we were exhorted, "a painting is more than a physical thing. It's passion and joy; and sometimes, it belongs to the person who recognizes that, not to the person who can afford to buy it."