In a small studio on his Brown County property, Mark Schmidt is more inspired than he has ever been. The surrounding towering trees, wildlife, and silence create the perfect setting for producing visual art.
“I have produced more work here in two and a half years than I did in several years living anywhere else,” Schmidt said. “It’s so quiet here. The sunsets are prettier. The landscapes are prettier. Autumn here is like walking through a painting.”
With a seemingly effortless swipe of a pallet knife, Schmidt transforms a blank canvas into a living, breathing work of art. He transports the viewer from a cold Brown County winter to a European vista or a summer sunset off the coast of Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Amazingly, Schmidt’s mastery of pallet knife painting started just a little more than two years ago on a whim.
“I was trying to add dimension to my paintings with a brush and wasn’t have any luck,” he said. “One day, by accident, I used a drywall spatula and it did exactly what I wanted.”
Schmidt has no formal training. He is completely self-taught.
“I read a lot of art history and try to immerse myself in the techniques of other artists,” he said. “When I was learning how to paint with pallet knives, I totally immersed myself in Jackson Pollock’s work. I studied how he painted and looked up the materials he used. I bought pallet knives and just kept experimenting until I figured it out.”
Schmidt’s entire career has followed a similar pattern. While Schmidt has always known he would be an artist, he has never had any formal training. His work comes from an innate love of life’s beauty and a desire to share it with others.
Growing up in Madison, Indiana, Schmidt said his passion began at an early age. When he was just seven, he entered and placed in his first adult art competition.
“My mom always said that if I was feeling stressed, she would just give me paper and a pencil and I would be fine,” Schmidt said. “Even today, I have at least five sketch books throughout my house, so that I can draw if I’m stressed or just come up with an idea on the spot.”
After high school, Schmidt went to Indiana University to study theatrical design. When he was 21, he moved to Los Angeles with the dreams of becoming an artist or set designer. To pay the bills, he also worked as a licensed developmental therapist.
“Twelve years ago, my dad died. It made me realize that if I didn’t take the leap to become a full time artist I never would,” he said. “My dad always said, ‘If you have a fallback plan, you will always fall back.”
Schmidt began painting full time and has had his work showcased in New York City, London, Atlanta, Italy and other locations around the globe.
“I did the big city thing and there is an incredible art scene in the city, but I wanted to get back to a small town,” he said. “It has always been a dream of mine to be an artist in Brown County. The artists here are genuinely concerned about how your work is going. They are so supportive.”
While Schmidt said he is likely best known for his vistas, sunsets, and landscapes, he is also passionate about painting animals. His enthusiasm for painting animals might come from raising four dogs, three cats, a guinea pig, and a parrot.
“I love animals. I love the personality in their faces. There is so much expression in an innocent way. Except for cats, animals don’t judge. They make great art,” he said. “The thing about animals that has always attracted me to them is their eyes. I always do their eyes first. There is so much emotion in their eyes.”
Schmidt has done a considerable amount of commission work for the Cincinnati Zoo, painting everything from African dogs and red pandas, to giraffes and African rhinos. Other clients request paintings of personal pets. He is currently using his art to work through the grief of recently losing one of his beloved dogs. His painting of Katie is a work in progress that sits proudly on an easel, waiting for his magical touch.
While his painting of Katie will never be for sale, Schmidt said he hopes to add a collection of his animal paintings to a future gallery showing.
To view a collection of Schmidt’s landscape paintings, visit the B3 Gallery on the second floor at 61 West Main Street in downtown Nashville. You can also visit his website <www.markaschmidtstudio.com>.