Story & Photos by Andy Lyons, Editor-in-Chief
The names Dustin Schmidt and Lucas Richardson have become synonymous for art in the Sedalia area, and the two are hosting a pop-up showing of landscapes this weekend at Fitter’s 5th St. Pub.
Schmidt returns from a summer hiatus focusing on his family, and Richardson from a busy summer schedule following a showing in July. The two have stepped away from their normal painting styles, nude figures for Richardson and portraiture for Schmidt, to craft landscapes for the showing.
Richardson has made his mark on local art with his work on the human body, so moving to landscapes offered a good break.
“I’ve started doing more architectural landscapes with the building as the focus, and putting it over a moment in time I like to see, sunsets are always pretty,” he said. “Those have been taking over quite a bit. The layers, details, color, mood, a moment of a sunset where everything kind of glows. It’s been new and trying.”
Richardson’s focus is figure paintings, something that has more meaning to him than others.
“Since I lost a lot of my body, my control of my body, it holds a little more power, holds a little more weight over me painting other bodies” he said. “It’s something you can’t have so you paint it, something that you’ve grown to appreciate more. You don’t appreciate what you got ‘til it’s gone.”
Art has been an interest to Richardson his entire life and during the summer after his freshman year of college things took a turn. He broke his neck and suffered a spinal cord injury after diving into a swimming pool July 19, 2004. The injury left him a quadriplegic, and he said he took a couple years before he even thought about picking up a paintbrush.
Richardson said his artwork in high school and freshman year of college was all really detail-oriented – fine line and more realism. After losing the use of his hands and control of his body, he said he had to let the brush do more of the work.
“My physical limitations kind of defined my artwork and I was able to evolve it from there,” he said.
“It’s been a constant evolution on how to best hold a brush and how to move it,” Richardson continued. “I’ve got a little cuff that goes over my hand. it’s made out of leather, it’s got a hole in it, it’s made for pushing chairs so you don’t hurt your hands but I just kind of modified it a little bit to hold a paintbrush.”
While Richardson has done his best to adapt to the changes in his style, it’s not without frustrating moments. Despite setbacks and roadblocks as an artist, Richardson’s resiliency and focus forward attitude get him through his obstacles in the form of his artwork.
“(I feel) anger that you can’t get a straight line to save your life then you adapt and you try to find out a way to make a straight line,” he said. “If you can’t then you move on and you do things that don’t need straight lines, like the human figure. There’s no straight lines in that and that makes it a little bit easier to just kinda let the brush do the work.”
After finishing school at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Richardson moved to Sedalia. In 2012, his father helped him build a studio in an unattached garage behind his house and Richardson started taking his painting more seriously while his father used some of the space for woodworking.
Like any good story, Richardson said he started meeting other local artists, including Schmidt, at the local pub – now Fitter’s 5th St. The two hit it off and soon thereafter started doing shows together including collaborative shows where each artist would create a piece and pass it off to another artist to put their mark on.
After a heavy schedule of monthly pop-up shows at the beginning of the year, Schmidt decided to take the summer off to focus on his son’s baseball league and other family obligations. Richardson said after seeing some of his landscapes, Schmidt approached him about doing a show together, saying “this makes me want to paint landscapes again.”
The pop-up shows give local artists a chance to display their works to the public in a relatively relaxed environment compared to gallery openings and other showings. With a burgeoning art community among Sedalia and nearby Warrensburg, Richardson said he enjoys being part of something getting off the ground.
One of his favorites that will be displayed this weekend is of the Fitter’s building. It is based on a photograph he found of the building that included a grey sky; he’s added a sunset to the piece and the detail to go with. Another favorite is of the Katy Depot from a spot near his house. As the lot has cleared where the old Sutherlands building was on Broadway Boulevard, it meant Richardson had eyeshot of the lot with the Depot in the background that he has turned into a landscape.
“It’s a fleeting moment that I try to take advantage of,” he said of the scenes.
He paints landscapes from both photograph and memory, describing driving around and seeing something that catches his eye and trying to remember it as he paints.
Being born in Green Ridge, Richardson described the beauty of crops ready for harvest and how much it means to him coming from a farming community. He mentioned getting a new perspective driving through Green Ridge and coming to a spot in the road where the tree line behind a cornfield was in eyeshot rather than the corn itself and wanted to portray that moment in a painting.
Using oil paints, Richardson sometimes has to wait weeks for the oil to dry to a certain point so he can paint specific textures or add layers depending on his topic. He said he listens to the same three CDs, which include Billy Joel and Elton John, on repeat while he paints.
“You find, especially with my more erratic brush strokes and my less detailed stuff, you paint along with the music,” he said. “It becomes the beat you move to, the beat you paint to.”
He also conveys emotions through his use of cool or warm colors – a process he said he may not even be aware of until the painting is finished.
“Sometimes the painting does all the talking and I’m just there to listen to it and let it happen,” he said. “I’ve found that the harder I force how I’m feeling into a painting the worse it gets, it gets muddy. But if I just kind of just shut off and let it happen there’s a more natural progression. The harder I fight the less it feels, so if I just show up to work and paint it just kind of takes on whatever emotion happens to be going on.”
Looking forward, Richardson said he has a body image project titled “Everybody” that will include nude figures of all shapes and sizes. He doesn’t have a date in mind yet, saying it’s dependent on how many participants are in the project. His goal is to display the beauty of everybody and bring some joy to people.
“The one thing we all have in common is a body, as much as we don’t like it or do like it it’s our commonality,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a pretty powerful series.”
The 923 Pop-Up Show will be in the upstairs Banquet Room at Fitter’s 5th St. Pub, 500 S. Ohio Ave. in Sedalia, from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23. For more information, visit the Facebook event page here. Listen to CMN’s interview with Richardson in its entirety below: