Teachers of a Self-Guided Artist: Richard Schmid

This is the second in a series of portraits called Teachers of a Self-Guided Artist. Check out the intro post The Self-Taught Myth to read more about it.

I recently started talking to a fellow painter about Richard Schmid, and was surprised to find they had never heard of him. I had started to think he was somehow known to all painters, but I realise there has to be a first time you heard of anyone, and I started trying to remember when I had first come across him.

Turns out it was actually when I was studying with Jon Hardesty in 2011/2012. As I mentioned, he had me create a series of colour charts, and he mentioned that this was an exercise recommended by Richard Schmid in his book Alla Prima: Everything I Know About Painting. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I purchased a copy, and fell in love with the work of Richard Schmid.

Who is Richard Schmid?

At the time of writing, Richard is 85 years old, so the details of his career and achievements could make for a lengthy blog post.

To keep it brief, he is a master artist, an author, and a teacher. As a student, he studied with Bill Mosby at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. He holds a Doctorate in Fine art, and in 2000 he received the John Singer Sargent Medal for Lifetime Achievement from the American Society of Portrait Artists – just one of many awards he has received throughout his career.

For more details, you can read his biography on his website.

Learning from Richard

While I haven’t had the opportunity to study with Richard directly, I still count him among my teachers, based solely on the wealth of knowledge available via his books and videos.


Firstly, the famous book Alla Prima: Everything I Know About Painting. This book alone won’t teach you how to paint (can any book?), but it will teach you Richard’s thought process regarding every aspect of painting.

You’ll probably get more from this book if you already know the basics of how to paint. I actually find that it becomes more valuable every time I revisit it, as the concepts make more sense the more I practice painting.

The title is no joke, it really does cover everything. Well, almost everything, I have the first edition. There is now a second edition – Everything I Know About Painting – and More. I must pick that up at some point to find out what the More is all about!

Richard has several other books available. He recently released a book dedicated to his still life art, and apparently he’s currently writing one dedicated to portraits. Can’t wait for that!

I also managed to pick up one of his older out of print books from a second hand book seller online, so it’s worth doing some searching to see what you can find.


There’s nothing quite like watching a master artist paint to learn how they do it. Watching Richard’s demonstration in The Captain’s Portrait gave me a whole new insight into the process of painting a portrait. Seeing how the painting is constructed from start to finish, with every brush stroke documented, is not only very inspiring, but also instructive, providing ideas for new techniques you can incorporate into your own paintings.

I even took this to the extreme while watching Richard’s White Pine landscape demonstration a few years ago. I actually painted along with him and tried to emulate every brushstroke as closely as possible, to try to get a feel for how he paints. Here’s my effort:

“White Pine” copy after Richard Schmid, by Dan Johnson

I didn’t produce a masterpiece, but I did find it to be a valuable exercise in learning new painting techniques.

Thank you, Richard, for teaching the world everything you know about painting!

Here’s my portrait of Richard Schmid. Oils on 9×12″ panel:

Richard Schmid by Dan Johnson – 2019

Learn from Richard

All of Richard’s books and videos are available from his website: www.richardschmid.com





One response to “Teachers of a Self-Guided Artist: Richard Schmid”

  1. Emma (@Little_Em_) Avatar

    This is a lovely post.

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