By Bonnie Gangelhoff
Dick Heimbold did not start out life as an artist. Armed with a degree in engineering from Marquette University, Heimbold moved to Southern California to work as an aerospace engineer at Lockheed Martin. Eventually, in his spare time, he took painting classes with the legendary Sergei Bongart at his school in downtown Los Angeles. “I’m a Gemini,” Heimbold says. “I’ve always been torn between the logical or technical and the creative.”
In 1985 he became director of process engineering in the Space Shuttle program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But while he helped propel shuttles into space, he was also continuing to paint on the side. “I always had a dream that someday I would get to a point in life where I could become a full-time artist,” Heimbold says. “But in the beginning I took the more conservative approach to earning a living.”
Today Heimbold is following his creative dreams with successes that include solo gallery shows and award-winning paintings. He has retired from his life as a rocket scientist and is a full-time artist who calls Los Angeles home. As this story was going to press, Segil Fine Art in Monrovia, CA, was presenting a show of his Los Angeles landscapes and city scenes. Recently, California State Senator Carol Liu chose his painting ALEX AT NIGHT, a nocturnal urbanscape, to represent her district in the California State Senate Contemporary Art Collection, which opened earlier this year at the State Capitol in Sacramento and runs through September 2012. And these days fans of the television program NCIS: Los Angeles can catch a glimpse of a Heimbold painting in scenes at the fictional investigative team’s headquarters: SANTA MONICA AT CALIFORNIA INCLINE depicts a ribbon of road that overlooks Santa Monica’s sandy beaches and the Pacific Coast Highway.
In Heimbold’s most recent series, he casts his artistic eye on the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles, a city that has held special allure since he arrived there years ago. “L.A. is a city on the edge of things. It offers me everything—beaches, mountains, and snow,” he says. “There’s Chinatown, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and Huntington Gardens. I discover things to paint all around me here. And I’m carrying on the fascination that I still have about the place.”
Another element that continues to capture his imagination and attention is light, particularly the artificial illumination that emanates from buildings after dark, from movie theaters to gas stations. “If you drive around L.A. at night, the brightest things you see in the landscape are the gas stations,” Heimbold says. “They represent an oasis of light, and each one is different. For example, the Shell stations have a lot of white and orange, while the Mobil stations are more somber.”
Whether he is painting Los Angeles, Maine, or Mexico, one of Heimbold’s major interests is color. In fact, he was first attracted to works by Sergei Bongart because of their color virtuosity and color harmonies; Bongart remains a strong influence today. Heimbold relishes pumping up and exaggerating his color palettes. “For me painting is all about the magic of light and color,” he says. “As I paint, I work consciously to build a vibrant connection to the subject of the painting through intensity of color and light.”
Segil Fine Art, Monrovia, CA; White’s Art, Framing & Restoration, Montrose, CA; Galeria Atenea, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; Galeria Mery Palma, Panama City, Panama; www.dickheimbold.com.
Group show, Segil Fine Art, through August 31.
Malibu Art Festival, July 30-31.
Three-person show, Blanchard Community Library, Santa Paula, CA, July 30-August 27.
Featured in July 2011.