Editor’s Letter | The Art of Kindness

Richard Schmid, Girl in a White Dress, oil, 16 x 12., painting, southwest art.
Richard Schmid, Girl in a White Dress, oil, 16 x 12.

By Margaret L. Brown

My grandfather Neill S. Brown was a remarkable man: one of the first high-school students in Houston to volunteer for duty in World War I, a laborer in a Ford automobile plant who rose to become head of manufacturing for Lincoln Mercury in the 1940s. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he was called to the Pentagon and put in charge of converting Ford’s automobile plants to tank production. He knew Henry Ford, met President Roosevelt, rode in the pace car in the 1953 Indy 500. What made him truly remarkable, however—and what he is remembered for long after his death—was his kindness. He visited sick people in the hospital, drove his neighbors to the store, and made each of his 13 grandchildren feel that they were special to him. He made a difference in a great many people’s lives with just a few words or a simple act.

I’ve thought of my grandfather often this month as I read the words conferred upon another kind soul, painter Richard Schmid, by his former students. In conjunction with an excerpt from Schmid’s new book, Alla Prima: Everything I Know About Painting (see page 42), we asked 10 artists who’ve studied with him over the years to describe the experience. The artists learned, they said, everything from how to prime a canvas and set up a still life to the importance of simplifying brush strokes and painting edges. In addition, though, each artist spoke of Schmid’s kindness, of how much his encouraging words and simple acts of generosity have meant to them over the years.

On those days in Houston when we have exceptionally beautiful weather—when the sun is bright and the air is clear I look up to the sky and say to my grandfather, “Pretty awesome, isn’t it?” Of having the opportunity to present a portion of Schmid’s Alla Prima in this issue, my sentiments are the same: pretty awesome.

Featured in June 1998