Artistic Excellence 2017 | Honorable Mention: Thomas W. Schaller


Thomas W. Schaller, Sunlight and Shadows—Girona, watercolor, 20 x 30.

Thomas W. Schaller, Sunlight and Shadows—Girona, watercolor, 20 x 30.

After teaching a painting workshop in Girona, Spain, watercolorist Thomas W. Schaller returned to his studio in Los Angeles, CA, with numerous sketches and color studies of the historic city. These plein-air nuggets became important references for his winning entry. “What inspired the painting is pretty much what inspires all of my work, which is a lifelong study of opposites—the vertical versus horizontal, light versus dark, warm colors vibrating off cool colors,” says Schaller. The earthy warmth of the ancient metropolis, for example, intermingles with the cool tones of the contemporary plants and figures in the scene, he explains. “It’s not a formula so much as a dance I like to see in a painting.”

Though he was trained as both a fine artist and architect, Schaller devoted himself professionally to the latter role for 20 years. His specialty, he says, was visualization. “I was the guy who got to dream up buildings that weren’t yet built. I loved that work, but it became slightly unsatisfying when I realized I was often drawing the visions of someone else.”

Today, as a fine artist, Schaller portrays his visions alone, and he has abandoned the rigid, academic style his former profession required. “I used to really corral watercolors into a tight box,” he says. “What I was trying to do before was explain through my paintings. What I’m trying to do now is express more, explain less. As an artist, you have to be willing to design your paintings using more personal elements—imagination, dreams, weaknesses. It’s an exercise in being a little more honest, a little more confessional.” In the United States, Schaller is represented by RS Hanna Gallery, Fredericksburg, TX.

This story was featured in the December 2017 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art December 2017 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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