Rick Schloss captures the Santa Barbara light like no other landscape painter. And this successful artist also happens to be also one of the nicest guys around, always with a skip to his step and such a broad smile on his face that it leaves creases around his mouth.
I met Rick in 2001 when he and his family would frequent the French Bulldog in Summerland. Today I own a couple of his paintings, and they truly warm my heart when I see them. Could it be the pinkish tones he captures in the Santa Barbara skyline?
Through March 22, the Museum of Ventura has an exhibit of 60 works of his, half of them from private collections. He will have an artist talk and walk at the museum on March 1 at 3 p.m. His work can also be found at the Tartaglia Fine Arts Gallery in Ojai.
This master painter walked away from his easels to answer the Proust Questionnaire.
Who do you most admire?
I admire John Singer Sargent because he could have lived comfortably like so many in his situation, traveling around Europe the way his parents did, but instead chose to be one of the hardest working artists in history. He painted the way he wanted to and didn’t care that the “modernist” art world of the 1920s considered him an anachronism and no longer valid. While they were celebrating cubism, he was painting landscapes and cityscapes of Venice.
What is your favorite location or view to paint in Santa Barbara?
Without a doubt my favorite location is the stretch of cliffs on the beach at Shoreline Park. A big chunk of it washed away a couple of years ago but its still one of the most beautiful parts of the California coastline. The east-west orientation of the coast takes the winter sunrise light gloriously.
What do you like most about your job?
Painting anywhere in the world and doing it at any unusual time of the day I want. When I am in the studio, I wake at 4 a.m., then I go back to sleep when everyone else is going to work. I think the very best possible job is one you would do if you were suddenly wealthy and could spend your time in any way you like.
I also like working with people that are fun and as enthusiastic about my work as I am, Such as my gallery in Ojai, Tartaglia Fine Art.
What is your current state of mind?
I’m happy. I’m always happy. I think happiness is a created state that you are born with and isn’t really affected by circumstances like winning the lottery or being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Whatever happens, a happy person tends to be happy.
With one exception for me: When I sell a painting I’m happy. When I don’t, I’m unhappy. For an artist selling a painting means success, accomplishment, and fulfillment and showing but not selling means failure.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Having a balance of everything: a family and relationship you love, good health, a career that fulfills you and contributes to the world at large, and the financial security to enjoy it all. I have all that pretty well.
What is your greatest fear?
My worst fear is that people will stop buying paintings and my bubble will burst. I’ll have to look for a job which I’ve never had to do.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Food. I think healthy food is one area that you should never skimp on. I never look at the prices but just buy what is best — which can lead to $20-erp-pound raw organic almonds from Spain.
What is the quality you most like in people?
Humor. I enjoy being around people who make me laugh, and who make themselves laugh. Fortunately for me, most of the people I know are like that. I feel lighter and less significant and enjoy myself more after seeing someone like that.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
Gravity. When you take life too seriously you inevitably focus on the difficult and depressing parts of existence. You forget that maybe it doesn’t really mean what you think it means and you forget to enjoy it.
What do you most value in friends?
Lightness, making me laugh, and ease of talking with.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I’m quite good at relating to people; listening to them, being kind and honest without being smarmy. I’m what most people would call a “nice guy”
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“That’s what she said.”
Which talent would you most like to have?
I would love to be a good musician. Music may just be the ultimate art form and the thought of playing for a group of admirers is inspiring. I started piano lessons when I was 40 but I’m afraid it was way too late. I understand how a painting is made but, even after lessons and music theory classes, how to write a tune is still a mystery to me.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
If I could, I’d be more assertive. And be okay with it.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I look back at what people have said to me and what I have seen other artists go through and I think that my greatest achievement is simply that I have always made my living as an artist. When I was young, of course, selling paintings was just what I did. The older I get, though, the more I think “that is quite an accomplishment.”
Where would you most like to live?
I have lived several places around California and traveled quite a bit. There is one place that I have dreamed that I would like to live and that is the lake district in northern Italy. Lago Maggiore, Lago di Como, etc. There is a unique kind of atmosphere there that I would love to paint in the future.
What is your most treasured possession?
I really have no treasured possessions. I collect nothing and try to avoid gathering “stuff.” If I had to say, it would probably be my easel, a contraption that I built that works well. But if I lost it I would just make another, so really nothing.
Who makes you laugh the most?
My wife when she is falling asleep or is awoken says the oddest non sequiturs. Absurdities that are very, very funny. Unfortunately I don’t remember them because I am usually falling asleep too.
What is your motto?
Do what you love to do since you may not have time for anything else. I guess that means I should go live in Italy!
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Bill Clinton, because he watched The Princess Bride 100 times with his daughter, a goal my daughter and I are working toward.
On what occasion do you lie?
Like most people, I lie whenever the truth will hurt someone’s feelings. Being kind to others is always more important than some abstract idea of justice and honesty.