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‘Art is fun again’

Retired Marine teaches sketching class at Eagle’s Trace

Created date

July 19th, 2016
Richard Schwarz (right) teaches a sketching class to Eagle’s Trace community members, including (from left) Mercer Helms, Pam Daniels, Lillian Arnold, Lois Roddy, and (back row) Dora Martinez.

Richard Schwarz (right) teaches a sketching class to Eagle’s Trace community members, including (from left) Mercer Helms, Pam Daniels, Lillian Arnold, Lois Roddy, and (back row) Dora Martinez.

At first glance, an art class taught by a Marine Corps veteran who served two tours in Vietnam may seem like an anomaly.

But that’s exactly what you’ll find at Eagle’s Trace, where resident Richard Schwarz gently encourages his students as they sketch everything from birds to sail boats.

Richard, who served in the Marines for 24 years, counts artistic pursuits among his lifelong hobbies.

“As a college student, I sold my paintings for extra money,” he says. “I studied graphic design at Sam Houston State University before I joined the Marines. When I retired from the service, I taught third through sixth grade at Memorial Christian Academy and wove art projects into the curriculum whenever I could.”

Richard and his wife Betty moved to Eagle’s Trace in January 2014. A year later, Richard offered to teach an oil painting class to other residents at the West Houston Erickson Living community.

“There was a small turnout for the oil painting class because it’s quite an investment in terms of the materials,” says Richard. “I also realized there was significant interest in a sketching class and taking art back to the basics.”

Richard offered the first sketching class in February 2016. The class meets every Saturday in the community’s arts and crafts studio, which is often filled to capacity.

“Sometimes, we have trouble finding enough tables and chairs to accommodate everyone,” says Richard.

During each class, Richard gives residents a sample sketch and teaches them how to replicate it. He also gives homework—a second sketch to recreate during the week.

Encouragement only

For Lois Roddy, the class is a welcome addition to the community’s robust calendar of events.

“I had to take a semester of art when I was in the seventh grade,” says Lois. “The teacher walked around with a metal ruler and rapped our knuckles if she wasn’t pleased with our work. I was afraid in her class.”

At Eagle’s Trace, Lois is free to unleash her inner artist.

“Richard is a great teacher,” says Lois. “Art is fun again.”

Pam Daniels is another resident who is stepping into art for the first time since childhood.

“Some teacher along the way gave me the impression I couldn’t draw,” says Pam. “Now I’m learning to sketch for my own pleasure.”

In the company of other artists

Other Eagle’s Trace residents use the sketching class as an opportunity to connect with fellow artists.

Lillian Arnold is a prolific artist and teaches a watercolor class every Friday afternoon at Eagle’s Trace. Working between Lois and Pam, Lillian quickly sketches the morning’s assignment—a bottle of wine standing guard over a bowl of grapes.

“I like the sketching class because it allows me to keep my hand in drawing and use different materials than I do when I’m painting with watercolors,” says Lillian.

Shirley Walters has dabbled in art since college.

“It’s a great way to pass the time,” says Shirley. “Sometimes, I get so caught up in a sketch or painting that I’ll look at the clock and three or four hours have gone by.”

Time and freedom to pursue a passion

Dora Martinez moved to Eagle’s Trace with her husband Oscar in 2014. She attended Richard’s oil class and is now a regular in his sketching class.

“There’s nothing I’d rather be doing,” says Dora. “Since I moved to Eagle’s Trace, I’ve discovered that art is what I enjoy. I love experimenting with different techniques.”

Carolyn St. Pé was a teacher for 30 years. 

“Now that I’m retired, I can do what I want for as  long as I want,” she says. “My schedule was fixed for so long. I enjoy the sense of freedom and learning I get from this class.”