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Artist Blends Painting, Teaching

Kurt Schwarz will show 23 to 25 of his paintings for six weeks at Gallery 222 in Leesburg.

After “failing miserably” in the more practical subject of engineering, Neersville resident Kurt Schwarz ended up doing what he wanted to do in the first place: painting.

Over the years, Schwarz created thousands of paintings as a student then as a professional, finding that his interest is in still lifes, portraits and an occasional landscape. Twenty-three to 25 of these paintings will be showcased for six weeks at Gallery 222 in Leesburg.

Schwarz studied engineering, then architecture and soon quit both, working in architectural illustration for eight years into the early 1990s. In 1990, he returned to school at George Washington University, graduating two years later with a bachelor of arts degree in fine arts.

For five years, Schwarz apprenticed with painter Danni Dawson, whom he credits for his “aggressive painting style, one that uses warm and cool colors to create tension,” as stated in a statement about the gallery show. “I like creating space and playing with color,” he said, adding that he likes the opposition found in using warm and cool colors. “You can play temperatures off of each other. That’s what makes light exciting.”

“He has very good techniques, and his light in painting and his colors are very good,” said Purcellville artist Carmen Howell, who met Schwarz years ago at one of her gallery shows.

IN 1994, Schwarz quit his architectural illustration job and decided to become a full-time artist. He began showing his pieces at one large show a year and commissioning portraits.

“The main thing is I love to create a beautiful, actual physical thing,” Schwarz said. “There’s a sense of illusion, some kind of magic involved. It’s not really what it is.”

In 2000, Schwarz, 36, began teaching two days a week at his alma mater and another day at Loudoun Academy of the Arts, housed in the same building as Gallery 222.

However, Schwarz found that teaching three days a week took too much time from his painting, so a year later he quit the university position. Now he teaches one day a week, one class at the academy and another two classes at the Art League School in Alexandria, commonly referred to as the Torpedo Factory.

“It gets me out of the studio one day a week. It gives me a chance to interact with people,” Schwarz said.

Schwarz works another four days at his Waterford studio, which is housed with two other studios in the old Waterford school. Before a show, he spends six, then seven days a week there. For this show, some of the paintings already are framed in his custom-built frames, one sits on an easel and others lean against the walls in various stages of completion. Each painting takes from one day to three weeks to finish.

“I set something up, think about it and look at it, then I start painting,” he said. “I don’t do any preparatory sketching. I just plunge on in.”

Schwarz has nearly two weeks to his opening day on Dec. 3. The show will continue until Jan. 10, 2004.