K.O.K., 2007 (oil on canvas, 72 inches x 64 inches)
Courtesy of Dickson Schneider
In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell posits that mastery in any field comes after 10,000 hours of work. “I could feel when it happened to me,” says Alameda painter Dickson Schneider. “My 10,000 hours ended sometime in the ’90s. That’s crazy, because I was 40 when it finally happened. And then there was a feeling of, oh, yeah, I kind of get this now.”
Not everyone gets Schneider’s work. He is best known for paintings of fashion models with exaggerated features, ideals of beauty stretched to their illogical conclusion, in a series currently comprising 85 pieces. “Somebody was looking at a bunch of these, and they basically thought I didn’t know how to draw people.” That was until they saw a sub-series pairng a model with a large, realistic head in the background. “And then they said, oh, so you actually can draw a person, but are choosing not to.”
An internationally exhibited artist, as well as a lecturer in pictorial art at California State University, East Bay and an instructor of painting classes at Autobody Fine Art on Park Street in Alameda, Schneider definitely knows how to draw people.
Then why choose that approach? “They’re people that represent this ideal that they can’t even come up to,” Schneider says. “I’ve really been meandering around looking at different stuff, trying to understand something … I’m looking for some truth in all this. And you have to do it backwards, because you don’t know what the truth is. But you can sort of tell what a lie is. We’re more sensitive to that. It’s like these distorted figures are so ridiculously lies that I can come after them in a way that’s examining beauty through a reverse process of distortion.”
Schneider’s focus now is on engaging communities, from his teaching, to painting portraits of “somebody who wouldn’t normally get a portrait made ... 99 percenters,” to actually giving his artwork away for free at the monthly Oakland Art Murmur. “The free art thing is about engaging a public through offering them something, no strings attached. So I make it deliberately to give away, which is a real pleasure, because you know where it’s going.”
More of Schneider’s work can be seen at www.dicksonschneider.com; his studio is open for visits by appointment; call (510) 220-4447.