As an artist who loves and studies history, Bradley Schmehl has made it his life’s work to research the subjects for his paintings through diaries, letters, books, visiting historical sites, and generally immersing himself in any materials available to him. From the Civil War to the cowboys of the West, Schmehl finds his subjects fascinating. The artist says, “History is a world which is past, yet exerts its influence on us all. It is possible to visit and experience the world of history through the work of writers, filmmakers, living historians, and artists. I want to help open the window on our history so that more people can share in the view.”
The artist detailed paintings reflect the many historical aspects he includes in his images. As an avid reader, Schmehl tries to capture in his mind the events chronicled in the books and other materials he reads. Schmehl also consults with historical experts. Armed with all the research available to him, the artist’s goal is always to paint each element of an event or story. From uniforms to weapons to horses to even the time of day and weather conditions, Schmehl’s paintings are as authentic as possible.
The artist usually starts with a rough pencil sketch, mostly done on location, then he engages his models to pose as the various characters in the image and photographs them. Once Schmehl is satisfied that his concept is historically accurate, he commences his painting. Working in oil on canvas, the artist creates a rough under-painting. After drying, he over-paints the details and refines his brushwork. Schmehl describes his technique as “painterly realism” where he attempts strive to capture the true nature of the light and the color, but makes no effort to disguise the brushstrokes.
Bradley Schmehl has traveled throughout the country in pursuit of his subject matter. Extensive trips to Civil War battlefields, to other historical sites, to even being on the range in Texas have allowed the artist to collect and record the many, many notes, sketches, and library of materials that contribute to his fine work. A Schmehl painting gives the viewer a unique perspective on the subject matter portrayed. As the details in the image come to life, an appreciation of history is evident.