RHONA SCHONWALD’S STORY as an artist began when she fell in love with painting at age 11. In order to get a sense of the artist, though, we need to begin her journey in the middle, when she began experimenting with a wash of colors, creating what she calls “a big mess.” Starting the story midstream is apropos for an artist who sees the world through a unique lens and signs her name on the sides of the canvas, so the viewer is further encouraged to see the art from different angles.
When her children were young, Schonwald brought home a new and improved version of her “big mess” paintings, which made them squeal with delight. “It looks like clouds, but in color,” they observed, noting that they could see something different each time they rotated the canvas. The comment struck a chord in Schonwald, who began painting as a child but was not encouraged to seriously consider it as a career because, at the time, it was not deemed practical. Coloring in the lines is natural, but not necessarily comfortable for Schonwald, who grew up during a time when being a “good girl” meant following the rules, not your heart.
When her children jumped with joy at seeing her painting, it made her feel that she would never be taken seriously as an artist, so she went back to her studio and created more realistic work. When she brought back her new painting, her children were underwhelmed and told her there was really no point looking at the painting. It was at that moment Schonwald realized that her purpose in life was to create joy and inspire creativity and imagination in adults who had lost their sense of wonder along the way.
“I began to create my own puzzles,” says Schonwald. “I started with something blank and drove myself crazy, but I still love the process. In the best moments, I don’t even know I am there.” One time, when she was working on Easter Sunday, she got lost in her work. “No one was around but the people at a nearby bar. I stood up and got dizzy, so I went across the street and got a cranberry juice. When I returned to my studio, I saw a fabulous painting that I didn’t even know I created,” she recalls.
Schonwald studied art in college and took advantage of all the art offerings, including ceramics and jewelry making, eager to express her creativity. She went on to teach art in elementary school and always tried to spark creativity in others. “I loved teaching and seeing the faces of the students light up,” notes Schonwald.
Her highly acclaimed paintings have been featured in the movie Universal Signs and on both book and music covers. Her work has been exhibited in the permanent collection of the consulate in Dubai and in galleries and museums throughout the United States. She is currently working with a renowned Swedish composer to create a cover for his memoirs, which will be published in the United Kingdom, the United States and Sweden.
The day before our interview was her grandson’s seventh birthday. “All that matters to him is sports,” says Schonwald, who was delighted when he said, “All that I want for my birthday is for you to make me a painting.” He pointed to a painting and said, ”I want that one!” When she explained that it was part of a set, he decided to name one painting Charlie and the other one Harleston. When Schonwald asked where he got the names, her grandson said, “I used my imagination.”
Shelley and Stan Potler, customers of Schonwald, summed up the effect her paintings have on them, saying: “We own several paintings by Rhona Schonwald. Our favorite hangs in our bedroom, where it is the first thing we see each morning and among the last at night. The colors change wonderfully with the light, causing our moods to be lighter, happier or more passionate. We are always amazed that the same painting evokes such strong and
Stacey Marcus is a Boston-based freelance lifestyle, luxury and travel writer. Her works have appeared in Art New England, Boston, Boston Common Magazine, Coastal Design Magazine, Charleston Style & Design, Modern Luxury Chicago, Ocean Home Magazine, Playboy.com, RD.com and many others. A lover of big words and little white dogs, Stacey’s biggest joys are found in life’s simple moments.