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August in Akron is when the best professional golfers bring their top game to the area. The tournament is the main attraction, but the week at Firestone celebrates many people other than the players. For each NEC Invitational, an Ambassador of Golf is recognized. The awardees are people, “who have fostered the ideals of the game on an international level and whose concern for others extends beyond the golf course.”
For each ambassador, there is a person that remains behind the scenes and is responsible for making ambassadors come to life. When it is time to present the award, the face of a local artist, Jack Richard, emerges from his studio with a portrait painting of the year’s ambassador. The original portrait goes to the recipient, while a photographic facsimile is created for Firestone Country Club.
Who are some of the past ambassadors? Dinah Shore, Gerald Ford, Gary Player, Juan “Chi Chi” Rodriguez, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Nancy Lopez and George H. W. Bush are only a selection of the faces which have been painted since the World Series of Golf started in 1981. It sounds rather odd to connect golf pros, presidents and movie stars together but not to Jack Richard or to the Northern Ohio Golf Charities, who makes the selections.
Richard is commissioned each year to paint the portrait of the ambassador. The painting is presented at the Ambassador of Golf Reception at the Firestone Country Club in late summer. Surrounded by easels, palettes, pastels, oil paints, linseed oil and turpentine, Richard, the “face” behind the portraits of each ambassador, creates a lifetime of achievements on canvas.
The process for Richard begins in the late winter or early spring. He hears from the NEC Corporation, and they provide the name of the newly selected ambassador. Richard takes it from there. As a painter, teacher, restoration expert, historian, artisan, craftsman and owner of the Almond Tea Gallery on the Front Street Mall in Cuyahoga Falls, Richard knows how to get the information he needs. He contacts the award recipient, often does his own photo sessions, researches material from archives, and sometimes talks with family members. In the case of Bob Hope’s portrait (1986), Richard corresponded with Hope’s sister-in-law in charge of Hope’s archives. But Richard also spent about four hours with Hope, who was quite charismatic. From this experience, Richard discovered that it was easier to paint actors than anyone else because they are used to being directed.
Sometimes the painting is done posthumously, and then he works from the photographs that are submitted by the committee. This is a more difficult process, but it can be done. For Bing Crosby’s portrait (1982), Richard made the decision to paint Kathryn Grant Crosby and their son into the portrait with Bing. In the painting, Richard painted Kathryn with her hair pulled back and wearing a sweater and a skirt. Kathryn received the painting on behalf of the late Bing Crosby at the Ambassador of Golf Reception and Richard asked her to come to his studio the next day to photograph her. When she arrived she was dressed in the same sweater and skirt outfit with her hair pulled back as it was in the painting. She talked about her husband and how she saw him. She spent the whole afternoon there, and Jack was able to photograph her for the original pastel sketches that are hanging in the first floor gallery.
A portrait takes months of preparation, research and design. Richard begins with sketches to provide a variation of poses. Once the sketches are done and he selects a pose, he begins the oil painting, which often includes vignettes from the subject’s life and family. If possible, he will obtain approval directly from the recipient and finish the portrait with live sittings if the client is able to come to the studios. If the subject is out of town, Richard travels with the painting. He is adamant about the quality and details of his work and always tries to create a piece that satisfies his subject.
Some of the originals and the photographic facsimiles of the Ambassador paintings are on display on the first floor at the Almond Tea Gallery. Bob Hope’s portrait is one of them. It has been more popular recently since Hope, from nearby Cleveland, celebrated his 100th birthday in May. The exhibit on the first floor also consists of portraits of President Dwight D. Eisenhower; William Muse and Peggy Gordon Elliot, past presidents of University of Akron and Jerry O’Neil from General Tire. The original painting of O’Neil is hanging in the Sharon Center Golf Club.
Chi Chi Rodriguez (1981) was the first portrait to be commissioned. A photographic facsimile of Chi Chi’s portrait also hangs in the first floor gallery with the others.
Paintings were done of both President Gerald Ford (1985) and President George H. W. Bush (1994) under circumstances unlike any other. When Richard met the presidents, they were always surrounded by the Secret Service. Jack remembers that both men were very sincere and cooperative. President Bush, a past president of the United States Golf Association, was very grateful of Richard’s artistic efforts and wrote him a letter of appreciation.
One of Richard’s favorite portraits was of Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts and Charlie Brown. The portrait was in honor of Schulz as the recipient of the Raymond Firestone Award. Richard has many anecdotes about “Charlie”. He was able to talk personally with the cartoonist when Schulz visited with the artist and his wife, Jane, at the studios. The original portrait is in the Schulz collection in California.
Currently, Jack is working on five portraits. Two of them are of local subjects. A third one is of Dr. Alfred Bader, the creator of the Aldridge Chemical Company, the second largest chemical company in the country. Bader, an art aficionado, is an international picture dealer who recently purchased several Rembrandt paintings and owns a gallery in Milwaukee.
The fourth and fifth portraits he is working on are the paintings of this year’s two Ambassadors of Golf. One is the late Robert Dedman, Sr., who died last August and was the founder of ClubCorp, Inc., the world’s larges owner and operator of golf courses, private clubs and resorts. Among ClubCorp’s nationally recognized golf properties is Firestone Country Club in Akron. The other Ambassador is Jack A. Vickers, who is the founder of Castle Pines Golf Club in Colorado.
Richard, a member of numerous national artist associations and recipient of many art awards, has been commissioned for more than 2.500 paintings. He has sold more than 1,200 paintings alone, not including his over 300 portraits. His paintings are exhibited in over 600 collections around the world. His Almond Tea Galleries promotes local, national and international artists.
Richard has met many famous individuals but is not about to let this inflate his ego. Instead of focusing on their fame, he finds something unique about each subject, no matter who it is, and reflects it with his paintings. He has the gift to build a rapport with all of his subjects. An artist has to see more than the physical likeness to interpret what is beneath the surface. What makes Richard’s work so personal is his ability to allow the viewer a glimpse into the soul of his subject. Jack Richard, a signature member of the Akron Society of Artists and the face behind the Ambassadors of Golf, has given the halls of Firestone Country Club a stroke of artistic genius with canvas, oil paint and his brush.
The Eisenhower Portraits
One of the highlights of Jack Richard’s career came with his portraits of Dwight D. and Mamie Eisenhower. In 1960, The Tupperware Corporation commissioned Jack to paint the Eisenhowers on regular size canvases, enlarge them to 48 by 60-inch canvases, and then enlarge them again and turn them into “paint-by-number” paintings on 48 by 60-foot canvases. Richard measured and divided the canvases into a thousand spaces, which he numbered on the large canvases to correspond with specific colors that were used in the original, smaller paintings.
This was one of the most unique art projects in history, completed by two thousand Tupperware dealers, managers and distributors who attended the 1960 Space Capades Jubilees held at Tupperware International Headquarters at Orlando, Florida, and the campus of Utah State University at Logan, Utah. The attendees didn’t know what they were going to paint. They were directed onto the canvas without shoes, given Tupperware cups filled with special paint and told to paint in the numbered areas that had been assigned to them. When the amateur artists finished each section, giant cranes lifted the paintings into the air to show the Tupperware people the results of their work. The results were two huge oil paintings exactly like Jack’s original portraits of the Eisenhowers. Each 48 by 60-foot oil painting contained 32 gallons of paint and 40 colors. Each canvas weighed 440 pounds before the painting began.
The paintings were the highlight of the sales convention. Combining their efforts, the participants painted the gigantic 48 by 60-foot portraits of the Eisenhowers in approximately five hours each.
Richard the Student and Teacher
Richard was educated at the Chicago Professional School of Art, University of Akron, Kent State University, and Ohio University. He worked in Chicago as a graphic artist. He also worked or studied alongside great artists such as Ben Shahn, Ben Stahl, Herb Olsen, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Paul Sample, Aaron Bohrod, Louis Grell, Gladys Rockmore Davis, Charles Burchfield, and Robert Brackman. These artists helped him learn to use light and color to accentuate the luminous character of the subject. It was Brackman who inspired the creative imagination that compels the viewer to see further into Richard’s paintings. Richard’s early days were filled creating storyboards for the television series The Ohio Story, and he won an award for the Best Cover Design of a Trade Journal in a national show with his design for Ohio Edison’s trade publication.
Below the Almond Tea Galleries is the studio where Jack Richard has mentored many individuals in the art world. Among them is Charles Pfahl, who had an exhibit at the Gerald Peters Gallery in New York City this last April. Pfahl began studying with Richard at the age of ten and was encouraged by Richard to study with his teacher, Brackman, in New York. In American Artist Magazine, Pfahl says that Richard was “capable of teaching everything, and he does.”
Mark Giangaspero began studying with Richard at the age of eleven and is now a professional painter. His paintings were recently exhibited in the Almond Tea Galleries. Giangaspero also teaches painting at the Quirk Center and does restoration and framing at the studios.
Carl Gombert, another student, recently received his Ph.D. at Texas Tech in Lubbock and is an art professor at Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee.
The name Dino Massaroni is familiar in the Akron area. Massaroni, a portrait artist, also teaches painting at the Cuyahoga Valley Art Center and is the President of the Akron Society of Artists. Massaroni started his tutelage with Richard in his teens.
Previous student Chris Heindel designed and worked on the bronze lion at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, while working as the art director for Art Enterprises. The lion is the largest bronze monument in the Northern Hemisphere and the second largest in the world. Heindel also worked on a statue of four horses pulling Julius Caesar in a chariot located at the Caesar’s Palace in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Other students include Andrew Voth, who went on to be the Director of the Carnegie Art Museum in Oxnard, California, and Colleen Black, who was recently commissioned by Colin Powell to create a sculpture that would be presented to the Medal of Honor winners under his command.
Richard teaches beginning, intermediate and advanced students in scenic landscape, portrait, still life and figure painting in oil, watercolor, pastel and acrylics as well as in various drawing media. His classes run continuously on Tuesday mornings and evenings. He believes that “classes are not judged by how good an artist the teacher is but what the students produce.” More than two thousand students have attended his classes in more than forty years.
“Jack Richard Day”
Friday, October 18th, 2002, was proclaimed, “Jack Richard Day” in Summit County by James B. McCarthy, Summit County Executive. McCarthy urged all citizens to recognize the rare talents of this fine individual, and he wished him continued success in the future.