“I’ve always known that I was supposed to be an artist.” As a 3-year-old in his small Ohio hometown, Paul Richmond woke before dawn each day, stole downstairs to the family dining table and drew, and drew, and drew.
“I’d have hundreds of pieces done before they got up,” he says. “They weren’t masterpieces by any stretch—but I knew that I loved it.” That early passion blossomed into a life as a successful painter and teacher first in his home state, and now in Monterey.
Early on he was fascinated by a certain female celebrity.
“All the boys in my class wanted to be Michael Jordan,” he shares. “I wanted to be Dolly Parton. I just kind of related to how over the top she was. She’s a caricature of femininity but immensely proud of who she is. I think she’s a great person. I wanted to be like that but because of my circumstances I couldn’t yet.”
Richmond’s parents were supportive of his passion and found a teacher, Linda Regula, with whom he started learning oil painting at age 4.
“I studied with her until I was 18,” he says. “I still remember the first day. Seeing her work on her walls opened up a whole new world.” He stayed close to his beloved mentor until her passing in 2020.
After high school, Richmond attended an Ohio art school. “When I graduated and started reaching out to galleries, the feedback was that though some of my work was considered marketable, because I had other paintings that deal with LGBT and other political subjects, I was advised to use a different name for that work,” he says.
That felt like a giant leap backwards. “It felt like going into the closet again,” he shares.
It was a struggle to live an open life in his conservative Midwest town—one he was determined to overcome. “It’s important that I incorporate all facets of myself into my work and hopefully that will enable others to see themselves for who they are and empower them to do the best work they possibly can,” he says.
Having an inspirational and supportive mentor such as Linda Regula inspired the young painter to pass on the knowledge he gained. “There has never been a time in my life when I wasn’t teaching,” Richmond says. “My philosophy is that regardless of age, my job is to help students find their voices. I let the students tell me what they’re interested in and work with that.”
Richmond’s work is varied and highly interesting. Some is conventional, some is whimsical, some is fantastical, some would be considered controversial in some circles. But all of Richmond’s work is masterfully rendered, the products of a keen eye for color, a practiced and steady hand on the brush and a heart full of love for his work and his subjects.
“Oil is my favorite medium,” he says. “I keep going back to it and I love how I can build it up in layers using a palette knife. Typically, I have several paintings going on at any given time. I’ll set one aside while it dries and work on something else. I love responding to what’s happening on the canvas. I let the painting lead me to where it wants to go.”
Recently, Richmond’s early fascination with Dolly Parton came full circle when the country queen commissioned a painting for her home.
“Her creative director follows me on Instagram and reached out,” he says. “They were redoing her house in LA and wanted a painting for her living room. He thought my work would be a good fit.”
Richmond was stunned by what he calls “a crazy coincidence,” but not stunned enough to decline. “Of course, I said yes,” he says. Adding to the honor, the painter got to hang the colorful painting of butterflies in flight in Parton’s home. “It all felt meant to be,” he relates.
Richmond decamped for the West Coast in 2016 when his husband Dennis, a nurse practitioner, was offered a position here.
“I had never heard of Monterey,” he recalls. “I Googled it and saw a photo of the Bixby Creek Bridge. It’s such a wonderful art community and we love being close to both San Francisco and Los Angeles.
“I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing opportunities in my career,” he adds. “I don’t take them for granted. To me, being a painter is the most awesome thing in the world, like having a superpower. It gave me a way to express myself and I needed that. I still do.”
Paul Richmond’s unique work can be viewed at paulrichmondstudio.com.