Richard Schultz got all Fs in his high school art class. He never went to art school, and his work experience consisted of management and sales positions and drywall work.
Today, Schultz paints murals in homes that are as large as 18,000 square feet and worth more than $15 million. And he uses his drywall experience to create three-dimensional murals with a talent that can't be taught.
Schultz arrived at the home of Tom and Sally Bentley on June 6 to begin working on a mural that climbs up the stairs of their rustic log cabin home on Seedhouse Road. He has about 40 to 50 hours left until its completion.
Every detail has been thought out, from the representative reflections Schultz painted into the high-altitude lakes to the different highlights that pop out when the sun hits the mural during different times of the day.
"It is a composite of different feelings and thoughts I found in my research," Schultz said.
The mattress and table in the bedroom he works in is covered with nature photography and guide books. But the real inspiration is just outside the windows that shed light on his mural.
"Touring around here, who knows what I can come up with that will inspire me and affect the painting," Schultz said. "I get to wake up, and my canvas is right here."
Schultz uses the construction materials and items surrounding the house to create the three dimensional pieces of the mural.
"The bear is made out of foam, wire, plastic and dry wall compounds," Schultz said. "The ears are made out of bark, and the claws are bark shavings dipped in plaster."
The aspen trees have been hollowed out, debugged and filled with plaster. But the golden acrylic fluid paints are flown in from New York and cost more than $400 a gallon.
This is the first job Schultz has taken outside of his home state of Wisconsin.
"This was my opportunity to travel to another state," Schultz said. "I do most of my travel through my murals and through my research. That's my vacation."
Schultz enlists the help of his wife and children to involve them in his work. If his clients have children, they are part of the process as well.
"I have them paint something, because it makes those kids so proud of their painting," Schultz said. "It's a lifetime experience for them."
Other projects Schultz has completed involved painting Egyptian, Greek, underwater and fantasy scenes as well as painting sports figures, portraits and a European map. For the map project, he built a scaffold with a captain's chair that swiveled and tipped backward to facilitate painting upside down.
"It took my arm five months to heal after that project," Schultz said.
Schultz has been painting murals for 10 years and made it his profession seven years ago. He attributes his talent to trial and error and self-research as well as attending life's university.
"Here I am, almost 60 years old. It if ends tomorrow, it's been a wonderful experience," Schultz said. "You can't erase it."