Budding artist brings natural splendor to Boardwalk Art show

Theresa Dominique Richard has only been in the local art scene for four years, but she is coming out strong with a colorful style and a background in art, a role as a devoted mother and wife, and a heartwarming history about overcoming the seemingly impossible.

Artist 2007.08.31: Theresa Dominique Richard works on a pastel in her shop in Ocean View.Coastal Point • RYAN SAXTON
Theresa Dominique Richard works on a pastel in her shop in Ocean View.

“I’ve been in art as long as I can remember,” Richard said. “I played around with it for a long time because I was told that I had a natural gift at a very young age.”

She earned her art degree in painting in 1997 from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, considered one of the top four art schools in the country. Despite always dabbling in one project or another, Richard hadn’t really become very involved in the art community until the past few years.

She runs Dominique’s Studio, located at 200 Atlantic Avenue, which she shares with fellow artist and proprietor of the Bethany Beach restaurant Sedona Jonathan Spivak. “He knew I wanted some more space, and he had the building,” she said. “It worked out well.”

She participated in her first private show in 2005, and makes her debut this year in next Saturday’s Bethany Beach Boardwalk Art Festival and the upcoming South Eastern Delaware Artists’ Studio Tour (SEDAST). “This is a really exciting year for me,” she said.

Her pastel pieces are becoming more and more recognized, capturing the bright essence of nature from a perspective that very few take the time to appreciate.

“I have a variety of floral and shell pieces,” Richard said. “Usually, I work from a natural source — butterflies, doves, flowers. Sometimes my work will take on some symbolism.”

One of her symbolic pieces, titled “The Wish,” depicts a dandelion caught in a gentle breeze. “It’s a very simple idea that meant a lot.”

Richard hadn’t had the opportunity to really focus on her passion, however, until four years ago. Family came first.

“It was all about time,” she said. Richard found out quickly that managing her daughter and two sons, and assisting husband Jerry, owner of Steakhouse 26 in Millville, was already quite an endeavor.

“It was sort of an evolution I’ve always seen inspiration in nature — the symbolism and beauty of spiritual things. A lot of my work is a magnified view upon an object, which makes a point about the beauty of something.”

Her children, all of whom are students at Selbyville’s School of the Arts, have been quite an influence for Richard. “They point out the little details outside and on walks.”

At ages 13, 10 and 8, her kids have come to take less of her watchful eye, as their own artistic talents are beginning to show through, too.

“My oldest son plays acoustic and electric saxophone, which is a direct result from the school. They’ve really inspired him and mentored him,” she said. “Everyone there has to find their art major, and they really encourage the kids. My daughter’s got a real eye for design, and she loves to draw. My youngest is an athlete, and he’s surprising me every day with how talented he is as an artist.”

Working with this autumn’s SEDAST, Richard will have the opportunity to give back to the next generation, as a raffle from the event each year raises money for local art programs within the community. “It’s great, because we’re giving back to the kids,” she said.

Her time with her children had often taken away from her time in front of the canvas. “I would lose track of the deadlines for the shows,” she said. “I finally have the chance to be a little more organized.”

Up until this past December, Richard had painted at her home, in her dining room, but she soon found that to be more of a hassle than she had originally expected.

“My kids would honor my space,” she said, “but you can imagine how challenging that would get with two dogs, three kids and husband with a restaurant. Here,” she added of the new space on Atlantic Avenue, “I don’t have to worry about putting any of my work up, out of the way, or flipping paintings around.”

Her children haven’t been the only ones who have helped drive her work. “My husband has been the push behind a lot of my development and putting me out into the public eye,” she said. “He’s a great entrepreneur, a great marketer.”

Much of her work, including the original print of “The Wish,” hangs on display at Steakhouse 26. Dr. Bonnie Burnquist in Ocean View and a local lawyer also collect Richard’s works.

Though she has been commissioned to do some of her work, she prefers the freedom of creating her own pieces. “I stay a little fresher when I do my own work,” she said. “I’ve had some really good success, considering it’s all just word of mouth right now. People and other artists can see me in public now. It’s made it easier for me to get on board with other artists in the area.”

Many of her pieces have been in auctions for charity, including the Leukemia Society and the local Joshua House foundation.

“My father was a big influence, too,” she added. “He listened to the teachers who said, early on, I had a knack for art, and he gave me a whole wall in our house.”

Richard has worked with other forms of art, though it’s the pastels to which she inevitably returns. “Pastels have been a natural medium for me,” she said. “I think it grew out of being a mom, and needing an immediate color. It didn’t take a whole lot of time. I love the texture,” she added.

Last year, though, an unfortunate incident almost put an end to her career. A mishap at a family softball game resulted in a hospital visit and hematoma on the right side of her brain. Doctors, family and friends feared the worst — that damage done to the artistic and creative centers of the brain would adversely alter her capabilities.

Reassurance came a month after her initial recovery, though, as she put the finishing touches on a brilliant macro-painting of a lily, proving to everyone that she still had her touch. “I showed everybody that I still had it,” she said. “Without that whole incident, I wouldn’t be as courageous as I am today.”

Still relatively young in the art scene, Richard does not have her eyes set on much in the future beyond just continuing with her artwork. “I just want to ride it out and see how the Boardwalk show goes,” she said. “The next thing I’d look at is hiring a marketer, and maybe teaching art, eventually.”

For more information about Richard’s work, stop by her gallery and studio located at 200 Atlantic Avenue, or call (302) 225-8649.