One artist’s journey
From drywalling to painting portraits
By Angie Landsverk
Kevin Schmoldt’s journey as an artist continues to evolve.
“I always had some sort of creative outlet,” he said. “I was a musician for a number of years – singing, playing guitar, writing music.”
Schmoldt grew up in Milwaukee and began dabbling in art in the 1990s.
That was after he moved in with a friend, who had nothing on the walls of the place they shared.
Schmoldt began checking out artwork from Oak Creek Public Library.
“Every three weeks, I had to take it back,” he said. “I got sick of it. I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to buy myself some canvas and do my own paintings.’”
Schmoldt started painting abstracts, followed by landscapes and then portraits.
“I was always interested in the human face,” he said. “I started copying faces of people in advertisements and then started doing figurative work from there.”
A drywaller by trade, he left the Milwaukee area in 1998 and started renting a farmhouse near Scandinavia.
“I wanted a change,” Schmoldt said. “I didn’t like living in the city.”
He continued working as a drywaller and saw an advertisement for a part-time library position.
After applying for the position, he learned a high school diploma was required for it.
Schmoldt did not have one.
“I dropped out of high school when I was 16. It was my birthday gift to myself,” he said. “It wasn’t working out for me at the time.”
Shortly after beginning to fill out that application for the library position, Schmoldt received a mailing from Fox Valley Technical College.
The mailing included information about its high school equivalency diploma program.
He called FVTC to find out how much the program cost and found out its deadline was the next day.
Before he knew it, he had signed up for the program.
“One of the first things they asked me was what I was going to do when I got it,” Schmoldt said.
He had always wanted to go to college and learned he could do so with his high school equivalency diploma.
Schmoldt applied at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
“I got accepted and thought I had to go, because it was my life dream,” he said.
Due to his interest in art, he decided to major in it.
In 2003, Schmoldt graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree.
Sculpture was his emphasis, and he graduated with high honors.
He was 39.
Schmoldt worked as a substitute teacher and a drywaller.
Around this time, he met his wife, Jodi.
The couple lives in Iola with their 13-year-old son Erich and 10-year-old twin daughters, Bethany and Jessica.
Jodi was pregnant with the twins when the recession hit and the housing market crashed.
Schmoldt found work at an area company.
While being treated by a physical therapist for an injury, he was trying to think of a new career.
Physical therapy was suggested to him, but he was aware of the requirements for that program.
Schmoldt instead decided to become a physical therapy assistant and went to school full time for two years.
When he graduated in 2014, he was 50.
He first worked at area nursing homes as needed before a full-time position became available in Wild Rose.
“When I was going to school and then having three kids, I had little time for art,” he said.
In the past, Schmoldt had entered Waupaca’s annual art show.
When someone asked him in 2016 if he was going to enter, he took his most recent piece of work, a portrait of one of his technical college instructors, and entered it.
He won first place in the non-professional category and has been painting ever since.
This year, he entered as a professional artist and received a third-place award.
“I’ve been into doing portraits. Most of the ones that I’ve done over the last how many years are a black and white motif,” Schmoldt said.
Several of those paintings, as well as some of his photography, are currently on display at the Waupaca Community Arts Center.
His exhibit opened July 20, and his “Meet the Artist” reception will be 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 7.
Schmoldt welcomes commissioned work.
His artwork may be seen at the Book Cellar in Waupaca, the cafeteria at ThedaCare Medical Center-Wild Rose and at Lessons From the Art in Iola.
His studio is in the basement of his house.
On Sundays, Schmoldt gets up at 6 a.m. and paints for about three hours.
He often paints for a few hours on Saturdays as well.
“Sometimes I have two or three paintings going on at once,” he said. “I would do it all day every day if I could.”