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Studies in contrast
Artists' different styles belie family bond


January 2005

One of Andrea Schloemerís favorite recent paintings is "Delphiniums at Dawn." The bright colors and layers of oil paint are much different than son Andrew Doyleís minimalist artwork.

An art show last fall at Robert Guenther Studio in Milwaukee featured two artists. One worked in brightly colored, lushly detailed oil paint, concentrating on flowers. One drew people with oil pastels, using spare lines and blocks of muted color.

A casual observer would not have expected them to be mother and son.

But Andrea Schloemer and Andrew Doyle share their art as well as their genes, although they took different paths to their joint show.

When Andy was still a preschooler, Schloemer says, "Weíd have people over for dinner, and heíd be hanging around, playing and looking at them. Then heíd go upstairs, and heíd come back down and hand the people a picture that looked like them."

Doyle was precocious and kept drawing. "If I had a pencil and a napkin, I was pretty happy as a kid," he says. But his mom didnít start painting until he was grown. She had always been a fan of art, but timid about trying herself. Then, she says, when her mother was dying, "she said to me, ĎDo the things you want to do.í I started to explore how to do it, instead of the reasons I couldnít do it."

So she began taking lessons, enrolling first at Cardinal Stritch University. "School teaches technique," she says. "The love of color and imagination is my own. I love flowers, landscapes, being outdoors. I donít like art thatís really sad. If you want to get depressed, turn on the news. I prefer something thatís visibly pleasing, comforting."

Looking on the bright side is "one of the biggest similarities in our artwork," her son says. But although Doyle doesnít show or sell pictures of sadness and pain, he draws them. "Itís almost therapeutic," he says. "When youíre dealing with the subconscious so much, some of those things are going to come out." After a few drawings of "people who look like theyíve suffered," heíll put them away. "I wouldnít want to send mixed signals."

Mother and son support each otherís work, although theyíre different. "I try to be careful," Doyle says. "I try to be very positive about everything." Heís been doing art longer than his mom, but he doesnít lecture. "We both are each otherís biggest fans."

Unlike his mother, Andrea Schloemer, Andrew Doyle does not rework his paintings. "If itís not right, itís never going to be right," he says.

Schloemer lives in a spacious house in Fox Point, which she decorated, with her husband, Jim, and their two school-age children, Tom and Tessa. She is an active volunteer with local charities, but her art gives her a new outlet; she also donates paintings to charity auctions.

The joint show with her son helped to raise money for After Breast Cancer Diagnosis, a charity with special meaning for her because the disease claimed her mother.

Family and volunteer work mean that Schloemer has to squeeze in painting time. "Sometimes I go two weeks without getting up to my studio," she says. "But some days, Iíll paint all day long."

Doyle, who now lives in Chicago, has a day job in property management, and also plays bass and writes lyrics for a rock band, Not Us. The time thatís left over for drawing is very late at night. "I work best from like midnight to 4 a.m.," he says. "Then the next day at work, I get a cup of coffee."

"His work is interesting to me," says Kathleen Lyons, whose Milwaukee gallery represents Doyle, "because he only uses two or three colors, all pastels, and very minimalist. Itís very quiet, but yet his women have a lot of integrity." She hopes to sell more of his work in Florida soon. "Milwaukee homes are very heavy, dark, traditional," she says. "But in Florida they use pastels. Itís a whole different interior approach."

Schloemer works in oils, laying down layers and layers of paint, sometimes with surprising results. One of her favorite recent paintings, "Delphiniums at Dawn," has a brilliant peachy-pink background that she first intended to paint over, before deciding it was perfect as it was. Or sometimes sheíll scrape paint off, producing a different kind of effect.

"Her work is very upbeat and bright," says Katie Gingrass, a Milwaukee gallery owner who represents Schloemer. "Flowers are her specialty. Itís very brilliant color, very well executed."

Most of her pictures are realistic and lushly detailed, but sometimes she tries a more stylized effect. A picture of the trees near her house came out as little more than white dappled trunks against a blue background. "I didnít want to touch it," Schloemer says. "I kind of liked the way it looked."

And sometimes things just donít work out. A canvas swarming with orange koi fish in blue water has been in Schloemerís studio for more than a year as she tries to get it right. "Thereís way too much orange in here," she says critically. A friend admired it, she says, but "I said I canít even give it to you, because I donít think itís right."

Her son, however, doesnít believe in messing around. "Once itís done, itís done," Doyle says. "Every line has to be 100 percent confident. If itís not right, itís never going to be right. My momís always horrified" when he tosses aside a flawed picture.

The next joint project for mother and son is a shared show in Florence, Italy, where Schloemer recently spent a year with her husband and younger children. Itís set for this coming fall, but thereís already a lot to do. "I donít know anything about shipping art yet," Schloemer says. "Iím going to allow a lot of time."