Painter, publisher, package designer, adman, creative director, teacher and back to painter: Jim Schroeder’s life has been a tour of the visual arts. Or perhaps that’s tour de force given that Jim – a magna cum laude graduate (1963) in Illustration with a minor in Graphic Design – has, at one time or another, created works in just about every medium that matters.
If you’ve flown anywhere on the planet, it’s likely that Jim’s handiwork was resting in the seat pocket in front of you. He was a founder and designer of Flightime Publications and East/West Network, Inc., which became the premier publisher of inflight magazines. He even established a high-end men’s cosmetic company, Déjà Vu, which gained shelf space in major department stores across the country — all part of his work in corporate identity, high-end automotive packaging, and marketing.
While Jim more recently has been advising on art direction, illustration, graphic design and business at the college and university levels – largely through his teaching at Flagstaff’s Coconino Community College, in his adopted home state of Arizona – he has again embraced fine art drawing and painting, his lifelong passions. Even amid the trends and technological shifts that have defined his rich and varied career, he says the essence of commercial art and design remains remarkably stable.
“Visual problem-solving hasn’t changed much over the years,” he says. “Once a direction has been established, final execution can be done on a computer. You still need to know how to ‘spec’ type correctly, and if you’ve got a PC and you don’t know what you are doing, you can put garbage in, and get garbage out.” That’s in part why he has chosen to return to his hands-on roots.
“I’ve come full circle back to painting,” he says. “I’m now painting and teaching and enjoying every minute of it. I consider it ‘reseeding the field,’ giving back to students and the community the knowledge I’ve gained through the years that I’ve worked in the professional design field.”
As a painter, Jim owns a distinct aesthetic.“I prefer oils in most cases,” he says. “They’re more fluid and tend to have a more luscious richness when viewing the final painting.” That’s no mean feat, considering that he’s chosen to limit his palette to three colors and white. “There’s a great deal of satisfaction and joy when you can mix so many colors from a limited palette,” he says. “Paint companies want to sell you paint. Most of those colors you can mix yourself with proper training and selecting the right three to use.”
Having made his name painting and drawing the Southwest, Jim identifies his muse as the region’s people and the great outdoors itself. “It’s fun to take a leap and do something different for yourself and hopefully, other people may also enjoy what you create,” he says. “Commission work is great, but it’s not for everyone. People are the most difficult and the most critical. Animals never complain.”