Cambridge lawyer lives colourful double life

Local lawyer lives a double life, one as the owner of a law firm the other as a artist travelling the world for inspiration.

When Bill Schwarz isn’t drafting legal documents or sitting in front of a judge he lives a second more colourful life; a professional artist who travels the globe for inspiration. 

Schwarz, 77 has the look of a typical artist. Dressed in all black, reminiscent of Steve Jobs giving a presentation for Apple, Schwarz presents his art in his modernly designed studio, Kirkwood Wagner Gallery at 11 Thorne St, Cambridge. 

The love for art started when he was 5 and took part in a colouring contest in Regina, where he won first place. Then for nearly 50 years, he didn’t pick up a single paint brush or sketchpad. Instead, he decided to focus his attention on law.

Over the years Schwarz successfully claimed his stake in the legal world starting with the firm Pettitt and Schwarz law in the early 1970s.

Then one day his wife Nancy handed him a brochure from the Cambridge library, it was for a drawing course. He wasn’t quite sold on the idea.

“I said, Gee, there’s some wine appreciation courses here. I think I’ll take that one and you can take the drawing course,” said Schwarz, wary of the art class. 

That night, he couldn’t sleep, something was bothering him. He kept on thinking, “when Nancy suggests something, she’s usually right.” So he decided to join her at the drawing class and it changed his life forever. 

“From then on, I just couldn’t put the pen down. I just kept getting better and Nancy went like this,” as he motions to the floor. 

After this sudden realization, Schwarz started with sketching, watercolours, acrylic and oil. He just couldn’t stop.

Three years later, he is trying to balance his double life, a professional artist and a lawyer running his own firm. 

His first art show was at his home on Main Street in Cambridge. He converted his whole garage and porch into his own gallery, displaying various art pieces inspired by his worldly travels. 

“My first show, I think I sold about 15 paintings and I’ve never done that since,” he laughed as his glasses nearly fell off his nose. 

Schwarz gets his inspiration from his travels and interesting architecture he finds along the way. In his gallery, there is a little cabinet where he keeps his notes and old sketches, very reminiscent of how a law office would keep all their notes on a case. He photocopies and chronologically stores the plethora of documentations he has amassed.

He has books that date back to 2001, before he even thought about selling any artwork.

Schwarz has travelled all over the world, from Mexico to Paris and Milan, some of the most beautiful and picturesque places on the planet.

He says you will never see the things he paints in real life. His art is his interpretation of his feelings when he sees these places.

“When we go, I keep an inventory of what I’ve seen. So that when I come home, it triggers me to sketch and draw and paint from there,” said Schwarz. 

He flips through the seemingly infinite number of pictures and rough sketches as he describes his artistic process. 

“I say that my art consists of three I’s: inspiration, interpretation and imagination. The inspiration is the photo, the interpretation is a rough sketch and the imagination comes when I get back to the studio and start painting,” said Schwarz.

Being a professional artist travelling the world and having galleries all across Canada has challenges of its own. Also running a law firm, attending hearings and working on cases might seem like too much for just one person. For Schwarz, managing the two seems so effortless, but over time he has found a balance. 

“I devote 50 per cent of my time to law and 50 per cent of my time to art. I have seven galleries across Canada. So I couldn’t possibly paint without having the assistance of my staff at the office,” said Schwarz. 

The two professions, law and art don’t really seem like they could be connected. In law you picture people in suits, mountains of documents and dark grey bureaucracy. Art on the other hand is teeming with life, explosions of colours and feelings brought on by looking at a piece. They seem like polar opposites, but the artist-lawyer looks at this subject very differently.

“In my practice of law, I’m very creative and of course, in art, I’m very creative. The two complement one another, because in law, it’s something that’s simple that you make complicated. In art, you take something complicated and make it simple,” said Schwarz.

He does not plan on slowing down anytime soon. He is very active at his firm and has plans to travel and continue creating whimsical, fun pieces of art and expressing himself on the canvas. 

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