by M. Stephen Doherty
2006, watercolor and casein, 26 x 18.
Collection Jim and Mary Koevinig.
Common wisdom indicates that artists don’t make good businesspeople, but Stephen Quiller proves that painters can be successful merchants when they’re selling products that help fellow artists. The Colorado artist has either developed or lent his name to a long list of quality paints, brushes, palettes, books, videos, and DVDs he genuinely believes can improve the work of artists who use them. Some of those products are ones he developed and produced on his own, while others are being manufactured by Jack Richeson Inc. of Kimberly, Wisconsin. “My guiding principle is that I will put my name on any quality product I use myself and recommend to my students,” Quiller says. “Every brush, paint, and palette that carries my name is one that can produce the kind of paintings I create.”
As Quiller explains in an article in the current issue of Workshop magazine, he had an idea for a new artists’ color wheel and palette 20 years ago—but was discouraged from manufacturing it until he educated artists about its usefulness. One of the art-materials experts he consulted at the time was Jack Richeson, a powerhouse of a man who was then launching his own business after working for a number of art-materials retailers and manufacturers. “Jack and I were attending an event in Denver in the late 1980s and I told him of my idea,” Quiller remembers. “He was just starting his own company and eventually he agreed to produce and distribute my color wheel and the plastic palettes for me. We became good friends and remained in touch with each other, and eventually we collaborated on other products I had in mind or that he was interested in developing.”
|View From Below Slumgullion Pass
2006, watercolor, 28 x 20.
Courtesy Quiller Gallery,
Today there are three versions of the original Quiller Artists’ Palette, the Quiller Wheel, five books, a series of videos and DVDs, watercolor paints, watermedia brushes, watercolor paper, and – most recently – acrylic paints. The two lines of paints offer the colors and performance qualities Quiller prefers; the brushes are of the size, shape, and character he needs; the paper has the weight and surface qualities he wants; and the instructional items help artists understand Quiller’s approach to painting in watercolor, gouache, casein, and acrylic. “It’s a fairly simple idea, really,” Quiller says. “The business relationship is all based on one artist recommending the products he uses to other painters.”
|Color of Winter, Dawn
2004, watercolor and casein,
56 x 36. Collection the artist.
The actual process of manufacturing and selling art supplies is not simple, and it has taken years of development and testing for Quiller and Richeson to be able to offer such a wide assortment. Raw materials had to be found in the United States and abroad, samples had to be tested and refined, packaging and instructional materials had to be produced, and a marketing program had to be launched. “When we work with professional artists such as Stephen Quiller or Daniel E. Greene, we do everything possible to manufacture the quality and variety they want in a paint, brush, or paper,” says Richeson. “It might take us years to come up with exactly the right ingredients and formulations, but we believe that doing so is essential to offering products worthy of their names. We are very proud of those art supplies, especially the new Stephen Quiller acrylic paints.”
|Sheep Drive, San Juans
2004, acrylic and casein, 26 x 36.
Collection the artist.
For his part, Quiller plays an active role in demonstrating his signature lines of art supplies at conventions and in workshops. “I’m happy to teach classes and demonstrate in the Richeson booth when the company participates in trade shows sponsored by art-material retailers or professional associations,” Quiller says. “And I always enjoy teaching workshops sponsored by Richeson in Wisconsin and abroad. It’s all part of helping artists understand how the supplies can enhance and enrich their painting experience.”