In the conclusion to our series on Charles and Libby Schwartz, I will endeavor to duly wrap up our story and summarize their remarkable careers. Ordinarily, when dealing with someone (in this case a couple) responsible for such a prodigious output like the Schwartzes, this would be no simple task.
Thankfully, Charles and Libby had the foresight to leave us with an appropriate opus to help set the tone for today’s finale and make this assignment more straightforward; I have included excerpts from their Wildlife Drawings throughout this series and today we will begin by taking a closer look at this, their penultimate work – which is both captivating and illuminating.
We end with a recent exhibition paying tribute to Charles and share some of the childhood memories of Barbara, Bruce and John. Along the way, I will include additional details about my own connection with Charles and Libby. Hence, you will gain more insights into my motivation for wanting to tell their extraordinary story.
Wildlife Drawings is my favorite of their conservation-themed books. Written by Charles and Libby, edited by Michael McIntosh and published by the Missouri Department of Conservation in 1980, Wildlife Drawings wears many hats, if you will. Compiled during a time when retirement was clearly in sight, it is a compendium of Charles’ wildlife art in an over-sized coffee table format, featuring over 100 exquisite black and white drawings – including over 50 full page (12″ x 15″) images that are suitable for framing if one so desires (see Figure 1).
With Wildlife Drawings, Charles career had come full circle; after a period of time during the 1960s and 1970s during which he embraced “the pretty” as evidenced by his multicolor magazine covers, murals, paintings and stamps – he once again allowed the viewer to bypass the distraction of color and immediately be taken to the next (more intimate and lasting) level of appreciation and learning.
In the editor’s note at the front of the book, Michael McIntosh states: “Since Charlie’s favorite media – ink and pencil – produce results in black and white, a book in black and white seems wholly appropriate. Not that he doesn’t sometimes work with color. There is ample Schwartz art done in oil and watercolor to fill yet another book. A few of the watercolor pieces are included here, reproduced as black and white half tones.’
“But this is a black and white book because that is the medium of Charles Schwartz’s particular gift. In his hands, the simple values of light and shade take on more vitality than a lesser talent could wring from even the broadest palette.”
When Wildlife Drawings was purchased by conservationists and wildlife art lovers in the 1980s, a post-Vietnam, somewhat jaded American audience discovered that Charles’ gift had not diminished with time. His black and white drawings still captured the imagination of viewers – just as they did when he illustrated the pages of A Sand County Almanac in the 1940s (see Figures 2, 3 and 4).
Although the book is chock-full of incredibly beautiful images, Wildlife Drawings is much more than a coffee table collection of Charles’ art. Consistent with all of their previous work, Charles and Libby (she served as advisor, helped organize and and proofread the manuscript for biological accuracy) continued to inform and educate readers about nature, wildlife and conservation. This particular book, however, offered something more for fans of Charles’ art.
My main reason for favoring Wildlife Drawings over the Schwartzes’ previous work is because it is here that Charles reveals detailed personal information about his artistic motivations, techniques and preferences. This provided the reader (and now you) an intimate glimpse inside the mind of Charles Schwartz and this allows us to start to see him as more than an artist, biologist and conservationist – and more as an amiable, down to earth human being (albeit one with rather strong feelings about anatomical accuracy and natural movements).
According to McIntosh, “For all of the thousands of people world-wide who have enjoyed Charlie’s drawings, relatively few have had the pleasure of hearing him discuss his work. In that regard, the commentary in this book is unique.’
“Once the drawings were selected, Charlie and I went through the layout page by page, with a tape recorder close by, while Charlie talked, informally and spontaneously, about art, about animals and about a lifetime of experience with both. This was not meant as a natural history book, and yet it is one. Nor was it meant to be a book about drawing technique, but to an extent, it is that, too.”
Next we shall see some examples of Charles’ drawings accompanied by his artistic commentary (see Figures 5 – 8).
“Like nearly all of my ink drawings, this was done with a brush and India ink. I find a brush gives me far more flexibility in making the detail I want. I prefer a fine brush. I can put pressure on it easier and make wide lines – and very tiny, fine ones, too. I seldom use a pen for a finished drawing, although I like to use one for sketching – either a fountain-pen type or a felt tip.”
“The drawing of the pintails landing is one I did on a scratchboard. I like to use a scratchboard for effect sometimes, although it is mostly a safety measure for me. I try to plan my drawings pretty well to begin with, but sometimes you can make a mistake; if you’re working in ink and aren’t using a scratchboard, you can get yourself in a real bind. It’s a big help to be able to scratch off the mistake, change it, and not have to do a whole new drawing.”
“The big drawing shows a young buck against a filigree of maple leaves in the background. You can see the antler bumps on his forehead. The small drawing shows another deer – or maybe the same one, a little older – browsing on a pine sprout. The details in both of these show why I like to work with a brush. I can make finer strokes to draw fur and such than i could with a pen.’
“I like to work with contrasts in my drawings. In both cases here I’ve put the lighter bodies of the animals against a dark background – the maple and the conifer. Light against dark, to me, is one of the keys to drawing and to make things stand out. I do that a lot…. That’s one reason I like to work in black and white.”
“I love to draw waterfowl doing all the different things they do. When I draw them, I always take special care to make sure that I get the anatomy correct.’
“So many people draw ducks in flight. Sometimes they’re really fine technicians, do a beautiful job of drawing and painting, but they just don’t do their homework or don’t understand the flight of waterfowl, or maybe any bird. So they draw birds in positions that are unbelievably wrong.’
“They’ll have a picture, say, of ducks coming in: some will have wings and body postures indicating a duck that’s jumping off the water or climbing. You can tell by looking at a duck or a photograph of a duck just exactly what it’s intentions are – whether it’s coming down, landing, taking off or dodging something.’
“This is important and I think waterfowl artists should learn it. A great many don’t and as a result, I take a dim view of a lot of waterfowl paintings. The artists are good – far better than I am – but they sure don’t know their anatomy and they don’t know the behavior of birds. They ought to study a book like my old friend Edgar Queeny’s Prairie Wings [published by Ducks unlimited in 1946] and study it closely before they paint these things…”
In the introduction I promised to include some more details in this final post concerning my own connection with Charles and Libby. The following is one example that, when taken together with another that occurred a few years later, helps explain why I was motivated to do well on this series. When discussing the 1973 Missouri trout stamp in Part Four, I stated:
I first made contact with Charles Schwartz in the mid 1980s. Charles had long since sold what remaining stamps he had left to stamp collectors and dealers (after giving the bulk of them away to associates, friends and admirers of his art).
At this point, he retained a set of unused blocks of four as mementos and some miscellaneous single stamps that were of otherwise personal significance. Charles and I hit it off and we spoke on the phone many times over the next couple of years. On one such occasion, he allowed me to purchase the blocks and some (at the time) seemingly random unused singles.
One of those “random unused singles” was a 1970 Missouri trout stamp, with serial number 2 printed on it (00002 – see Figure 9). When I received the group of stamps from Charles in the mail I immediately took notice of the stamp because, like a lot of collectors, I was interested in stamps with low serial numbers as they seemed to posses an extra “coolness factor.” I put it on a special page in my collection (for trout stamps with low serial numbers) and often admired it. Then, over the years, I gradually forgot about it. As it turns out, there was more to this stamp than initially met my eye.
When I began to research this series, I reached out to members of the Schwartz family and others at pertinent Missouri government agencies for assistance. Over the years, this has become sort of my modus operandi (MO), if you will and, depending on the project, these initial efforts have been met with a wide range of results.
In this particular case I was, very quickly, overwhelmed by the magnitude of the response. There was both an unusually large amount of information about the Schwartzes available and everyone wanted to help. At once, I realized this had the makings of a great story and, in order to do it justice, it would require a tremendous effort on my part. At times like these I search deep for the requisite (uncommon) motivation and – when it does come – it usually comes from a combination of things. Some of these are little things, and this is an example of one of those…
As I begin to gather my research materials (still undecided as to the extent of my commitment), I obtained a copy of Wildlife Drawings. I was immediately impressed by the beauty of the black and white drawings and was grateful to discover Charles’ commentary. Toward the end of the book I was elated to find a couple of pages devoted to his trout and waterfowl stamps – for they were, initially, my primary purpose for selecting their story to feature on a blog devoted to fish and game stamps.
My initial thoughts were that these pages would be of great assistance when writing what would eventually become Parts Four and Five of this series. As I studied them more closely, I noticed they included images of three trout stamps and one, 1970, had a very low serial number (see Figure 10).
As I admired the image of the stamp, something clicked in my mind. I remembered that I had an early Missouri trout stamp with a very low serial number in my collection and started to search for it. When I found the stamp shown in Figure 9, I realized that when Charles sent me the trout stamps that he had left in the mid 1980s (over 35 years ago), he not only sent me his personal set of blocks – but at least one of the stamps he used to illustrate Wildlife Drawings!
I now assume the reason he still had these specific stamps when we spoke on the phone was because he had saved them due to their connection with this unique book, in many ways his most personal exposé. Charles never said a word to me about any of this; he just so much wanted to make me happy that he knowingly parted with a treasured memento – and didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable about accepting it. What an amazing guy.
After checking everywhere, I found that I also still have the 1979 stamp (number 82) which, as noted in Part Four, was one of Charles’ favorite trout stamp designs – inspired by their children’s book When Water Animals Are Babies (1970). Alas, I cannot find the 1980 stamp. As it did not have a low serial number, I probably sold it long ago. If that is the case, it now gives me satisfaction to think that another collector, after reading this blog, might check their collection and discover they possess a small (no pun intended) piece of conservation history.
On May 1, 1981, Charles and Libby Schwartz retired from the Missouri Department of Conservation, where they were employed for 41 and 30 years, respectively. If it was up to them, they would have continued to work much longer.
According to Libby’s memoir, “There used to be a law – I don’t know if it was state or federal – that said when an employee reached the age of 65 he must retire [Note: this was eventually prohibited by an amendment to the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act or ADEA]. Because I was older than Charlie, I would reach this age first. Honestly, I didn’t want to retire. I was happy with the way our lives were going. But that Birthday kept getting closer.”
As Charles and Libby were both working on the revised edition of The Wild Mammals of Missouri (see Figure 11), as well as Wildlife Drawings – yes, they were still multitasking well into their 60s – the Conservation Commission granted her request to be allowed to continue to work alongside Charlie until he reached 65.
When the day finally came, the Commission recognized their contributions with the following statement, “No two individuals have contributed more than Charles and Libby Schwartz to the success of Missouri Conservation – past, present and future.”
All three of their children, Barbara, Bruce and John and their families lived in the northwest (Idaho and Oregon) so, after retiring, Charles and Libby moved to Couer d’ Alene, Idaho to be closer to them. They both remained active in retirement, with Libby continuing her research on box turtles (see Figure 12) and Charles getting into a new art form – sculpture.
Libby’s work with box turtles was important because through it, she became one of the first scientists (man or woman) to generate considerable interest in non-game species. Subsequent to her work, the incorporation of non-game species became one of the main principles in modern conservation’s approach to dealing with habitat and ecosystems in their entirety.
Libby states in her memoir, “Charlie always wanted to do some sculpture and I found a reference in my letters written from Hawaii (years ago!) that he’d like to go to art school and get some instruction in this. He never got he chance but he read and experimented with various materials and techniques. Then he started.’
“When he had finished his first sculpture (a mountain lion) we made inquiry about a foundry to cast it. Here, we were lucky because the foundry we contacted was owned by two bronze sculptors. Once we met them, we were introduce to others and the circle expanded.”
“Now our life centered around art, although it was still wildlife art. Everyone liked Charlie’s work because it was authentic and natural. Bronze sculpure is expensive but we managed to sell enough pieces to support our hobby. In all he had 15 pieces cast.” One each of Charle’s bronzes was purchased by a collector in Missouri; these were later acquired by the Conservation Federation of Missouri’s Charitable Trust.
According to the trust’s website, “Although his art and cinematography are known to most Missourians, his sculpting is not, for it was only after his retirement from the Department that he really immersed himself in this creative outlet.’
“In time he created fifteen bronzes that comprise this remarkable collection. Starting from a drawing he would make a three-dimensional wire-framed model before actually creating his work in sculptor’s clay. he then made a mold using the “lost wax” method. Only a very few castings were made from each mold in an expensive and time-consuming process.’
“The end result is this exciting collection that forever bears tribute to Charles W. Schwartz. When not on loan, the collection is on display at the Runge Nature Center in Jefferson City (see Figure 13).”
More Time For Duck Hunting
In retirement, Charles and Libby enjoyed outdoor activities such as duck and turkey hunting, fishing, floating and camping; together, with family and with friends. According to Libby, “Charlie’s favorite was duck hunting and we hunted ducks from the Gulf of Mexico [to] as far north in Canada as there were roads. We hunted along rivers and lakes, in flooded timber and prairies and wheat fields.’
“We used permanent blinds, or boats, or just waded in the water, or hid among rocks. We hunted on warm sunny days and bitter cold days with sleet and snow… Regardless of where we were or the weather conditions, the aesthetics of the hunt were what thrilled me. Sunrise and sunset were always spectacular and at these times I felt as one with the world.’
“The beauty of flocks of ducks wheeling overhead, the sound of their calling, the flashes of their colors, and the beating of their wings all accentuated the wonder of the experience. Then, there was the satisfaction of getting my game and watching our retriever splash out to bring the trophy to me…’
“During our retirement years, we opened the waterfowl season in Alberta… In October, we hunted in Washington with our family. Then in November and December we wound up the season in Missouri with [many friends].”
As lifelong waterfowl hunters, the Schwartz family, like the Leopold family, made it clear that wildlife conservation and a measured, responsible harvest for the purposes of sport and recreation were not mutually exclusive. They believed that by their very nature – immersing people in the natural world – such activities actually enabled humans to become better stewards of the land.
As I reported in Part Four, by 1987 Charles was able to finish the last four murals just in time for the 50th Anniversary of the Missouri Department of Conservation ceremony. Held in conjunction with this event, was the official dedication of MDOC murals and, of course, Charles and Libby were present as the guests of honor (see Figure 14).
A Supportive Friend
In July of 1990 my wife, Kay, and I set off on a driving trip that would take us from our home in California to visit her family in Minnesota, and back. Along the way we planned to visit with as many friends and take in as many national parks and wildlife areas as possible.
Sandwiched in between visiting the rugged Snake River Canyon in northeastern Oregon and Glacier National Park in northern Montana, Kay and I stopped to visit Charles and Libby in Coeur D’ Alene (this entire stretch of country is among our favorite in the entire world).
Charlie and I had been conversing on the phone for many years and I had visited with him briefly when he was in Jefferson City. However, this would be our first visit to their home in Coer D’ Alene and we were all really looking forward to spending some time together. Our conversations revealed much in common; we both had important influences in our lives (Aldo Leoplold and E.L. Vanderford, respectively), we shared science backgrounds and strong work ethics and, above all else, were both dedicated to wildlife conservation and the environment. We got on well.
While we discussed many conservation topics, Charlie’s enthusiastic support for some of my stamp-related ideas, including those outlined below, played a key role in determining my career path and, consequently, the way the fish and game hobby developed.
I was in the process of fine-tuning my outlook as it concerned the hobby (especially waterfowl or “duck” stamp and print collecting) and the role it played in wildlife conservation. I had come to believe that the hobby possessed the rather unique ability to serve a significant dual role – both in helping to create and maintain an awareness for the need for wildlife conservation (see Figure 15) and in helping to fund vital conservation programs.
In other words (and in keeping with the spirit of this series of posts), it seemed the hobby could serve an essential role in the greater “cooperative effort” that Aldo Leopold advocated was optimum for wildlife conservation. If so, this would provide me with truly meaningful life-long work.
Charlie voiced his support for my ideas about the conservation potential for the fish and game stamp hobby, the work I was currently doing and my potential for helping to guide the hobby in the future. This was important for me to hear at the time, for part of the reason for taking an extended road trip was because I had reached a crossroads in my life and needed to visit with people that I respected, like Charlie, and some of the most beautiful remaining unspoiled areas in our country to help me with a looming decision.
When we visited Charlie and Libby in 1990, I had just completed my pre-med program and was in the last phase of deciding whether to commit my life’s work toward fish and game stamps or medicine. Both of Charlie’s’ sons, Bruce and John, were already both doctors and I we talked a lot about my desire to become a cardiologist.
However, Charlie also made it clear to me on several occasions that whichever path I chose, he believed I would bring value to our society. In other words, he was very supportive and I have never forgotten it. He was also about to make a kind gesture that would secure a place for him in my heart, for the rest of my life.
By the time we arrived at the Schwartzes, Kay and I had been totally smitten by the shear beauty of Coeur D’ Alene and the surrounding area. As we drove up to their house, we were on a natural high and soon after being greeted by Charles and Libby, were gushing about how lucky they were to live in such a wonderful, relatively unspoiled part of the world.
This set the tone for a splendid afternoon and we soon found both Charlie and Libby to be warm and congenial hosts, especially Charlie. We spent the entire day outside, enjoying the beautiful weather and while we really didn’t talk a lot of “shop”, at more than one point Charlie and I found ourselves discussing his trout stamps (usually when Kay and Libby were engaged in a side conversation).
He knew from previous conversations that (like many collectors) his set of trout stamps was among my favorites in the entire hobby. At one point Charlie asked which one I liked best. I replied that while I loved several of them, the 1974 issue was my favorite. He didn’t respond verbally; just nodded his head while displaying an odd smile on his face – one that seemed to include an element of surprise.
Kay and I expressed an interest in exploring the surrounding area and they provided us with some great ideas for hikes. They also informed us about some cool, off-the-road places along our planned route that we would never have found on our own (see Figure 16). All in all, it was a grand afternoon shared with two marvelous people. Toward the end of the day, when we were getting ready to leave, Charlie asked if we could wait for a few minutes while he went back inside the house.
When he came back out we could see he was holding a small white envelope. As he approached us he extended the envelope and told us he wished for me to have the last stamps he had saved.
Inside I found a copy of the 1977 trout stamp Charlie had signed – featuring the MDOC logo which he had designed – and a pair of 1974 trout stamps with their names printed neatly across the face! Charlie then told us they were the ones he and Libby had actually used to go fishing with that year. As I held the stamps in my hand, he explained the reason he saved this particular pair of stamps for so long was because, like me, the 1974 design was his favorite (see Figure 17). Too cool!
Shaking his hand, I could not find the words to adequately express my thanks and appreciation for such a thoughtful and selfless act. Charlie and Libby invited us to return soon and we briefly talked about returning next summer. Then, Kay and I turned and left … walking on air. On the way back to our room all we could think to talk about was what a wonderful human being Charlie Schwartz was.
Charlie Unexpectedly Passes
Sadly, there would not be a return trip to visit Charlie the next summer. According to Libby’s memoir, in the spring of 1991, on what would prove to be their last trip to Missouri, Charlie revealed to one of his sons on the phone that he had been experiencing “a pain in his side.” Libby added “This was the first I’d heard about it.’
“The pain kept getting worse and we shuttled between various doctors. We tried to photograph prairie chickens and turkeys and turtles as usual but our hearts weren’t in it. We returned to Idaho.”
It was pancreatic cancer. On July 4, 1991 Charles W. Schwartz who, in partnership with his wife, Elizabeth, was one of the most compassionate and big-hearted forces in the conservation and environmental movements of the 20th century, peacefully passed at their home in Coeur D’ Alene. He was 77 years old.
I remained unhappy about this for much of my adult life, until shortly after beginning this series of posts – an undertaking which has proven to be an uplifting as well as a learning experience for me. As his illness and sudden passing prevented us from further getting to know each other, I was not aware of all of the amazing things he and Libby accomplished and experienced until I began my research and interviews six months ago.
I now realize that, in 78 years on this earth, Charlie accomplished and experienced more than most of us could in multiple lifetimes. He was a very positive influence on my life and the development of the fish and game hobby and for this I will always be grateful. I am at peace with his passing now. Mostly, I am just happy that I had a chance to know him and spend a little time together.
A Final Contribution
Prior to Charles’ passing, he and Libby had begun work on their last book, About Mammals and How They Live. According to Libby’s memoir, “After we finished the murals, we started another project – a new book. The Wild Mammals of Missouri was OK but we wanted to expand the coverage to all mammals of North America north of Mexico.”
“We proposed a book that would be less detailed and more general than our former one and would include more illustrations [In an subsequent interview, Libby revealed they felt Wild Mammals was too technical for the average reader]. We submitted this book idea to the Missouri Department of Conservation and they agreed to publish it.”
“With the basics established, we started to work. This was our project for many years and we were happy with its progress. On each trip to Missouri, we searched for more information and had sample illustrations printed to make sure techniques would be satisfactory. We also drove from Alaska and Canada to the Mexican border and Florida – wherever we could get data we needed for our book.”
After he died, Libby decided to finish the book as a tribute to Charlie, her partner in life. All the text was completed, however, only about half of the illustrations. Rather than bring in another illustrator, Libby reached out to people across the country in an effort to secure copies of enough of Charles’ original work to complete the book.
About Mammals and and How They Live was published in 1993. The final text was written such that even the youngest readers could enjoy it and learn from it. And, as we have by now come to expect, Charles’ captivating illustrations held the promise of inspiring a new generation to become inquisitive about the natural world. In 1994, it was selected by the Wildlife Society for its Conservation Award (see Figures 18, 19 and 20).
Over Missouri’s long and unique wildlife conservation history, the name Charles Schwartz has become synonymous with both wildlife art and conservation education. In 2010, The Conservation Federation of Missouri, The State Historical Society of Missouri and Bass Pro Shops all joined together to posthumously honor one of the Show-me State’s most remarkable native sons with a grand exhibition, Charles Schwartz, Missouri’s Audubon; An Artist in Nature.
The festivities opened with a ticketed reception at the Bass Pro Sportsman’s Center in Columbia on Friday, September 10; this was followed by an exhibit open to the public, workshops and children’s activities. The art and sculpture was then moved to the State Historical Society’s art gallery, where is was displayed from September 14 through January of 2011.
Consisting of over 500 pieces, it was the largest collection of Charles Schwartz art ever assembled for public viewing. The exhibit “chronologically depicted the state’s wildlife and how humans have interacted with it over the centuries.” At the heart of the exhibit was the Historical Society’s collection of original art that Charles created for The Wild Mammals of Missouri (see Figure 21).
Aarik Danielson of the Columbia Daily Tribune interviewed Charles’ old friend Glen Chambers – whom the Schwartzes started out in film when they included him on the production of Wild Chorus. (Chambers went on to win three Emmy Awards for his work in television):
“Chambers remembers Schwartz as a man whose artistic aptitude and astonishing attention to detail qualified him for the task of bringing nature to life for those who might never have a chance to see certain creatures. He knew the most minute facts about the history and anatomy of each and every creature he captured and would ‘get every muscle right, het every feather right, get every hair right on anything that he undertook to paint or draw or illustrate – he was just a phenomenal person that way.”
In her blog, The Opulent Possum, Julianna Schroeder went a step further, asking: “Have you seen those awesome prints by Audubon, in his Birds of America? In them, Audubon captures more than the beauty, more than the plumage, physiques, anatomy and colors – he capture’s each birds personality. His prints are so valuable today not because they are technically accurate – but because they are sheer treasures, emotionally moving works of art.’
“Schwartz’s artwork is in the same category – he captures the soul of his subjects; he makes them come alive [my emphasis]. Most of the time, his animals are unaware of your presence and are acting out their natural behaviors – sometimes playfully, sometimes ruthlessly. On other occasions they stare right at you. In either case… each animal is true to its own wild self (see Figure 22).
As I know how important family life and their three children were to Charlie and Libby’s happiness and true sense of self – I have asked Barbara, Bruce and John to end our story by sharing some memories from their remarkable childhoods, growing up with Charles and Elizabeth Schwartz:
MEMORIES FROM MY CHILDHOOD
I think of painting marsh scenery in watercolors alongside Dad on a misty day in the Missouri River bottoms – or was it at Fountain Grove? Russet browns, cranberry reds, golden ochres on a tablet of watercolor paper, the drops from the rain merging with the water from my brush on the paper.
More memories about art-making: painting at my easel on the screened-in back porch of our house on Forest Hill, a kestrel perched on my head.
While still in high school, enrolling in a night art class at Lincoln University with Dad, and exploring the world of materials, glazes, shapes as we created our first ceramic sculptures. I still have this vessel, and every time I look at it, I remember his insisting that mine was far better than his – which I very much wanted to believe.
I remember also those divine float trips down the Gasconade River by canoe, especially in the fall on the “day that the leaves fell” – yellow Sycamore leaves cascading from the trees alongside the water.
One special memory involved my summoning Dad to come see what I had discovered in a cave on one of our camping trips on the Gasconade River – “a huge animal with bright eyes.” Dad hurried up the river bank, prepared for a mountain lion, but finding instead a pack rat with glowing eyes in the back of the ledge in the cave. What I remember most is the absolute THRILL of viewing this wild animal, alive and breathing, so “real,” up close, with Dad finding it a teaching moment to let me understand more about this little creature with whom we shared the planet on that day.
One night I awoke to find a five foot pilot black snake against my skin under the covers. I remember having to help tear out the heating ducts in our house to find my brother’s foot and a half long alligator pet who managed to slither into one of the registers. Dad was known to release his devoted (and very jealous) red-tailed hawk and then photograph its attack on me as I ran for the cover of the tripod as he captured it all on film. In the final motion picture the hawk would be just grabbing a rabbit. I ran a trap line before school to catch mice and other animals that I would skin and mount as specimens for Dad to have fresh feet or ears to draw. Their remains made tasty morsels for the snakes, raptors, or pet foxes that lived in cages or were loose in the basement or on the back porch. My brother’s gray fox was known to steal hotdogs from us kids and then cache them in the soil of Mom’s potted plants. These stories never quit, yet somehow our upbringing never seemed all that unusual.
Another flash early childhood memory: Dad’s Studio
I have to step down to enter dad’s studio, a small sunroom with windows all around. There’s a bird feeder with sunflower seeds and a small wire-mesh-covered log lathered with peanut butter by the first window. The step down has a small heating vent under the tread. I like to sit on the floor by the vent, using the step as a table, as I create my own wildlife art with pencil and crayon, gaining perpetual encouragement and approval from dad as he scratches his pen and inks. Outside the window, a gray squirrel is stuffing his cheek pouches with sunflower seeds on the bird feeder. What better way to pass a cold, winter’s morning?
For Missouri’s Audubon Summary, Filmography & Acknowledgments, click here.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about Charles and Libby Schwartz and learning of their remarkable achievements and experiences. If I have done my job well, you know they helped make the world a better place – for all living things.
The early Missouri trout stamps have always held a special attraction for fish and game collectors. Many have told me they are their “favorites” but can’t seem to put into words the reason why. Although they are undeniably pretty, there is clearly something more at work. One of my main goals in writing this story was to provide collectors with some knowledge to help sort this out.
We have learned that Charles possessed a unique understanding of his subjects, to include their anatomy, habits, natural movements and their environment. His attention to detail was impeccable and the experience he gained through producing thousands of relatively small, black and white drawings was, perhaps, unsurpassed. He was, truly, a master artist and illustrator.
However, the main point I wanted to bring across in this series is that Charles Schwartz was a man who was deeply committed to nature and making it more inviting for everyone. Once you know this, you hold the key for unlocking the uncommon allure of his stamps and you can start to make sense of why they affect you the way they do.