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A Cambridge lawyer leads a colorful double life

The local lawyer leads a double life, one as the owner of a law firm, the other as an artist traveling the world for inspiration.

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

Schwarz, 77, looks like a typical artist. Dressed in black, reminiscent of Steve Jobs giving a presentation for Apple, Schwarz showcases his art in his modern design studio, Kirkwood Wagner Gallery at 11 Thorne St, Cambridge.

The love for art began when he was 5 years old and entered a coloring contest in Regina, where he won first place. Then, for almost 50 years, he did not pick up a single brush or sketchbook. Instead, he decided to focus his attention on the law.

Over the years, Schawrz has successfully asserted its stake in the legal world beginning with the law firm Pettitt and Schwarz in the early 1970s.

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

“I said, my God, there are wine appreciation classes here. I think I’ll take that one and you can take the drawing class,” Schwarz said, weary of the art class.

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

“From then on, I just couldn’t let go of the pen. I just kept getting better and Nancy did just that,” as he waves to the floor.

After this sudden awareness, Schwarz launched into drawing, watercolour, acrylic and oil. He just couldn’t stop.

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

His first ary show was at his home on Main Street in Cambridge. He has converted his entire garage and porch into his own gallery, displaying various works of art inspired by his travels around the world.

“My first show, I think I sold about 15 paintings and I haven’t done that since,” he laughed as his glasses almost fell off his nose.

Schwarz draws inspiration from his travels and the interesting architecture he discovers along the way. In his gallery there is a small cabinet where he keeps his notes and old sketches, very reminiscent of how a law firm would keep all of its notes on a case. He photocopies and chronologically stores the plethora of documentation he has amassed.

He has books dating back to 2001, before he even thought about selling art.

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

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

“When we leave, I take inventory of what I have seen. So when I come home, it pushes me to sketch, sketch and paint from there,” Schwarz said.

He flips through the seemingly endless number of images and rough sketches while describing his artistic process.

“I say that my art consists of three selves: inspiration, interpretation and imagination. Inspiration is the photo, interpretation is a sketch and the imagination comes when I come back to the studio and I start painting,” Schwarz said.

Being a professional artist traveling the world and having galleries across Canada has its own set of challenges. Plus, running a law firm, attending court hearings, and working on cases can feel like too much for one person. For Schwarz, managing the two seems so easy, but over time he has found a balance.

“I devote 50% of my time to law and 50% of my time to art. I have seven galleries across Canada. So I couldn’t paint without the help of my staff in the office,” Schwarz said.

The two professions, law and art, don’t really seem to be able to be linked. In law, you imagine people in suits, mountains of documents and a dark gray bureaucracy. Art, on the other hand, is full of life, explosions of colors and emotions aroused by looking at a work. It seems like opposite poles, but the artist-lawyer takes a very different look at this subject.

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

He doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. He is very active in his business and intends to travel and continue creating whimsical and fun artwork and expressing himself on the canvas.