Little did I know that my assignment to do an article profiling local artist, George Schelling, would yield a most pleasurable afternoon and what I’m sure will be a lasting friendship. George is a nationally known artist, whose work has been featured most prominently on the covers of such magazines as Field & Stream and Outdoor Life, as well as many prominent galleries. What I did not know is that his wife, Millie, is also a prominent artist. But it’s George and Millie’s story that is the real, well, the real story.
In the mid-1960s, George was living in New York City. He had a “breakout” show and was pretty well established as an artist. He opened a gallery in Chatham, New Jersey, but soon tired of life in the megalopolis. Forty-five years ago, he bought a good chunk of a mountaintop just south of Laceyville, where he found the peace and quiet he was seeking. Having established his reputation– and retaining his NYC connections– he was able to paint in his rural retreat where he had built a home and studio, and his work grew ever more prominent. He also taught for nearly 30 years at Luzerne County Community College and introduced computers into the art curriculum. He was a bachelor. Then, through a remarkable confluence of the fates, things changed.
Millie was from Virginia, one of six children. She was married, lived in Florida for 30 years, where, at the age of 40, she took up art. She was fortunate to find a teacher who understood the national art scene and encouraged her to pursue still-life paintings targeted at galleries. On a whim, her father gave her a book about pastels, and that is now her principle medium. She, too, found early success. She married and eventually found her way to New Jersey, but didn’t like it. She had a connection in Tunkhannock and loved it. When her husband died, she considered moving back to the south, but one day she received an unexpected phone call.
Someone had told George about a local artist, working in pastels, whose work was quite good. George, an early adopter of technology and the Internet, found some of Millie’s work online, and found her phone number. He had no idea how old she was, what she looked like, or her status in life. The phone call was lengthy.
The next evening they met. George arrived an hour early; it was the first date Millie had had in 35 years. They’ve been together ever since. Millie instigated a few changes to George’s rather Spartan retreat, principally adding an addition onto the house, with space for her own studio. Somewhere along the line a trio of cats, of oriental lineage, were added.
Their home is nearly as beautiful as its inhabitants. Individually, their studios could be described as the “organized chaos” one would expect to find, but in between their living space is light and airy, adorned with their masterful artwork, and looks out over a pristine lake with no evidence of any other inhabitants except the wildlife. Being a painter of wildlife, he has a telescope trained on his lake that has a camera attachment, which feeds directly into one of his many computers. He can push a button and the photograph of an eagle snatching a fish from his lake is instantly ready for him to print out and incorporate into a painting. He is not shy about combining an eagle hunting over a lake in Pennsylvania, the mountains of the West, and a stormy sky into a painting.
George and Millie’s work remains in demand, but they are cutting back a bit on their commercial activities because it cuts into their time to enjoy their shared life. They paint, enjoy the forest, and travel to the islands. Their home exudes hospitality. I suspect that I am not alone, but in a little over an hour with them I gained two new friends.