Printmakers You Should Know: Elmer Schooley

Today's Printmaker You Should Know is a favorite at the Roswell Museum: Elmer "Skinny" Schooley (1916-2007).

DeAnn Melton, Elmer "Skinny" Schooley, 1994, oil on canvas. Courtesy of Roswell Museum and Art Center.

Born in Kansas, Elmer Schooley (known as Skinny to his friends) grew up in a farming environment in Oklahoma and Colorado. He majored in art the University of Colorado. While there, he met and married his wife, artist Gussie DuJardin (about whom you'll learn in a future post). After college, both went on to earn their Master's at the University of Iowa. Then World War II hit, and Schooley spent the war in the South Pacific and Japan after enrolling in Officer School through the Army Air Corps.

After the war, Schooley took up a teaching career to support his family. Following a brief stint at New Mexico Western College, for the next 30 years he would teach at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas (not to be confused with the one in Nevada). He was pivotal in getting a lithography program going there, and was considered a great teacher by his students.

After his retirement, Schooley focused on painting. In 1977, he and DuJardin came down to Roswell to participate in the Artist-in-Residence program. Initially planning to stay for only a year, the Schooleys ended up moving here permanently. Both artists had passed away by the time I moved here, but from what I've been told, they were a much-cherished part of the Roswell community.

Today, Schooley is best known as a painter, particularly for his large-scale, "Wilderness" landscapes. These enormous pieces were developed over several decades, and were inspired in part by the distinctive color and brushwork of Pierre Bonnard. Schooley usually didn't use brushes for these works, preferring rollers instead. What's wonderful about these pieces is the way in which they straddle abstraction and representation simultaneously. Yes, you're looking at a field of flowers or a stand of trees, but you're also looking at patterns, color, and texture. They remind me (and many others, I'm sure), of tapestries, woven with paint instead of thread.

Detail of Celebration, one of many Schooley's all-over Wilderness paintings at the RMAC. It looks much better in person than it does here.

Before the Wilderness, however, Schooley painted in a variety of styles. His earliest pieces from the 40s are typically figurative, but by the 1960s he was concentrating primarily on landscapes.

As a printmaker, Schooley worked a great deal in lithography (not surprising, considering that he basically started the lithography program at Highlands). Like his earlier paintings, many of his lithographs are figurative in nature, often with people in profile or turned away from the viewer.

Gallinas Bridge, ca. 1940s, lithograph. Courtesy of Roswell Museum and Art Center.

He did color lithography as well:

Open Window, ca. 1940s-1950s, color lithograph. Courtesy of Roswell Museum and Art Center.

He also did a few images of dilapidated houses that I find interesting. Indeed, geometrical shapes appear in a great deal of his work.

Emergence, 1952, lithograph. Courtesy of Roswell Museum and Art Center.

Fence, 1956, lithograph. Courtesy of Roswell Museum and Art Center.

He also made a few lithographs reminiscent of his Wilderness paintings. Here's a lithograph he printed in collaboration with the Tamarind Institute (a very important lithography workshop that I'll tell you about in a future post).

Spring Aspen, Homage to Hopkins, 1975, color lithograph. Courtesy of Roswell Museum and Art Center.

Schooley also worked in woodcut. Like his later paintings, many of these large-scale works emphasize all-over patterns.

Garden Walk, 1963, woodcut. Courtesy of Roswell Museum and Art Center.

Dead Raven, early 1960s, woodblock on paper. Courtesy of Roswell Museum and Art Center.

From my understanding, Schooley was a remarkable artist and colorful personality. I sometime rue the fact that I didn't know him in person, but his works at the Museum speak quite well for him.

Want to learn more? Check out there sites.

Here's the link to our own database:

Finally, if you want to see some Schooleys in person, come down to the Museum!


  1. I grew up mowing his yard. He'd often bring me into his studio in Westcliffe and ask what I thought about his latest work. It's awesome to find this write up on such an awesome artist. I'm hoping that one day I'll be able to find a print.

  2. My Father in Law was a student of Schooley’s at Highlands University in the lithography program. He still does some great lithographs and you can often see the influence of Schooley in his prints.


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