by Brittany Shelton Coleman
After Eric Buechel’s fifty hours at the easel meticulously melding sixteen layers of oil paint, his self-portrait offers a glimpse into the mastery of his hyperrealistic work. Yet his paintings merely reflect the unbridled passion that pours from the artist in every facet.
The 57-year-old’s spark might be pinpointed as the incredible obstacles he has overcome in adulthood—a near-fatal car accident and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But it seems his life and love of art were prophesied far earlier. His kindergarten teacher predicted that Eric would grow up to be an artist. More than fifty years later, he continues to master the brush.
Nestled in his home studio on an idyllic acreage in Sparta, Tennessee, Buechel talks about the necessity of beauty in art. “I want to say something in my picture, but it has to be beautiful . . . the balance has to be perfect,” he says over the phone in a voice revealing the subtle hint of a New Jersey edge.
Buechel spent much of his life in the Garden State, working as an illustrator in the ad world of New York—his clients leaders in the medical and aeronautic fields. Although these days he no longer works to the beat of a corporate drum, he credits his past career as what “made me an artist where I could do anything.”
The “anything” he’s referring to is his advanced brush capabilities—something Buechel believes every artist must strive for if they’re serious about their work. “You’re always a student of art,” he says, and he certainly practices what he preaches. The artist spends sixty hours a week doing so, beginning his day at the easel before the sun rises. Eric has calculated that he’s completed roughly 35,000 hours with a brush in hand.
Though Buechel has lived and painted in many places, he’s found a serenity in his Tennessee life that radiates through his work. The city of Nashville has come to play a large role in his current work.
I don’t know why all of a sudden I’m fixated on Nashville. I’m consumed with it . . . it’s a beautiful city. There’s just so much to paint here. Every corner has a painting. That’s how I see Nashville, every single street has a painting.
The local art community in particular has become a sort of family for the painter. Buechel describes it as a place where everybody helps one another. “It’s never, ever going to be about me; it’s about the whole community. I don’t wanna learn from myself because if I do I’ll never change.” He explains that even the greats—Monet, Renoir, etc.—all “hung together for a reason. They fed off each other.”
Though encouraged by the work of his peers, he also gives back, sharing his extensive knowledge of technique and art history by teaching at the Cumberland Artisans of Tennessee Studio.
It’s this spirit of community that beckons Eric to continue sharing his art, including an upcoming show that will display his new series highlighting the heroic lives of members of the military.
To learn about Eric’s upcoming shows, follow him on Twitter or visit his website www.ericbuechel.net.