Painter Drawn Back to Campus

Author: Carol Schaal '91M.A.


It’s been more than 20 years since Richard McDaniel ‘84MFA has been on the Notre Dame campus, and the landscape painter can’t wait for his May visit. A big sycamore tree by the Grotto is calling his name.

“Is it still there?” he asks, his worry carrying over the phone lines from his Santa Rosa, California, home. “Oh, I really hope it is.”

McDaniel’s fondness for a tall tree at Notre Dame is rooted in his love of landscapes. Fittingly, his affinity for Notre Dame took seed on a glorious spring day.

The California-born McDaniel moved to New England when he was 25. There he both painted and worked as a musician, but decided he preferred painting. So, at the “old geezer” age of 33, he says, “I felt my education was incomplete without earning the terminal degree in my field,” a master’s of fine arts.

“I applied to eight different universities, got accepted at five or so and got scholarships to four,” McDaniel says. He then visited those schools offering him a scholarship.

“When I set foot on the Notre Dame campus, that settled it right there.”

The day, he says, “was delightful”—flowers were blooming, the weather was fine and “everyone was just in a good mood.” He also liked the University’s academic reputation and the fact that his course of study required a thesis. “Notre Dame may not seem like an obvious choice for a painting degree, but it was perfect for me. It was painting and much more.”

Still, the flatlands of Indiana? “Some people thought the upper Midwestern states were not a very pretty place, landscape-wise,” he says. “But I was intrigued by all the horizontals.”

Once settled at Notre Dame, he says, “I got very interested in the weather. . . . How do you paint snow?”

That interest in what he calls “the poetry of nature” has continued through his art-centered career as a painter, teacher at various fine arts schools, a workshop leader and author of books on painting, particularly on working with pastels. It is as a workshop leader that he’s returning to Notre Dame, to direct a five-day Painting Landscapes in Pastel class.

“He’s nationally recognized for his landscape paintings, which is why I wanted him,” says Cathy McCormick of the Northern Indiana Pastel Society. “Plus there’s that Notre Dame connection, which made it unique to our group.”

For McDaniel, the visit has an added bonus. From May 10 to June 28, several of his paintings will be exhibited at the Sycamore Fine Arts gallery in nearby Goshen, Indiana. His work also can be seen at

Carol Schaal is managing editor/web editor of Notre Dame Magazine.