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"Ambrosia," 2011, 30 x 30 inches, oil on canvas by René Romero Schuler. MAC Fine Art, Miami, macfineart.com

Fine artist René Romero Schuler

"Uma," 2012, 10.5 x 3 inches, bronze, Jennifer Norback Fine Art, jennifernorbackfineart.com 

"Treasure," 2011, 12 x 12 inches, acrylic on canvas, Onessimo Fine Art, Palm Beach Gardens, onessimofineart.com 

"Trust," 2011, 60 x 40 inches, oil on canvas, MAC Fine Art, Miami , macfineart.com 

Painting by Numbers

René Romero Schuler is not only selling a record number of paintings, she’s having the time of her life.

René Romero Schuler is having a banner year. Seated at a communal table at her River North gallery, Jennifer Norback Fine Art, with a handful of her sculptures resting within arm’s reach, the willowy blonde begins to explain the whirlwind past year of her career, starting with last November’s charity event benefitting the Loyola University Museum of Art. She’d donated a painting and was mingling with guests when she met Norback, her future gallerist. Clearly, the two must have hit it off: Within two weeks last winter, Norback asked Schuler to stage a solo show at her eponymous gallery.

For emerging artists to be propositioned for a solo show within days of meeting a new gallerist isn’t just a boon; it’s practically unheard of. “It was really soon,” Schuler admits, “but thankfully I had a whole lot of work ready to go.” There were 35 pieces in all—more than enough for a well-stocked show. But even before it opened, she sold eight of them, mostly to passers-by visiting Norback’s garden-level gallery. “The day we were hanging [the show], someone came in and bought three,” Schuler says. “By the time the show was done, more than half of the work had sold.”

Most artists are lucky to sell one piece at a show. Schuler says of her unexpected windfall: “If you have a show and sell a piece, that’s hugely successful and you come away from it with a huge smile on your face. So I’ve been really, really happy. I’ve just had a great year.”

For the 43-year-old Chicago native, the nine months since that extraordinarily successful show have been marked with milestones typically spread over decades. In August, alongside seminal British painter Trevor Bell, Schuler sold multiple paintings at a private, one-day show at a Trump Tower penthouse, curated by Norback.
Also via Norback, Schuler garnered gallery representation in Paris. And thanks to that French connection, Schuler’s works will be included in a show next summer at Paris’ Galerie Beckel Odille Boïcos, alongside fellow Chicago artists Tony Fitzpatrick, Cindy Bernhard and Michael Goro. Another first came when Schuler overhauled and expanded her home studio, which is nestled in the woods behind her Lake Forest home.

Though she says her fate as an artist has been sealed since kindergarten, Schuler launched her career in 1986, starting with commissioned works that segued into a small mural-making business. Traditionally, she has created oil paintings, sculpting paint onto canvas with a palette knife. But it’s only in the last decade that she’s begun to find a real focus. The biggest impetus for change? Becoming a mother. “It was kind of a catalyst,” Schuler says. “I started thinking, ‘I have a responsibility now; I can’t be out on location scouting [murals] on ladders. Maybe I’m just going to work on a painting.’ So I did that, and more and more, it turned into this giant catharsis.” Schuler settled down. She had formal representation with Onessimo Fine Art in Palm Beach, and that was the turning point. Schuler says. “I really felt validated for truly the first time in my career.”

Now she’s represented in a handful of cities, and this month, Schuler’s abstract figurative works and her new sculptures­—a diversion from her usual work—are the focus of a second solo show at Jennifer Norback Fine Art. Dubbed Shadows, the show opens Oct. 5. Also this month, local film production company Cuantica Pictures releases its documentary-style “Bridge for Dreamers” segment featuring Schuler and her work. Videographer Jun Nagano produces the series “dedicated to Chicago artists who never stopped pursuing their dreams.”

With all of the career changes over the course of the past decade, one of the most significant was moving to Lake Forest, primarily to raise her kids. “I never thought I would move to the suburbs, but I haven’t gone back,” Schuler says. “The kids are thriving here, and the artistic community, the support of friends I have, there’s no comparison. Everybody knows what I’m doing, and just loves it and supports it.”