Capturing essence through portraiture

Artist Marcelle Schvimmer knows how to bring out the character of her subjects.

Marcelle Schvimmer captures her mother’s knowing gaze in “Time Well Spent,” on display at the Brick City Center for the Arts (Acrylic on Canvas, 20×24 inches).

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Posted August 12, 2022 | By Julie Garisto

When Marcelle Schvimmer isn’t playing mah-jongg and assisting her mother, she’s painting portraits of people and pets, capturing that spark or penetrating gaze that reveals their very essence.

The portraitist’s works are currently showing in exhibits at the Marion Cultural Alliance’s Brick City Center for the Arts, Ocala Art Group’s “Summer Art Show” and in galleries on the East Coast as well as the Citrus County community of Hernando’s new A Cracker Canvas.

Schvimmer’s uncanny ability to convey character and personal details draws viewers in, which is why a portrait of her mother, Helen Newman, is so striking.

“Time Well Spent,” shows Mrs. Newman at 97, seated and passing the hours with one of her favorite activities, putting a puzzle together.

The painting is part of the “The Art of Aging: The Secret of Life” exhibit for artists 55 and older at the MCA’s Brick City Center for the Arts through Aug. 27.

Her winning painting, “Rising Harvest,” in the Ocala Art Group’s show at South State Bank depicts a couple who work at a family farm stand by the same name.

“I buy my vegetables and fruits at Rising Harvest,” Schvimmer said. “One day I asked the husband and wife working at the family farm (Josh and Trish Wise) if they would pose for me. I just found them very interesting, nice to look at. They were sitting back to back and giggling. It took them a while to stop laughing.”

Tattooed couple Rising Harvest, acrylic, 24×30 inches

Born in 1947 in Orange County, New Jersey, Schvimmer grew up in North Brunswick around a big, boisterous family.

“In those days you didn’t just have ‘nuclear family,’” she reminisced. “We must have had a hundred, relatives nearby, and we were always at some aunt or uncle’s house and with our cousins.”

Though Schvimmer didn’t grow up in a stereotypical bohemian, artistic household, there was no shortage of creativity. Her dad was a builder and mom had a way with needlepoint.

“It’s in our genes,” she said with a laugh, adding that one of her granddaughters is a professional artist based in Philadelphia. Another writes plays and screenplays in California.

Family is a big part of Schvimmer’s life. She’s been married for 53 years to attorney Ted Schvimmer, and the artist recently moved her mother two blocks away. She helps her art between activities with the Ocala Art Group and other local organizations.

Though she requires assistance, Mrs. Newman is still sharp despite having some difficulties getting around.

“You know, people will look at you and they’ll see you, but they really don’t know you as well as your mother does,” Schvimmer added with a tinge of emotion.

“The way she’s looking at me is more telling than if she were looking at somebody else. It’s hard to explain, but your mother can see through you where another person can’t.”

Contact Marcelle Schvimmer at for portrait commissions. See more of her works at Current exhibits showing her works include Ocala Art Group’s Summer Art Show at South State Bank, through Sept. 28; and Marion Cultural Center’s Brick City Center for the Arts through Aug. 27. She’s also exhibiting at A Cracker Canvas in Hernando.