A gentle, talented, humble soul who wasn’t afraid of hugs and still opened doors for the love of his life — that was Dick Ferrer.
The Brown County art community is mourning the loss of the self-taught artist who could paint buildings without a ruler and loved living in the hills of Brown County so much that he would drive three hours a day back and forth to work in Indianapolis.
“I’d say, ‘We can move up there. You can have an apartment up there.’ He’d say, ‘No, because when I drive home and I turn to come towards Brown County, then I know I am home, and it’s like I am on vacation every day,’” said his wife, Dixie.
They had been married for 17 years when Dick passed away March 7 at the age of 68.
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The couple met in Indianapolis when their art was in the same gallery. Between them, they have six children, 13 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
After Dick retired, he helped Dixie run the Ferrer Gallery in downtown Nashville.
They closed it last December after 16 years, planning to spend more time together painting in their home studio.
The couple taught art classes in their gallery and through the Art Alliance Brown County’s PARTake program. Dixie works with mixed media and paints with oil, and Dick painted with acrylics.
Dick was active with the Brown County Backroads Studio Tour, a board member for Indiana Heritage Arts for six years and an artist member at the Brown County Art Gallery.
He also was involved with Indiana Plein Air Painters, which allowed him to paint outside in nature, his favorite studio.
Dick graduated from Indiana University in 1984, majoring in political science and anthropology. He worked in the office of a plumbing company on the north side of Indianapolis but would paint in the evening or on the weekends.
“When he retired, his style changed. His color kind of went from the browns and grays into brighter colors. It poured out of him. He couldn’t paint fast enough,” Dixie said.
Dick enjoyed capturing “things of the past.”
It showed in his painting subjects: abandoned tractors in fields and falling-down barns, his wife said.
It also showed in his actions.
“He’s a dying breed, a gentleman: That generation who opens doors, sees what you need before you do. (He was) kind, never said anything bad about anybody. He always had a smile, always had hugs. He wasn’t afraid to hug. He spoiled me rotten,” Dixie said.
Dixie admired her husband’s natural talents. “If he was doing buildings, or whatever, he’d get the perspective. … He just knew how to do it,” she said.But Dick wasn’t one to take compliments.“He would say, ‘Oh, I’m just good at copying. I can copy anything.’ But, he was beyond just copying,” Dixie said.
Dick began drawing and doing illustrations in high school. That interest was put on hold while he served in the Air Force from 1967 to 1971 as an E4 sergeant surgery technician stationed at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines during the Vietnam War.
After the war and graduating college, Dick began to create art again. He became interested in Asian art from his time in the Philippines.
Then his interest shifted to Native American art. A friend encouraged him to learn about the culture, and Dick began attending Native American ceremonies.
He was one of eight artists selected to paint a mural that is in the parking lot at North Van Buren and Gould Streets today. Dick painted the first white man documented in Brown County trading with Native Americans.
He participated in Lakota Indian ceremonies in Indiana and South Dakota. He also facilitated Indian religious ceremonies throughout the Indiana Correctional System for many years.
In a Q-&-A with the Brown County Democrat in 2013, Dick said the best thing about being an artist is “turning your passion into a work of art (that) friends and collectors want to hang on their walls.”Starting with a dark canvas instead of a white one, Dick would create a unique, bold composition that many artists can recognize when they see it.“It had a real soft, almost a fuzzy feeling, but then that strength of the values would pop it,” Dixie said.
Tom and Judy Prichard, of Oak Grove Pottery in Fishers, have a few Ferrers hanging in their home.
“Beyond the fact that he is a wonderful artist and a very unique artist — he’s one of those when you walk into a room and you know a Dick Ferrer hanging on the wall — he was just a very wonderful person,” Judy said.
“My favorite times — and this is with both Dick and Dixie, was going to their home — sitting on their back screened-in deck and just chatting,” Judy said.
The couples also had a business relationship. Oak Grove Pottery was sold in the Ferrer Galley and the Prichards allowed the Ferrers to be guest artists in their studio during the Brown County Backroads Studio Tours.
“Dick is very unique, very down-to-Earth. He’s one of those people that no matter what his interests were, he had a passion for it — be it his art, the Oakland Raiders, or the Chicago Blackhawks or an occasional glass of port,” Tom said.
Tom will miss Dick’s laugh and his ability to find humor in almost anything.
The Brown County Art Gallery has an exhibit of his work on display in his memory.
“He had so many things left to paint,” said fellow artist Amy Greely of Amy Greely Studio. “It’s sad that we’re not going to see what those things are.”