He was born in Painesville, Ohio where he received his early education. Following a three year tour of duty with the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division, he attended Cooper School of Art, graduating with degrees in advertising art and illustration. He was designer of architectural and engineering catalogs for Sweets Catalog Service and designer and illustrator for advertising material for the J.H. Maish Co., both in Ohio, before joining the Kamb-Meteyer Ad Agency in Rochester N.Y. where he was art director and had full responsibility for all phases of advertising functions.
He left the agency in 1966 when he and his family moved to Nantucket so he could persue his painting career. He worked both in oils and watercolors in addition to the scrimshaw.
Mr. Peterson had his own gallery on island. He first exhibited at the gallery on Centre Street and later at his gallery on Old South Wharf. Last year he moved his gallery to his home on Polpis Road.
In addition to exhibiting in his own gallery he also had one man shows at the Janus Gallery in Rochester, Albert White Gallery in Toronto, Canada, Brantford Art Gallery in Brantford, Canada and at the Little Gallery and Main Street Gallery on Nantucket. He also had works in a large number of group shows in Rochester, N.Y., the Munson Art Gallery in Chatham, Pieces Art Gallery in Truro and the Kenneth Taylor Gallery in Nantucket.
Leslie Linsley devoted a large section in her book Scrimshaw to Mr. Peterson’s work. His work was also reviewed on the Today and Good Morning shows in the mid 70’s.
From the I&M, 9/6/79
“For Dick, painting in watercolors is a constant learning process. He starts out every morning about 5:30, does several sketches, and is back by 10 or 10:30.
The sketches usually take about an hour, and he brings them home to work into finished paintings at a later date. He finds when he is painting out in the field he has to stop himself before the colors get too bright.
“If I went any farther, I might blow it.” Dick’s paintings are nature studies with an oriental flavor, and usually contain birds. “I’m not a bird watcher,” he said, “but somehow there is always a bird there with me when I am painting. And the birds add life to the paintings.”
He paints Nantucket, he says, “the way I see it—subtle, simple, with a limited palette. Everything is horizontal.” Fifteen years ago, he was art director at an advertising agency in Rochester, New York. He found he was being pushed into administration and executive type work, all in addition to his creative work.
“We came here for a visit. It was in March, and it was cold in Squam. We came here and we never went back.” ” Dick and his wife Sabra and two children live on the Polpis-Quidnet road, and were on island year round until the children went back to Michigan to hieh school. “We sent the kids away to school and we went with them,” he said. “But this is the last year we’ll do this. We sell the house in Michigan this spring.” His paintings became more oriental, he said, the longer he stayed on Nantucket. “You view things so differently here. It’s all in the attitude toward the subject matter—the approach.” He often feels in painting that he becomes a vehicle and the work progresses by itself. In the meantime he reads, (the Mustard Seed Garden, parts of which were written in 1679), studies and paints. “