It’s probably safe to say French impressionist Claude Monet never ran a mile in one day, let alone 26.2 of them.
As for Vincent van Gogh, well, he might have tried to ride a rudimentary bicycle but the 1880s were long before the creation of the triathlon.
Even today, discovering an artist who excels both at art and athleticism figures to be pretty rare.
An exception to the rule: Bob Richey of Warminster.
He’s won prizes in both fields, be it long-distance multi-sport race competitions or his pastel art creations in shows at the highest level.
The intriguing part about Richey’s story is how the two pursuits intertwine.
The Chestnut Hill native took a liking to art at an early age. Running/cycling came along later.
It turns out he was equally proficient in both.
Over the past three decades, the 71-year-old Richey has incorporated what he sees on his cycling and/or running workouts and brings them home to the canvas.
“There is some relationship to what I do athletically in my art,’’ Richey explained in a recent telephone conversation.
“All those years of running – and I’ve always been a cyclist, too – but when I was running through Tyler Park (Newtown) I was always looking and seeing things in the landscape that I might go back to and make art of.
“I still ride all over the place, Bucks County and Hunterdon County, New Jersey. A lot of what I do with my artwork is from things I see when I’m out on the bicycle.’’
A Germantown High School graduate, Richey attended Penn State University with the intention of later pursuing a career in aerospace engineering.
Which he did with the U.S. Navy until 1996, when the Naval Air Development Center in Willow Grove closed and the government offered the 47-year-old Richey an early retirement/pension.
In years leading up to that, Richey had already begun a second career as an artist. It was a skill which came natural to him.
“As a child, I always enjoyed drawing doing artwork. Even in grade school, teachers commented that I was good at art even if I was behind in my reading assignments,’’ Richey said with a chuckle.
“I didn’t pick art as a career. But being an artist was always a dream of mine. When that Naval Air Development Center closed, I had already been working on my artwork and doing many shows.’’
Biking and running are very visually stimulating forms of athletics. Richey found he could combine the two.
“Ever since ’96 I’ve been a full-time artist,’’ he said. “I’ve always been inspired by nature, not only that but more abstract scenes of inner city Philadelphia.
“My whole life, I’ve been kind of a dreamer as far as being an artist. I just got sidetracked as an engineer and glad I was. That helped financially.’’
Richey has become an integral figure in the Bucks County art community, which has a notable past stretching all the way back to the end of the 19th century.
“Bucks County has a very rich art history and tradition with their own set of impressionist painters around New Hope in the early 1900s right through maybe 1950,’’ Richey said. “Edward Redfield and Daniel Garber are a couple of the more famous ones. Those guys influenced me.
“There are other local artists that not too many people have heard of and I think we all influence each other. We find people we like and little pieces of different artists creep into your style. Hopefully your style becomes kind of individualistic.’’
Bob’s wife, Linda, is also an accomplished runner. She recently completed marathons in Cincinnati and Richmond and was headed for the Chicago Marathon before the pandemic hit.
When Bob made the transition from engineer to artist, she was totally supportive. Her career is based at St. Mary Hospital in Langhorne and she understands the importance of following one’s dream.
They met while both were new members of the Bucks County Roadrunners Club. The Richeys have two sons – Bob III and Andrew.
At his peak in running, Bob ran brilliant times of 1:18 for the half-marathon, 36-plus for the 10K, 17:40 for the 5K. Perhaps his proudest moment: Running a 4:57 mile at age 40. Plenty of age group gold medals there.
More recently he has branched out into competitive cycling and the triathlon.
As for his artwork, Richey has won five awards at the prestigious Phillips Mill Art Show in New Hope and others at Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, State College as well as national honors, including the Allied Artists of America prize in New York City.
Richey’s artwork can be found at bobricheypastels.com.
Peace Valley Duathlon, 8 a.m., Peace Valley Park, Chalfont. Contact www.runsignup.com
Steelman Triathlon, 7 a.m., Lake Nockamixon, Quakertown. Contact www.runningintheusa.com
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