Micah Schwaberow Obituary (1948 – 2022) – Santa Rosa, CA


Micah Schwaberow
Micah Schwaberow, who as a child dreamed of becoming a comic book artist, became a highly respected wood engraver whose striking and hushed depictions of the natural world resonated with a wide range of people, died July 12, 2022 at his home of Santa Rosa at 73. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008.
Micah was like his prints: multi-layered, tender and calm, strong and good-natured, passionate and thoughtful. He sat at the children’s table at family gatherings because he enjoyed the conversation, gave water to people protesting a cause he supported because they were thirsty, and stared at the priced his works below market value, as he wanted more people to have access to them.
Born in October. Born December 26, 1948 in Eugene, OR, to George and Margaret Schwaberow, his father worked in paint stores and was good at color matching; his mother was a housewife and artist. The family moved to San Mateo when Micah was in elementary school, then to Santa Rosa in the mid-1960s, where he attended Montgomery High School and met Linda Asien.
While wooing Linda, Micah demonstrated the inventive humor and whimsy that his quiet nature could sometimes obscure. For example, the night he blindfolded her and drove her around until she was disoriented, “When we got out of the car and he walked me up this hill and we were on Spring Lake Dam. He had set up a card table with a red checkmark tablecloth, and we had a spaghetti dinner by candlelight,” Linda said. The couple married in 1970 to Armstrong Woods.
It was while at SRJC that Micah—whose first name was Michael, but still went by the name Mickey—adopted the name Micah. “He decided he liked it,” Linda said. “He was no longer a little kid and Micah made perfect sense for an adult.” While studying drawing and printmaking at the SRJC, Micah did the weekly editorial cartoon for the Sebastopol Times, and later for the Sonoma County Independent, from 1992 to 1994 his political cartoon was titled Cappie’s Corner. After graduating from SRJC in 1968, Micah took what he called the only “real” job he ever had, a busboy at Denny’s. “He always talked about it because there was a team and that was always very important to him, camaraderie and teamwork,” said Kyla, Micah and Linda’s daughter.
The 1970s were an era of energetic artistic and professional exploration for Micah. He had a sign painting business. He and Linda opened a toy store in Forestville with Bud and Cath Berglund. He worked as a painter and in the carpentry workshop at the Renaissance Fairs in Novato, San Francisco and Los Angeles. He learned to cut a straight board with a handsaw, a skill he taught his daughter. Linda made and sold clothes at the fair and Micah started making whistles and wooden toys. A band saw and a drill press have taken up residence in Kyla’s bedroom. Micah quickly became a presence at the popular event. “We all loved him and of course everyone knew who he was because he was always walking around the fair with his whistles,” said Judy Drury, craft coordinator for the fair.
In 1980, Micah heard about a two-week crash course in Japanese woodblock printing at the Mendocino Arts Center. It would be a transformative experience; precision and repetition of form suit him well. “It was the way his brain worked. He was able to see things upside down and in layers, the etching was his thing that art is for the people,” Linda said. “He never wanted his art to be too expensive because he wanted people to be able to afford it.” “He likes things where you get it all figured out once and then go into production mode,” Kyla said. “Like when he was doing collage art; most people would just do free-form collages. But he likes to create one pattern so he can then create many.”
The couple took Japanese lessons at SRJC for two years and in 1983 moved with Kyla to Japan, for a year, where Micah studied with Toshi Yoshida. After six months, in what was a major honor, Yoshida invited Micah to be his teaching assistant.
Printmaking would shape the rest of his life, but outside of his studio, social activism also animated Micah. He helped form Santa Rosa Concerned Parents in 1980 to support striking Santa Rosa teachers. For a time, the Schwaberow Garage served as a home classroom for students whose parents prevented them from attending class to support teachers. He volunteered with Face to Face, helping shape an annual memorial to Art for Life, a spiral of stones and bones, where bones mark the years, stones mark each person who died of AIDS that year. “He lived by his values ​​to such a degree, he just agreed with them. He wasn’t someone who would say or do something in the moment because it was convenient, he was true to his beliefs. .” said Nicole Ours of Santa Rosa, a close friend and fellow artist. “He was such a quiet but dimensional man that even though he’s gone, there’s still so much of him left.”
Micah was an early member of Art Trails, the popular county-wide open studio tour. Barbara Harris, former executive director of the Sonoma County Cultural Arts Council, said Micah played a key role in the event, especially in its early years. “During the changes that helped the program evolve, he represented the needs of artists to keep the event on its way,” Harris said. “It started as an educational program, which required constant input to also maintain an opportunity for economic development. Micah knew the differences and the similarities. It helped keep him alive and healthy.”
In 1986, supported by Linda, Micah began engraving full time. He worked in the style of classic Japanese woodblock printing, but then put his own twist on it. “Micah dropped the key block,” Linda said, referring to the line block that provides the outline for all subsequent blocks, which add the separate colors. Micah’s decision to set key block aside allowed him to create prints containing softer edges and color gradients that, in a way, became his signature. Micah created four or five new prints a year, in editions of 50 to 150 each.
Among the things that set his work apart, said Ren Brown, owner of the Ren Brown Collection Gallery in Bodega Bay, was “his use of light and his willingness to be so careful. There is a delicacy and depth in the colors he used. His landscapes were very calm and he captured the fading light on the ocean or the multicolored clouds, the hills, the sand dunes or the shadows darkened in a bowl of fruit. He had an unwavering dedication to the art of printmaking Micah’s work can be seen at the Ren Brown Collection.
At his death, Micah’s prints were on display at the Wichita Art Museum “The International Block Print Renaissance Then and Now”, one of 12 artists described as “pushing the artistic possibilities of the block print medium”.
“Micah’s spirit of generosity was in everything he touched,” Barbara Harris said. “Literally, how he demonstrated his incredible craftsmanship and artistry, and spiritually, how his strength and gentleness put everyone at ease. His energy was kind, welcoming and sincere.”
The family will hold a “Rumpus” in his honor at Finley Park in Santa Rosa on October 16 from 1 to 4 p.m.

Published by Press Democrat on August 14, 2022.

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