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Six of the Best, Part 23: Darryll Schiff

Part 23 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity  (previous interviews: 123456789101112, 13, 1415161718192021, 22). Darryll Schiff is a Chicago-based photographer whom I met recently during the online webinar series run by Paul Klein (Klein Artist Works). I saw Darryll's large-scale digital photos in his studio last week, and was bowled over by their use of light and scale. You can see more of his work and read about his process on his new blog.

Descending to Heaven, 68" x 118"

Philip Hartigan: What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why?

Darryll Schiff: When I was a little kid I used to go to Saturday classes at the Art Institute. I could draw ok, kind of paint and did some pretty good sculptures. But later on the camera became my tool of choice. I think this is due to a few things. I certainly have always felt comfortable with the technology and at some point I realized the idea is to let the tool restrict you as little as possible. A lot of my art now involves quite complicated ‘maneuvers’, layering images in the camera. 

Philip Hartigan: What piece are you currently working on?

Darryll Schiff: I am in the middle of a series of images titled “Descending to Heaven”. The photos were taken at the Art Institute here in Chicago and involve the installation in 2011 by Jitish Kallat. He converted text from a speech by Swami Vivekananda in 1893, actually given adjacent to the installation, into LED displays. Without going into the whole concept of Vivekananda’s speech, my images are a very colorful, somewhat dark, and quite surprising translation of what I believe is a much more realistic look at the world.

Red V 06
Philip Hartigan: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

Darryll Schiff: The big surprise is how comfortable I have become with color, bright color. My background is in fine art photography and is very classical. At the Institute of Design, where I studied, I learned black and white from some masters, including Aaron Siskind and Arthur Siegel. We did do some work in color, but at the time, it was secondary to black and white.
Philip Hartigan: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

Darryll Schiff: There is something about painting that can be quite inspiring, whether it is something modern, like Picasso, or an old master. About two years ago I was travelling in Spain with my son and daughter, having a wonderful time. I just love the Spanish culture and people. But the thing that most sticks out in my mind is the day I spent at the Prado, being enthralled with Goya, and even more so with the wonderful collection of Rubens there.

Philip Hartigan: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making?

Darryll Schiff: In fourth grade art class we did ink blots, like you would see looking at a Rorshach test, but we used the ink as a starting point for a design, using crayons to do whatever else we wanted to do to fill in the paper. My mother (who is also a quite accomplished artist) still has this framed on the wall in her house.

Philip Hartigan: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that's meaningful to you: why are you an artist?

Darryll Schiff: A funny thing is that when I was in college being an artist for a career did not immediately pop into my head. I considered a few things including architecture and became serious about graphic design. In that program I also took fine art photography classes and really found the way to express myself.

If you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.


  1. Just love your blog. The artists are beyond interesting.

    1. Thanks you very much for that. It's so gratifying to find out that someone appreciates the interviews -- they're probably the posts I'm most proud of.

  2. Thank you for the blog interview with this amazing artist!


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