Monday, January 28, 2013

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.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Antonio Frasconi: 1919-2013

I just learned of the death on January 8th of Antonio Frasconi, the great printmaker from Uruguay who lived and worked most of his life in the USA. Printmaking is such a minority sport in the art world that his passing will go largely unnoticed, compared to the death of a Basquiat or a Warhol. But for those who are printmakers or those who appreciate the medium, Frasconi is known as one of the undisputed masters of the last 100 years, possibly one of the greatest exponents ever of the woodcut medium.

He came directly from the Latin American tradition of the black and white block print, a medium chosen particularly by Mexican political artists for its easy readability, its directness, and its eye-catching boldness of design. Frasconi's own style also has that kind of angular, spiky-edged quality that we think of as part of 1950s design, too.

I first became aware of Frasconi's work when I began to study printmaking in the mid-1990s. A book of his prints (showing some of his many book illustrations) was lying around the studio, and I spent some time discussing the style and technique with my teacher, who had met Frasconi. At the time, I was going through all the complicated processes to do with intaglio (etching), but a few years later I began making block prints, and it was absolutely inspired by seeing Frasconi's quirky, beautiful prints of animals and faces. Nothing I've done comes close to matching his achievement, but just seeing these images that I've clipped from the internet makes me realise that one can learn so much from Frasconi's art about the value of simplicity, contrast, and repetition.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A New Year

It was the best of the times...

I was back in my studio on Friday for the first time in 2013. It was also, maybe, the last time that I will do much work there, as I am moving studios at the end of January, to a place that's closer to where I live in Chicago. Next time I am in the current studio, I will start boxing things up and getting ready to move.

So today I took  some of the 'coal circle' panels and canvasses outside and sanded them down for a while:

And then I dragged a few semi-opaque layers of matte medium across them, as follows:

That piece of mat board standing up in the background is what I'm using for a squeegee:

Note the plastic sheet: very important for catching all the medium/paint that slops over the sides of the pictures.

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