Monday, August 20, 2012

Interview with CAROL SCHIFF

I was initially drawn to Carol’s work because of the subject matter—lots of beaches and Florida scenes, and beautiful cool colors. All you Parrotheads out there will probably enjoy her paintings too! But she paints much more than that, and is equally adept at landscapes, still lifes, and people. Even with so much versatility, she has her own unique style, something I envy a great deal.

Carol kindly agreed to answer my questions, and tell us more about her painting.


Q. You paint such a wide variety of subjects - landscapes, still lives, people, food, buildings - how do you decide what to paint? Is there a subject you’re drawn to more than others?

Yes, there is a subject that I am drawn to…. light. The actual subject matter is not that important to me, it is the light, the contrast, that catches my eye.

Q. Do you paint more from real life, or from photo reference?

I paint almost exclusively from images. Sometimes this is looked on as a big no-no, but I think if the masters had the opportunity to paint from an image, they would have grabbed it and run! There are changes that must be made. The perspective is not always correct, the shadows are not transparent, so on and so forth. But, there are also light effects that the human eye cannot see, a rim of saturated color or a purple or blue cast that keep me coming back to images. Of course, it is also much more convenient!

If I set up a still life, chances are I will photo it. I may take 20-30 shots from different angles before I get the one I want to paint. I load it on my memory stick and every day I review the choices and choose one to paint. I then go to photo shop and compose some more, a little cropping, punch up the contrast or colors. Only then do I start to paint.

Q. Do you have any tips for plein air painting?

Don’t do it! Just joking. It’s fine if you enjoy that type of thing, but I prefer air conditioning, bathroom, kitchens etc. By the time I drag all my equipment to a site, find the perfect composition, fight the heat, the bugs, the wind and the changing scene, I always ask myself “Is it worth it?” For me, that answer is “No.”

Q. You generally paint with oils. Have you ever used other mediums, and what do you consider the advantages/disadvantages of oil paints?

I have tried many. I started with drawing lessons in charcoal, went on to watercolor and pastel, dabbled with acrylics (still do), but when I tried oils, I never went back!

Oils are so creamy, so forgiving (scrape, scrape, scrape), the hues are incredible. I love mixing paint. At the end of the day, I pile all the left over paint on the corner of my palette and get those most incredible grays. The next day, I love using those grays in another painting.

For me, there are no disadvantages. I know some people have issues with the solvents, but that is not a problem for me. The only solvent I use is a dab of turps. Maybe the drying time could be a little faster, but on the other hand, I hate the way acrylics dry while I am still trying to push paint around.

Q. Everyone has some bit of trusty equipment they can’t do without, whether it’s a brand/type of brush, a special medium, etc. Do you have strong preferences for paint or tools?

I do like bright brushes, but I use a variety of brands, usually the ones with the better price. I refuse to pay $80 for a brush! Probably my favorite is a great flexible palette knife, usually a Fredrix. I use a mix of paints, but when I find a color I like, I purchase the same brand because the color varies so much from one brand to another.

Q. Have you had formal training in painting?

No, but I did study for eight years with a wonderful Australian artist by the name of Sandra Johnson. She does pastels and oil and is extremely talented. I finally had to leave when I realized I would never develop my own style while studying with her. I had to make the color choices I wanted and fix my own problems instead of trying to pick her brain. All my paintings looked like bad Sandra Johnson’s.

Q. Which other artists do you particularly admire? Who is an inspiration for you?

At the moment Andre Kohn is a great source of inspiration. He is fabulous and I love his lost edges, lose brushwork, everything he does. Another favorite is Lynn Boggess. He has influenced my work with palette knives. He is one of those brave souls who takes giant canvases up the side of a mountain and paints with a trowel. His work is unbelievable and must be seen in person to really be appreciated. He has a totally unique look to his work. I get excited just thinking about it!

Q. Your style has really been evolving lately. What has influenced your direction?

When I first started on the internet, I fell in love with the chunky brushwork of Carol Marine. I had never seen that before. So, I tried to work in that manner, but eventually, I realized my work looked like many other artists on the internet. I decided to try to change it. The more I tried to change it, the more fun it became. I got interested in using palette knives and they are becoming more and more important to my work. I have always liked plenty of texture in my work and palette knives give me that. Some days it’s a little like making mud pies and I have paint everywhere.

Another area I have been experimenting with is abstract mixed media. This is quite a surprise to me as I didn’t appreciate abstract in the past. It is also very demanding and for me, takes a lot of planning. I have done a few abstracts that I am pleased with but for the most part, I am struggling in that area. Usually, every week or two, I give it a try. I tried yesterday and ended the day with nothing. Painting wise, it is the most freeing and also the most demanding thing I have tried. The freeing part comes from not having to get that image just right, the demanding part is looking at a blank canvas and trying to compose an interesting scene. What colors do I use, where is the center of interest, what type of composition, how do I get movement ? It’s not just throwing paint a la Jackson Pollack !

Q. Do you have plans or goals in your painting? Is there something specific you want to achieve?

Just to please myself. I want to feel that what I did this month is better than last month. I am trying to set an example for my children and grandchildren so they see me struggle and overcome a problem and see that my work becomes better as I stick with it.

Q. How do you market your art? What is your advice for someone new to selling?

I have my blog, of course, and I try to post 3 times a week. I am a member of and I also post on My savior has been my Etsy sites, and where I post palette knife, abstract, mixed media and even a collage or two.

I tried sending portfolios to art agents, but they usually didn’t even reply. Recently I have entered into contracts with three companies to license my work. All these companies found me on Etsy. I have been contacted by art agents who do prints for international hotels, galleries, and even a movie producer… all through Etsy. I have sold hundreds of paintings all around the world thanks to Etsy. Within a few months, my paintings will be on candy bags, and also on wooden wall décor as well as laser cut metal wall art. All because of Etsy!

I also have a Facebook page and occasionally post on Pinterest. The best advice I can give is get a presence on the internet. Set up a site on Etsy or E-bay and take advantage of the artist blogs. You can get such valuable information and ideas on the blogs.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you Marla, for the fun interview! It was such a pleasure working with you.

    I love the fact that you are interested in inviting other artists to share their viewpoint on your blog.


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