Friday, February 25, 2011

Interview With Alexander Schaffer Czech

Alexander Shcaffer Czech Talks About “MEMORY/IMAGINATION”

Martin Luther King Jr Day, Jan 17th, 2011.

We caught up with Alexander Schaffer Czech in Santa Cruz today, whose exhibit, “Memory/Imagination” shows at Driftwood Salon February 4th to February 27th, 2011. We were extremely excited  because we have been talking about this show for a year now (this will be our gallery’s one year anniversary show) and this will be the first time that we will be viewing the pieces for this long awaited show. It's incredible to visit Santa Cruz, and even more incredible inside Schaffer Czech's studio...

Driftwood Salon: So, when was the first time you thought about painting this style of work?

Alexander Schaffer Czech:  You know, um, actually, it happened a long time ago, when I was in art school, as I was learning how to oil paint, before I went to the Art Institute (SFAI), I’d already learned  how to oil paint, but, sometimes, in school, you don’t know what to really focus on a lot of the time, it’s like the whole idea of having a series---er--- you’re trying to find yourself, and you know, I was painting jazz musicians, and just doing a few things like that, and then I had a conversation with one of my teachers about subject matter, and he said, “Well paint what you know”, it was Bruce McGaugh, an amazing Bay Area painter, and I was like “okay…” And I just thought about that for a really long time, and I just asked myself, well, what do I really know? What could I really just talk about or represent, you know, what comes naturally to me? And (laughs) I was just like “WATER”. I’ve been looking at the surface of water my whole life, you know, and it’s the most relaxing place for me, it‘s where I can go and meditate and just be myself, and um, really reflect on life, and I’ve just seen so many beautiful things, in nature, like just how the atmosphere reflects on water, and you know, this involves fishing, and surfing…

DS: Yeah, you’ve obviously been around the ocean your whole life right? I mean San Diego, Bay Area—

ASC: Yeah, I’ve just been witnessing it my whole life, from Washington, to Canada, all the way down California, you know, just, all over the world, I’ve seen different bodies of water, whether it’s a little puddle, you know, and how the light reflects off a puddle, to an ocean…

DS: And do you remember that first little piece that you finished---

ASC: Oh Yeah, yeah! I’d mad this one little 18”X 24” piece (makes a rectangle shape and shakes his head while smiling).

DS: And you felt you really found the style that you were looking for the whole time?

ASC: Yeah, I mean it really hasn’t changed too much since then…

DS: It’s just always evolved since then…

ASC: (nodding) Yeah,

DS: As far as color choice and…

ASC: Yeah, well , my mark making is definitely more confident now, you know, I’ve been working on this series on and off for like ten years, and I keep coming back to it because , you know, I work a regular job that can be stressful sometimes, and I want to enjoy myself when I paint, and think about something that I’m really interested in, and you know that’s what my art is, they’re like meditations of a particular moment that I saw---you know, you’re out on the water, and you see something and you come home, and you’re like ‘oh my gosh, did I really witness that? Was that for real?’ You know, and then I try to regurgitate that.

DS: And I mean style wise, I know that you’ve been doing this a long time, but, as far as technique wise? And tools, and obviously materials, have they always been the same or always evolving into something new?

ASC: No, I mean, as with any artist, I think you become more familiar with your tools, there’s ones that you like more than others, or you just figure out what they’re all used for, you know, you learn about rounds and brights, and all the different types of brushes, all the different mediums that you could add into your oil paint, and that kind of stuff.  I definitely have my little mixture, my  mad scientist mixture medium that I add into my paint, and then also you learn about the different pigments and the quality of those paints, and how they react, and for me, color is a really, REALLY, big, BIG part of my work, you know,  obviously (laughs and points to his current  work in progress, Loch Lomond, a huge 4’X4’ waterscape in pink and lime green hues) , and for me, I spend tons of time mixing my own paint, um, I don’t paint out of the tube, I’m always either tinting it or toning it down, or adding a cross compliment, just to , you know, maybe round it down, but you know, it’s always, always changing…so as far as favorite tools? I don’t like pig haired brushes, I just like soft sable brushes, so I can really get a good blend, push the paint around, and it allows for nice transition of one color to the next.

DS: So when did ASC Studio come about?

ASC: As an artist, you always have to think about how you’re going to market yourself and put together your identity. I just figured it would be easy to use my initials. I like to do more stuff than just paint, I’m always dabbing in more commercial style art, and that kind of stuff, making tee shirts, you know I can’t help but be creative, so I figure it’s good to have something like ASC Studio to create things from.

DS: And where do you want to with this?

ASC:  Well I’ll always make tee shirts, I’ve been making them since I was in high school, I’ve just always loved making graphics, you know, and I like the business side of art as well, it’s fun to be creative, make something, and sell it.  You know, it’s not all about that, but still, it’s a nice benefit to make money from art (laughs). So I figure it’s a good foundation, or a good place to come from especially if I want to collaborate with other artists.

DS: Tell us about Memory/Imagination and what that means to you.

ASC: Well when I was naming all the paintings, I was asking myself, you know, what are they all about? And I’ve  just been so fortunate to witness so many amazing things in nature, and you know, you’re out there bobbing around,  just relaxing, looking at the water texture, and the atmosphere is always changing, and the light is always dancing around doing  crazy things, and there’s just so much kinetic movement, and you know, a lot of the time, I’d be out there, and I’d witness something, and I’d stare at it, and try to remember it, look at it, and just try and absorb it, look at all the colors, look at how just everything is shifting back and forth, and just, kind of getting lost in the surface texture of the water---That’s like the memory, I’m trying to create a memory right there, and um, I see water all the time, so it has to be something extremely special, something magical.  I’m just really spoiled---

DS: Yeah, and you’ve traveled so much…

ASC: Yeah, I’ve just seen some crazy stuff out on the ocean, so basically what I do is I take that memory and I---one of my early paintings was a painting of a memory of Rapa Nui, so, I can’t, I’m not standing there, it’s not like plain air painting where I’m standing right there and I’m painting the water, what I do is I go and I look at the water, and I’ll get enchanted by one particular moment, and I’ll capture that moment in my mind. Then I come home, and I try to regurgitate that moment,  you know, by pushing paint around, mixing my pallet, trying to replicate those colors that I saw, and then, being that these painting take so long to do, it becomes about the particular feelings that I had for that moment, so that’s where the imagination part comes in. You know, it’s like I have to use my imagination to communicate those particular feelings that I had at that particular moment…

Also, please check out this video of Alexander! Film maker Patrick Regan. Art illustration by Johnny Ringo.

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