Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jeff Schaller: Pennsylvania

Lynette Haggard's Weekly Artist Interview
Schaller at work
Lynette (LH): Can you share with my readers a little about yourself? 
Jeff:  I grew up in Ellington, Connecticut. It was very rural. Our claim to fame was that there were 2 cows to every one person. I guess you can say it had some influence early on because I used to paint cows. That was until someone mentioned at an art show “hey there is the cow guy.” I knew at the age of 20 I didn’t want to be pegged as the cow guy so I stopped painting them. 

Boy toy
12” x 12”
LH: Where do you live now? 
Jeff: Funny, I didn’t stray far from my surroundings. I now live in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. There are no cows but lots of horses and lots of country. It’s great, we love it. We have an acre with a house and my studio.

Conversation with Peter
36 x 36 encaustic

LH: At what point in your life did you become interested in making art? 
Jeff: My mother would tell you that I was coloring all the time at the age of 3. I think I realized it when I was in 5th grade and the teachers would ask me to design the school flyers and posters. I was getting attention and recognition for something I could do well. That’s about the only thing academically I could do well. As you read this you’ll notice that English isn’t one of my strong points.

LH: Was there a certain point when you decided you were primarily an artist? 
Jeff: I was blessed I always knew I was going to be an artist. Like I said I was good at it why fight it. Making a living at it was a whole other situation. It seems everyone around me; my wife and mother knew that I was going to make a living at it and believed in me. I graduated college with a graphic design degree. Finally found a 9-5 job as graphic designer and worked there for about a year. Quit and went to Spain with my wife for 4 months and haven’t worked a 5 day 9-5 job since. I always had a part time job and dedicated 2 days to the studio. After having my third kid I decided to quit the 3 day a week job and do art full time. My son is now 7 years old and I work a lot more than 40 hours a week.

Summer Secret
LH: Can you describe bit about your work in general. 
Jeff: Big, bold and bright. I paint in encaustic. Recently I started to experiment with adding oil stick drawings and spray paint within my paintings.

LH: What is your media?
Jeff: I usually paint in encaustic. The majority of my fine art is encaustic however when I do murals or installations, I will use acrylic. I also enjoy silkscreening. I hate to use the word mixed media because many times it is associated with collage.

encaustic & oil stick, 36” x 60”

LH: What is your current work about? 
Jeff: I recently completed two exhibits. One of them was titled “The Pursuit of Happiness”. It was a reflection on where I am in my life. I turned 40 this year so maybe I got a bit serious… ok, not really. I did an installation piece that consisted of creating a wall that displayed a painting of my wife, a painting of my kids, a painting of my dog and a self-portrait. My other exhibit was called Palimpsest. I used my older paintings that did not work too well the first time around. The beauty of working with wax is that you can remelt it or scrape it away to start over. I enjoyed melting them and it gave me a new start. I love the idea of using a board that already has something on it and making it into something else. It is designing on the fly. It’s starting with no preconceived notion, some free thought and just seeing where the painting goes. Oh it’s so much fun and that’s what it’s about.

Schaller's studio

His yellow truck

Upstairs in Schaller's studio

LH: What is your workspace like? 
Jeff: My commute to work is about 100 yards. I built my studio from the ground up about 5 years ago. It is a bank barn with two floors and 1200 sq. feet of space. I have an area where I paint, an area to sit and entertain clients and a desk for all the stuff you need to do to keep a business running. Downstairs is where I do my silkscreening. It also has a full bathroom and a guest room that is slowly turning into a storage room.

Downstairs where Jeff does silkscreening

LH: How do you develop a sense of community with other artists, and how do you support your art colleagues? 
Jeff: Being an artist we tend to spend a lot of time alone. Since my studio is right outside my house I have family visit me a lot. A few of my harshest critics are my 10 and 9 year old daughters. When I'm looking for a more biased opinion I go to a crit group that I started. I started this about 8 years ago, when I meet artists I ask them for their email and put them on a list of other artists. I try to get a group of artists together every month at different studios just to share what everyone is doing and exchange ideas, along with some networking. It is very casual, the way I like it. I have been involved in art groups where they are more concerned who is going to be president. I refused to call our group for a number of years, then it ended up taking on a name by itself. We still have no president, no dues and no schedule…just how I like it.
GE Life
36 x 42" encaustic on panel

LH: Describe how you work in your studio. How do you get "in a groove" and what inspires you? 
Jeff: I would say Mondays inspire me because I know I have 5 days to do anything I want. I am in control of how I want to spend my time but it does not always work that way. Monday mornings are usually spent emailing, reading blogs and doing busy work. Wednesday is the one day when I just paint. I do not schedule any meetings or take phone calls that day so that I can just paint. I usually find my groove around mid afternoon. The music changes from classical to Jazz. As the painting session becomes more intense so does the music. When I can’t find any inspiration in the studio, I’ll usually visit a book store or look at Flickr.17.

Woman in Black
encaustic, 36” x 60”

LH: Do you ever get stuck with your work and how do you remedy this? 
Jeff: Oh boy do I ever. One of the wonders of working in wax is that when a painting goes bad, you can scrape it off. If a painting is going bad, I’ll usually put it aside for a while and come back later in the evening with a martini and take another look. Then in the morning I decide if I am going to continue. I have some unfinished paintings leaning on the studio wall that have been there for a year.

LH: Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice? 
Jeff: I always try and leave something started for the next day. Knowing where to start or finish is the best way to start the day. 

Palettes and paint...

LH: What are you reading right now? 
Jeff: That’s funny because I am always reading about six books at one time, but never finish them. Magazines are good for my short attention span. So, right now I am reading, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, “The Warhol Economy”, Art Calendar and Art News. I did just finish “The Screwtape Letters”.

LH:  Do you have other jobs other than making art? 
Jeff: No, I don’t have the time for other jobs. Making art is my full time job.

LH: Where would you like to be in 5 years as far as your art making? 
Jeff: 10 years ago, I would have said, ”Painting full time, a new studio and a yellow truck.” I have those things so I need some new goals. I’d like to have four galleries that really promote and sell my work. I’d like to be doing more public and corporate art projects.

LH: Do you have any upcoming shows that you'd like to mention? 
Jeff: I currently have a show with 3 other artists at West Chester University in PA. It is called “The Poetry of Craftmanship” and is up until December 17th. I am also working on a collaborative show with Robert Mars and Melody Postma at Gallery Brown in LA.

You can see more of Jeff's work at



pam farrell said...

I love how Jeff's studio, art, and personality are so congruent...

Lynette Haggard said...

Yes it certainly is! I look forward to meeting him in person at the conference! Thanks Pam, and Jeff!