The rippling effect Gia Schifano creates in her fourth cover for Dan’s Papers is a trick. You think, “That’s exactly what the reflection of a boat in the calm water of a marina looks like.” How can that be? This is neither a photograph nor a video. It’s very obviously paint. It’s the soft outline of the hull, the deepening shadows closer to the dock, how the water turns from bright blue to a murkier green/gray. Each element blends into the next as in a memory—and that’s why the image seems so lifelike: This is how we recall a summer day, a boat and its watery reflection, in our mind’s eye. Here, Schifano discusses the inspiration she finds on the East End of Long Island.
How did “Red Boat Reflection” [the cover image] come to be?
The boats in the painting are located at Morgan Park in Glen Cove. When I’m not out east, I like to explore the areas on the North Shore. I take my camera everywhere. Specifically, I’m looking for landscapes that reflect beautifully in still water and evoke a sense of peacefulness. Even so, there’s nothing quite like a clear Hamptons sky over calm water—you know, when the light is a pink glow just above the horizon.
What was it like spending time on the East End when you were growing up?
I’m from New Hyde Park originally, but I spent every summer of my life from Memorial Day through Labor Day—and then some!—in North Sea. I’m still so grateful that my father made the decision to buy our house almost 60 years ago. When I was young, we would say we were going to the country. Now, my family says they’re “going to the Hamptons.” So much has changed, but the feeling we get when we smell the sea air, watch the sunset, see the stars and just feel the peace and simplicity of it all—that will never change. That’s the feeling I try to capture in each of my paintings.
You don’t sketch first—just get your paints ready and get to it. Where do you start?
I usually work by blocking out the basic colors and then go right into the detail from there. I’m a self-taught artist. All that means is that I didn’t attend a fine arts college. I never took any classes beyond what I learned in high school. I use whatever knowledge of “rules” I have and improvise along the way.
I’ve recently started using water soluble oil paint, which allows me to work without turpentine and which dries faster. I paint at least two hours a night almost every night after work. I sometimes have a couple of pieces going at the same time because I’m not patient when it comes to waiting for a layer to dry so I can add detail on top. I play the paintings off each other. That way I always have something I can work on.
What artists have influenced your work?
If I had to choose famous artists that inspire me, they’d be [Edward] Hopper, [Andrew] Wyeth and other American realists—although the works of Peter Max do make me feel creative. The real inspiration comes from all the wonderful Long Island artists I admire. There’s a huge number of talented people out here and I’m blessed to know so many of them.
This year, I became a Member Artist of b.j. spoke gallery in Huntington. It’s already helped me grow creatively. With no limits on size, like you find in most shows, I can work as big as I like without restriction. Different show themes every month push me to explore subjects I might not have considered before.
Visit giaschifano.com to see more of the artist’s work, or follow her on Facebook (Gia Schifano Fine Art) or Twitter (@giaschifano). Schifano’s work appears year round at b.j. spoke gallery, 299 Main Street, Huntington, bjspokegallery.org.