Gia Schifano is a self-taught artist inspired by her love for Long Island and its beauty. Schifano’s paintings portray less public spots that she discovered growing up spending summers in the North Sea area of Southampton. The cover piece, “Chef of Two Forks,” highlights the beautiful Long Island bounty that will be available at Dan’s Taste of Two Forks this Saturday, July 22 at Fairview Farm in Mecox.
When did you fall in love with art?
I was hooked from my first box of crayons. Growing up, drawing and painting were always a part of who I was. My mom, an artist herself, encouraged me to enter a show and I sold. I joined local groups, won awards, and then had my first Dan’s Papers cover. This is my sixth cover and it’s just as exciting as the first. People began requesting commissions from landscapes to portraits. Every validation is like a springboard to go farther. Doing what you love and being recognized for it is a blessing.
What do you enjoy about making covers for Dan’s Taste of Summer events?
I love doing this event. It stretches my imagination. I start with one or two elements and I never know what I’ll add next. It’s painted the way someone might approach a collage. No setup, just fitting pieces into the blank spaces. The idea of the chef jacket was my inspiration and starting point, and it continued from there, finishing, of course, with two forks.
Most of your artwork depicts landscapes and seascapes. What draws you to them?
Nothing brings me peace like being near the water. I try to reflect that feeling in my work. I lean towards the mirror-like qualities of water when it’s the most still. I always look to what’s being reflected in the water as well as the place itself when choosing a subject to paint.
What’s your favorite area to paint on the East End?
Towd Point in the North Sea area of Southampton. It’s a quiet, tucked-away area near my house. I can kayak through all its little hidden spots, camera in hand, and find subjects from a slightly different perspective since I’m on the water looking to land instead of on land looking out to water. From sunrise to sunset, the light and color there are amazing.
What’s your preferred medium?
I paint with water-mixable oils. I had painted with acrylics and wanted to play with oils a bit. This was a relatively new medium, promising oil paint that cleaned up with water, and could be used alongside acrylics and didn’t need any turpentine. After trying a few different brands, I’m hooked. It gives me more blending time.
Describe your creative process.
I find a reference photo that sparks something in me and begin to lay down blocks of color for landscapes, building transparent layers and glazing until the depth and tone are where I want them. I approach still lifes and portraits in a more direct way.
What does it mean to you to be a part of the Long Island art community?
It’s a very special thing to be among like-minded people no matter where your interests lie. Everybody gets inspiration from famous artists—for me Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth—but to get inspiration from artists from your own area that you can actually meet and speak to, that are willing to share their experiences, get you fired up and point you in a direction on your own journey is where the real inspiration comes from.
Gia Schifano’s artwork is on display at BJ Spoke gallery in Huntington. Her art will next appear in the Clothesline Art Sale at Guild Hall in East Hampton on August 5. To see more of Schifano’s work, visit giaschifano.com or follow her on social media @giaschifano.