Our April 24, 2020 Dan’s Papers cover artist and frequent contributor Gia Schifano talks about growing up on the East End, using photography as inspiration and more.
What was the inspiration for this piece?
I spend my summer days cruising around North Sea in my kayak looking for interesting photos to take from the perspective of sitting in the water towards the land instead of standing on the shore and shooting from land to water. I think that is what makes my work a little bit different. It was low tide, so the water was still and the color was deep green instead of blue. The reflection an object gives into the water is always what draws me to the subject.
Talk about your art style.
Realism has always been my thing. I’ve tried to loosen up now and then, but it never works out, I just don’t think like that. My photographs are my sketchpad, it’s what I plan from. I feel that my paintings create a visual journal of the places that mean something to me. So much of what I remember about the Hamptons as a child has disappeared so it’s important to represent nature in a way that shows its importance to the landscape in an effort to preserve it for generations.
Tell us about your artistic process.
My artistic process revolves around the numerous reference photos I take. Shuffling through finding something that speaks to me and maybe cropping until I find just the right composition, then it’s time to paint. Some flow more easily than others. Two things that I try to always keep in mind particularly if I’m struggling—paint what you see, not what you think you see, and don’t try to paint like someone else; you’ll never be someone else, just be you. That’s all that is ever needed. I learn something about myself and my craft in every painting.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be doing?
I can’t really say what I’d be doing if I wasn’t an artist. Memories of drawing and painting take me back to kindergarten. I do have another career, I’m a secretary in a high school. I suppose that satisfies my analytical side, but I always try to bring some creativity into my day whenever possible. I have never dreamed of being anything that didn’t include art in some way. I remember way back, when you’re deciding what you want to be when you grow up, thinking about what it would be like to be an architect but I hate math with a passion so I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have worked out. Art will always be a part of me.
What inspires you most?
My inspiration for my paintings comes from nature. Sea and land, birds and boats on a beautiful clear day, where the water is still and there is hardly a ripple in the water except for that created by the paddle of my kayak. My inspiration or drive to get in the studio and paint comes from meeting and speaking to local artists that I know or meet at various events. The Dan’s Papers reception at the Reboli Center is a great example. What a great night that was! Sharing stories with other Dan’s cover artists and meeting many of Dan’s people behind the papers made me want to run home, pick up a brush and get to work. Those are the kind of things that really get my creative juices flowing.