– The artist who’s blank canvas is like a pen to a Journalist –
Alex Schaefer is an international artist based out of California, known for his outgoing, bold, controversial and artist satire, telling stories on canvases that resonate with a large majority of people, and reflects on the artist's views.
While Schaefer’s oeuvre is wide ranging from traditional plein-air landscapes, cityscapes and street scenes to figurative nudes, portraits and abstract paintings, his pain air paintings are nothing out of the ordinary, and the subjects and choice of locations are unique. Keeping abreast of the current state of our society, he is not shy of expressing his political charged views on his canvas. In fact, in 2012 after reading a story about the financial institutions crimes that caused the economic collapse in 2008, Schaefer set up his easel right across the street of a Chase bank in his city and painted it like it had caught fire. The police showed up and questioned him on the spot, followed by the Homeland security knowing on his door to ask him if he hated Chase and other banks he painted, also on fire. Schaefers answer was “I can honestly say ‘yes.’
While he’s a master artist, he is outgoing, smart with a sunny disposition, and comes across as a long time friend that you connect with in an instant, with a conversation that you wish to carry on for hours.
It is a tremendous pleasure to feature him in this interview which is part of our column titled ‘Creators.’ Artists and artists lovers, misfits, entrepreneurs, activists and advocates alike will enjoy viewing his art and learning more about him.
Alex Schaefer. (Photo Credit: Alex Schaefer)
Please introduce yourself
My name is Alex Schaefer, born in Los Angeles, California in 1969. I’ve studied at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Upon graduation I’ve spent eight years as an artist in the video game industry. After the digital world I went on to teach foundation Painting, Drawing and Composition at the Art Center for 12 years.
I’m an active fixture in the L.A.’s contemporary art scene, quite often found with my art supplies, easel and canvas on the sidewalks of the bustling city painting streetscapes en plein-air capturing the light and the movement. Very often you can also find me camping and painting in the local mountains.
Q. How did you first discover the art of painting?
The first painting I remember looking at a lot was an abstract impressionist painting of a merry go round that my parents had since before I was born. Also I was very taken with watching Bill Alexander and Bob Ross painting shows and another guy who did watercolor videos on PBS.
Q. What Does Your Artwork Represent?
It represents whatever I’m looking at most of the time. I think Rilke said about Cezanne painting apples something to the effect of “He didn’t paint his feelings or thoughts of and about the apples. He just expressed ‘Apples’ as clearly with paint as he could”. That’s me in a way too. I guess represent could mean “how something looks” and/or “what something means”. With my burning bank paintings you could say they represent simply a bank on fire depicted in a beautiful and compelling visual way, AND that I have a great distaste for pretty much everything that’s happened in finance since 1971.
Q. Is there a particular style and/or painting that you favor?
I like the “Rough Manner”; a teacher I had in art school called it “Venetian School” as opposed to “Florentine School” or Smooth Manner. It’s a long talk about different approaches to the act of painting, but basically with the Rough manner you are winging it the whole time flying by the seat of your pants and getting to the end, and the Smooth manner you plan everything out very carefully and systematically get to the end. Botticelli was a Smooth mannered painter, Titian was Rough. As was Rembrandt, Halls, Rubens, Delacroix, the Impressionists, Lucian Freud. Raphael, Poussin, Vermeer, Ingres, Bougereau, Photorealism are Smooth
Q. Can you talk about ‘Alex Schaefer’s Burning Banks’?
(: OMG – this has been said in so many videos out there, this one really sums it up: […] What I am really happy about is how popular the paintings are with the cryptocurrency and bitcoin community and I’m amazed what a bunch of amazing art collectors these people are turning out to be!
Q. Is your work still attracting the presence of police/authorities?
No not that I’m aware of.
Q. How does your work comment on current social or political issues?
I think that my painting of Banks on Fire is a fairly obvious expression of anger and frustration with an unfair banking system and a government and judicial system that will do nothing to change it. I think that they are a visual “pressure release valve” and that as years go on and yet nothing changes, the paintings continue to be relevant to the public's feelings. All my other paintings I really don’t want to “say '' anything except explore looking and seeing and painting and all the “pictorial ideas” that are unique to painting. Matisse said to Picasso a year before he died “In a generation or two, who will care about us like we care about Manet and Cezanne?” I would say not many people but of all the painters out there I am one of them
Q. What are you working on at the moment?
Seascapes, still lives, burning banks, portraits, and fascinated lately with the use of what is called a “graticola” which I learned about from a book about the painter Antonio Mancini. After someone paints for a long time and you get good at certain things, it’s fun to “trip yourself up” and do something that makes you make mistakes. I’m finding experimenting with this contraption does just that in an interesting way
Q. What are your thoughts about art moving more into Crypto Art and JPEG’s (although JPEG’s has been around longer)?
NFTs are a byproduct of smart contracts on blockchain technology and one very simple and obvious way to use that. Smart contracts and blockchain, the entire decentralized finance sector developing aka “defi” is going to absolutely change the world of banking and finance in remarkable and positive ways for many people, if we the public don’t accept any tricks and/or let the central banks and central government get in the way and issue their own digital currencies. The revolution is in the money and I think BTC is global enough that it cannot be stopped. I hope so.
Q. What advice do you have to give to a new artist just starting out?
Engage with the community of artists around you. Meet in person. Go to their art shows. Be of service to the “brick and mortar” Arts community around you and be actively helpful. Talk about your art and yourself later. Collaborate, paint outdoors. At the same time get your online presence set. Try to find a simple name for your online presence and stick to it. Make your instagram and twitter and website and art sales sites and youtube channel and email address all the same. A perfect example of my favorite artist who did this all along is John Kilduff, aka Mr. Let’s Paint TV… so if you search “let's paint tv” you get all kinds of links to images, and websites, and videos on and on.
Q. What future plans do you have? What projects would you like to accomplish?
Keep painting, keep grinding the art world. Keep trying to be creative and fascinated with whatever I’m painting. Break through my own mental boundaries in Art and Life. Keep lifting weights and exercising and eating healthy foods. I want to stay healthy long enough until I figure out how to interact well with people.
Leo Carillo Beach
Rock Creek Trail
L.A. Skyline from San Julian St.
5th St. and Hill, L.A.
7th and Broadway, DTLA 4th St. at Grand, Downtown L.A.
The Massacre of the Innocents
Bull Market King - Too Big to Fail
Chase in Flames
CitiBank in Flames
Bank of America in Flames
You can view more of Schaefer’s art here.
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