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Feb 16, 2017

My guest today is Phyllis Schafer. You might remember her being mentioned from the interview I conducted with Parker Stremmel. Phyllis is represented by the Stremmel Gallery in Reno, NV. We had a wonderful and wide-ranging conversation where we discussed her work painting in gouache, her journey as an artist through her undergrad work in the 70’s, and some of the difficulties she faced in her graduate work in the 80’s. Phyllis has a unique perspective as both an artist and an educator. She currently lives and works in the beautiful Lake Tahoe area and her paintings reflect her stunning surroundings.

Discovering painting in gouache

Through her artistic journey, Phyllis Shafer has come to love and utilize painting in gouache. Gouache is a method of painting using opaque pigments ground in water and thickened with a glue-like substance. Phyllis was drawn to gouache partly because of the prolific use of acrylics in painting at the time she was in undergraduate school in the 70’s. As she started using oils and started branching out more in different techniques, she fell in love with painting in gouache.

Growing up Artistically in the Bay area

Every artist has that moment in their career where they “Come alive.” This can happen early in life or later in life, there really isn’t a set pattern to how this comes about, it's unique for each artist. Phyllis Shafer speaks of growing up artistically in the Bay area. She had moved there after spending years in New York. This was the place where she really got to work establishing herself and building her resume as an artist. To hear Phyllis talk about her journey both literally and artistically that took her to San Francisco and then to Lake Tahoe is riveting.

Facing disillusionment with the art world

How do you succeed in your field of study when it seems like the whole system is broken or not working for you? Do you give up or do you push through? Phyllis Shafer struggled with these thoughts as she navigated graduate school and the art scene at UC Berkeley in the 80’s. She faced some difficult decisions at this time in her life. Phyllis had dabbled in dance performance and had considered taking that route to fulfill her need for creative output. Ultimately, Phyllis came to terms with the fact that making images was so deeply ingrained in her that she could never give it up. Though her journey was difficult, Phyllis persevered.

Urban compared to Rural life as an artist

Does it matter where you live as an artist? Is it better to be in an urban setting or a more rural setting? My guest Phyllis Shafer has experienced both. She spent her early career in San Francisco, and then later moved to the Lake Tahoe area. Phyllis sees the benefits of both experiences and speaks to the unique opportunities she has enjoyed as an established artist moving from an urban to a smaller community. Phyllis’ insight is fascinating and provides a helpful perspective for artists both young and experienced.

Outline of This Episode

  • [0:35] I introduce today’s guest; Phyllis Shafer.
  • [2:20] How did Phyllis get started with painting?
  • [4:30] Phyllis’ growth as an artist when she was in her 20’s.
  • [9:50] How did the move to San Francisco influence Phyllis as an artist?
  • [11:30] Phyllis and I talk about using gouache, oil, and water colors.
  • [15:30] Artists that have influenced Phyllis’ work.
  • [20:00] Phyllis and talk about making difficult decisions.
  • [24:20] Navigating politics and frustrations in the art world during graduate school.
  • [30:20] The differences of Rural compared to Urban art scenes.
  • [39:00] What has Phyllis been working on lately?

Other artists mentioned on this episode

Resources Mentioned on this episode