INTERVIEW with STEPHEN CEFALO
Raleigh, North Carolina
Artist and Instructor
BFA School of Visual Art
WHAT IS A LITTLE KNOWN FACT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE?
I trained for a little bit as a tattoo artist, and did a full-color rendition of Gilbert Stuart’s George Washington Portrait on my own thigh.
YOU TEACH A NUMBER OF WORKSHOPS EACH YEAR, AND SPEND A LOT OF TIME HELPING TO DEVELOP YOUR STUDENTS' UNDERSTANDING OF A FEW KEY ELEMENTS OF DRAWING/PAINTING. CAN YOU SHARE THEM WITH US?
I will be teaching a number of traveling workshops this year, including a May 16th-20th workshop in Glendale, California, a May 27th-29th workshop in Raleigh, NC, and a June 18th-20th workshop. I am always interested in doing more across the country! Anyone interested in inquiring can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LIGHT VS. SHADOW
Light and shadow is the way we can see and make sense of things, so an understanding of the mechanics of light and shadow is paramount. The shapes created by them are probably the most useful, yet the most easily-overlooked way to infuse your images with emotion and psychological depth. Many people miss it in trying to literally tell the story, but it is the difference between simply reading a lyric sheet to a song and hearing a great melody that breathes life into the words. I’m a huge fan of great filmmakers like Tarkovsky and Bergman for their mastery of this.
WORKING FROM LIFE
I work from photographs, as most of us do, as it is time efficient, convenient, and affordable. That said, I prefer working from life if at all possible, as I find photos very limiting. As a student, I never worked from photos, because since I trained from live models, I was used to the subtlety of color, the ability for my eyes to constantly adjust for making hue and value comparisons, and I must admit there was a spiritual or emotional component too that I missed in photos. I just couldn’t make them work. The passage of time in working from life allowed things to shift, and forced me into interpretation, which came in handy later. As I matured as an artist, I adjusted, using my past experiences to fill in what was missing in the photos. I do not recommend training from photos, because in my opinion it becomes a sort of dependency. It’s more helpful and inspiring to learn to experience and take in the world around you, then to always be working through the limitations of the very simple and static way of gleaning information from a photo.
"A PLAY SHOULD GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT. WHEN I SEE A PLAY AND UNDERSTAND IT THE FIRST TIME, THEN I KNOW IT CAN'T BE MUCH GOOD." - T.S. ELLIOT. THIS QUOTE IS A GOOD EMBODIMENT OF YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS. CAN YOU TAKE US DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE?
As members of the information age, we can sometimes experience information fatigue. We are constantly being indoctrinated and told what to think, but what is lacking is aesthetic experience or poetic pause. We are trained by advertising to expect a direct message and ask “Okay, what does this mean?”. In the past, most imagery was designed to be experienced, normally in a religious context. While painting too can inform or proselytize, I feel like we are missing that sense of enrichment in our lives. As Werner Herzog said, “We lack adequate images”. The best way I find to get the viewer to pause and experience is first by making the subject a little obtuse or ambiguous. Rather than setting out to preach an opinion to the viewer, I intend more to channel some kind of deeper truth by moving images around until a meaning begins to emerge like a poem or a dream.
WHAT ARE YOUR "GO TO" TOOLS AND WHY?
I sort of have a “If it feels good, use it” philosophy. I’m a true fan of mongoose as well as synthetic mongoose, and of course love Rosemary’s brushes. I like experimenting with all kinds of natural hair brushes, such as badger and goat as well. Sometimes even the old bargain bin brushes do the trick. I like a variety. As for paint, my preference is Rublev, because I really enjoy the way the individual characteristics of each pigment comes out. I especially like the color and texture of their traditional Vermillion and the stretchy tactility of their Flake white #2. I like the idea that I’m getting to feel something closer to what paint felt like in the past. I just love a well-crafted product, made by good people you can meet, which is what I love about New Wave products too. I am a super fan of the larger version of the Expressionist palette! I like the fact that it’s so roomy, and yet so comfy and easy to hold. Also, the design is just so cool looking!