We had the good fortune of connecting with brittany schall and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi brittany, do you disagree with some advice that is more or less universally accepted?
One thing I have consistently disagreed with is the need to create something stripped of its creativity with the purpose of it being mass produced. In both my fine art and design career I’ve had numerous people tell me that I should consider dumbing down ideas/designs or produce something slightly modified that already exist. Everything from greeting cards to tshirt designs, I’ve been told to do it all. However, never have I had the desire to make something mundane, the world is already filled with blase designs and art, why aspire to be mediocre? Alternatively, with each piece I create, I try to push the limits of my creativity and seek to produce something truly unique that will not only inspire and engage myself, but audiences and other artisans. This has fueled my energy to pour into my business and has set me apart from others. Why play into an overly saturated market when you can generate your own audience?
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I think a few things that set me apart from other artists and designers is my attention to detail and the diversity of mediums that I work in. Though I am classically trained as an oil painter, I also do photorealistic pieces in pencil, color pencil, acrylic, and watercolor. I think my approach to color use, composition, and detail roll over into my wearable art pieces and help me create truly unique works. No medium is off limits to me, I love incorporating anything I can get my hands on into my practice and see how far I can push the boundaries with it. Additionally, I think my work ethic sets me apart from other creatives as well. Instead of “unplugging” to take a break by scrolling or turning on something to watch, I simply switch what I am working on and activate another part of my brain. If I get stuck on a painting, I’ll switch to sewing or ceramics. I’m able to workout a block or solve a problem in my mind within a project by keeping my hands busy on another.
What do you get excited about?
What truly excites me is a challenge, I love trying something new and seeing if I can master it or use it in a whole new way. Learning new techniques and being exposed to a huge variety of artistic channels fuels my creativity in unexpected ways. Every time I complete a project, I can’t help but think about the next and how much more intricate or challenging I can make the next piece or body work.
How did you get here professionally?
Professionally speaking, I was very lucky and knew that I wanted to pursue an art career from a very young age. This led me to start honing my skills in high school. From there, I enrolled in an art program at CSU with a focus on painting.
Once completing college, I decided that moving to NYC would offer me the best chance at making it as a professional fine artist. With this in mind, I collected a list of NYC clients and artists from the gallery in Denver I was interning at. I offered to write a blog about Colorado artists and collectors living and working in New York City on behalf of the gallery. Using this as a tool to network, I was able to connect with other artists and landed a job as a studio assistant. During this time, I can easily say I learned more in a few short months in this fast-paced environment than I did in four years at art school. After a few years working for other artists I decided to strike out on my own full time.
Needless to say it was hard to survive NYC as a self represented female artist in their 20’s. The endless hours and high stress and a few other unfortunate events ultimately culminated to me having severe neck and muscle issues and limited mobility on my right side. Without the dexterity in my dominant hand, I was unable to draw or paint. Out of necessity I relocated to New Orleans and started with hot gluing repurposed clothing and jewelry to make headpieces and costuming. Over the next few years as I rehabilitated, I was able to regain movement in my body and had even learned how to sew during my time away from fine art. The aftermath has left me a more diversified artist and has helped me to expand my skill sets and how I approach art.
After all is said and done, I guess the lesson I have learned is that life is very long and there are many subplots to each chapter. I’ve learned to accept that just because I envisioned my career going one way, doesn’t guarantee how it is going to actually pan out. Having the capacity to be adaptable and not to hold so tightly to my ideal work path has ultimately left me a better artist, entrepreneur and person.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
There is so much to do in New Orleans it can be a bit overwhelming, especially if it’s during Mardi Gras or Festival season. However, some tried and true spots for me are definitely dinner at Paladar 511, Suis Generis or Capulets paired with an after dinner drink a Bud Rips or Anna’s. I definitely recommend catching a show at the Always Lounge or at Toulouse Theater and wandering down Frenchman street afterwards. There is an incredible amount of live music and performance in the city, I love being able to go out almost any night of the week and catch an amazing show. I always recommend a good bike ride around city park and a quick stop at the sculpture garden.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The very act of living has given me so much love and inspiration, however there are a few individuals that have been huge catalysts within my life that have helped me cultivate my career. My college painting teacher Dave Yust was one of the best teachers I had during my college days. He taught me the importance of questioning what I was doing and why. Yust taught me to ask myself “was this idea my own? Or had I been influenced by something I saw? It’s made me conscious of what channels of entertainment I take in, I specifically try to stay away from television and contemporary movies. By actively not engaging in these platforms, I hope not to accidentally regurgitate something that is already happening in the moment.
Another individual that has had a huge impact on my life is Brandon Watson. She was the one who taught me to sew and took the time to explain how clothing works and why. As she puts it, she was the one who created this monster. On more than one occasion she’s answered a late night call or has walked over and helped me out of a morning sewing panic.
Additionally, the podcast “Dressed” by Cassidy Zachary and April Calahan has really opened up the world of fashion and design to me, specifically their podcast 2018 episode about Elsa Shiaparelli. I found Shiaparelli’s life story incredibly inspiring, especially how she started designing much later in life. Learning this gave me the courage to start producing my own clothing and designs with confidence.
Instagram: @bschall @laadorna
Portrait of Brittany Schall: Caitlyn Ridenour all other images: Brittany Schall