The following is an interview I recently did with Featured Artist Eloise Elaine Schneider, a 10-year professional painter from Statesboro, GA, who has amassed over 500 paintings. I came to follow her work on Twitter (Handle: EloiseArt) after I noticed her vivacious depiction of an American Sign Language symbol. I later came to learn why deaf education is so close to her heart and how she managed to meld her art with her teaching instruction. This is her story.
AFC. I see that you’re a teacher of the deaf and other children with special needs – are you still active in this capacity?
ES. I retired from the classroom just last year but not from the field. I have written books and curricula on the subject. One of my books is Taking Hearing Impairment to School, distributed by JayJo books and the Guidance Channel. I also wrote an American Sign Language (ASL) curriculum for California’s PASS Program and I drew the illustrations for the signs. Many of the hand movements in ASL are so graceful that they lend themselves beautifully to paintings. Some of my most popular paintings are based on the concept signs of ASL.
AFC. What drew you to this field?
ES. I had a deaf friend as a kid growing up and I learned to sign from her parents. Then, I majored in Deaf Education at the University of Texas and student taught at the Texas School for the Deaf.
AFC. Did you incorporate your art/artistic ability in your teaching? If so, how?
ES. I incorporated art into every subject that I ever taught. Where words fail us, art communicates.
AFC. You seem to be a pretty prolific painter. How long have you been an artist for? How many pieces have you done in your career?
ES. I’ve been painting professionally for almost ten years. I have done over 500 paintings during that time, some for specific clients and others because they were the songs of my heart. I know that sounds silly, but I often sing while I paint. Whatever concept comes into my imagination is often accompanied by music or perhaps movement as in the case of American Sign Language.
AFC. When do you find the time to do it and/or how do you budget your time?
ES. When I taught fulltime, I painted every holiday. I was so hungry to get into the studio that I kept a running list of all that I wanted to paint and then began the first morning of every holiday. During those days, I painted almost in a frenzy because time in my art studio was so precious. Now that I am no longer in the classroom, I paint a little almost every day. The work is slow and steady, as is the pleasure from it.
AFC. How long does a standard piece take you to paint?
ES. The amount of time dedicated to any given piece varies with the size of the canvas and the difficulty of the design. For example, many of the funky animals that I paint are filled with graffiti and tiny elements that fit together in intricate patterns that take hours to assemble. An impressionistic impasto painting can take just as long, but in a different way. Since impasto paintings are done by layering color upon color (often with a palette knife), time must be allotted for the colors to dry before adding more. Otherwise, the result is a dull gray mix of colors that were added too hastily. The time is worth it, though, because the result is a textured painting with a great sense of depth as well as pattern.
AFC. How many different projects do you work on at one time?
ES. I often have three or four projects going at one time. I can work on something else while another is drying.
AFC. When/how do you know that you’re done with a piece?
ES. When it no longer begs me to add any more, it is done.
AFC. How would you characterize your work?
ES. My favorite pieces fall into three categories: Impressionist, Funky Animals, and American Sign Language paintings. To be true to myself, I should send you choices from all three categories. Oddly enough, I seem to sell in all three categories pretty evenly.
AFC. Many of your pieces contain vibrant colors – why are you drawn to brighter colors and what do they afford you more than darker, greyer colors?
ES. I feel alive with color. I choose clothing with color, decorate my home with intensity, and choose the brightest flowers I can find for my garden. To me, bright colors are distinct and clearly bold. That palette encourages me to step out and enjoy each day.
AFC. Whom did you dream of becoming as a kid?
ES. I always thought I’d be a teacher. But a teacher with a twist of artist is a bonus!
AFC. What is your favorite medium for painting? Why?
ES. I use both acrylic and watercolor for my paintings and even dabble in oil and digital; but my favorite is acrylic because of the bright colors I can achieve.
AFC. What is your proudest moment as an artist? Why?
ES. Every time someone buys one of my works, I feel a rush. I can’t explain it, but it’s there. There is no single time of pride but rather an ongoing stream of growing and climbing.
AFC. What are your hobbies and interests outside of painting?
ES. I love to garden and read – but mostly, give me a paintbrush and I’m good. :>)
AFC. What drives you as an artist?
ES. Getting the idea to the canvas is much like getting words to paper. It stagnates until it is produced. It sounds strange, but [what] drives me is the finished product. My job is done when the work can speak for itself.
AFC. Who has inspired you – both personally and professionally?
ES. I imagine that you will think I am cheesy, but honestly, God is my inspiration. He is the greatest artist of all time, creating beauty with the boldest of colors.
See Eloise Schneider on: