Marc Scheff, born in Boston, Massachusetts, earned a degree in Computer Science from Harvard, and in Illustration from The Academy of Art University. He puts both to use in his many projects including Drawn + Drafted, the online gallery Every Day Original, and his own fine artwork.
His work is heavily influenced by his experiences growing up with a mentally ill relative, which caused him to develop a deep curiosity about human consciousness and intent, the nuanced meaning of what it is to be authentic, and the layers of identity we hide from others and ourselves.
He does this work from his sky-lit studio in Brooklyn, NY.
Q&A WITH MARC SCHEFF
What's on your easel?
I ’m currently working on a piece for Corey Helford, and a new body of work for the LA Art Show (with Rehs Contemporary Galleries) and SuperFine! LA, all in Los Angeles. These images are currently still in my head and need to hit panels soon.
I just finished a new body of work for a show in Pennsylvania. The new rounded works were a fun challenge, as my hand-made molds have all been rectangles up until now. The funny thing, in a decidedly un-funny way, is that once I cracked the rounded mold code, I figured out how to do the rectangular ones in a much more cost-effective and time-efficient way. It’s all part of the process, and now I have space and time to explore more aspects of the work.
How much time is dedicated to the execution of the work before you actually start the process?
How much time does it take you to create an artwork?
I tend to work on 10-12 pieces at a time. For that work, I usually spend 2-3 months exploring materials and technique, in addition to subject matter research, reading, and finding just the right reference photographs. I also keep multiple sketchbooks with ideas, drawings studies, and notebooks with ideas written out.
The actual creation also requires constant forward motion. Each layer of resin takes 24-48 hours to dry, and missing a day can really put me behind. The final push is usually very intense, and I’m incredibly grateful to have Sarah helping me in the studio while I juggle the rest of my life and my art.
That’s 10ish pieces, so the process is a few weeks per piece if we took an average.
For example, I had a show in May and then spent this past summer experimenting with new techniques, colors, and materials. Starting in August, I began work on a new body that incorporated all this new learning and continued to delve into the themes of my work. With the help of an assistant, we completed that work mid-October.
What is your education? Exhibition history? What awards have you won, and what collections are your works in?
I went to Harvard and studied Computer Science. I went back to school and graduated with a second degree in Illustration from Academy of Art University. I spent about 10 years working in art and tech, lots of startups and game companies, from team artist to Creative Director.
I moved into gallery work when I developed my resin techniques. People had an instant and positive response to this work, which prompted me to shift my focus more fully. That was relatively recently in 2016, and I won the Rehs Contemporary Galleries Inc. Award at the 12th Annual ARC Salon that same year.
I have had two solo shows at Haven Gallery, was in the 12th Annual ARC Salon at Rehs Contemporary Galleries, where I am currently represented. Both galleries have done well for me in terms of matching the work with collectors.
As for collections, I don’t always know who buys the work, though I am very happy about the collections I do know.
I have been creating my resin work for just the past few years.
Most of my history is in the future.
What is the average size of your artwork?
Right now, I’m focused on three small sizes. 5"×7", 9"×12", and a range of shapes and sizes around 11"×14".
I have some larger pieces that people really enjoy, but my focus on smaller work is strategic. First, a smaller size allows me to develop more ideas. I have a list too long to check off and can do more in smaller works right now. Second, the smaller size is slightly more accessible to the average collector. “Accessible” is a word that often means the kiss of death in the art market, but I want my work out in the world. The materials and time mean that my work isn't priced like works on paper, and a smaller size and price is easier for collectors to understand and purchase.
Do you have a motto or process you always stick to? If so what is it?
That’s an interesting question. I have a few, and I like to see how they influence and interact with my work.
If I were to say there’s a theme in my life, it would be about compassion and grit. I make the best work I can, bring others up as I go up, and I learn from every failure. This applies to my life as much as my art, because the line between those things is gray at best.
Is the work part of a series?
My process almost requires this. I have to work on multiple pieces because curing time and materials research has to happen while creating other work.
For each body of work, I do have intentional themes around materials, execution, and meaning. On my website, I have these loosely organized around my most significant exhibitions, be that a show or a group of work from a specific time.
What other artists have you shown with?
I’ve been fortunate to show with some of my favorites. Most recently I was in a group show at Corey Helford Gallery which was up simultaneously with Soey Milk’s solo show. That was a joy to attend, and I was very happy to find out my work sold there. I’ve also shown with Tim Rees, Vanessa Lemen, Sasha Ira, Allen Williams, and a fairly wide range of representational artists in galleries and fairs.
What is your ultimate goal for your artwork?
I think we need to ask more questions and question ourselves more. Do we understand our own truth or purpose? Are we truly being our best selves? What hard things must we face to transform ourselves and our society?
I don’t think we have the answers, nor do I think these answers are permanent. As long as we evolve personally, we must keep asking questions because the answers keep changing.
I hope the work challenges the viewer to ask themselves questions and gives them permission to accept the truth in the answers. My work is intended, in some part, to create space for this conversation.
Do you ever venture out of your creative process to try out new things?
That is my creative process. I’m a painter by training, but the resin, the abstract foundations, the form that work takes in and of itself, it’s all outside of what was my comfort zone. I like finding that next ledge, the next place to grab hold, pull up, and see what new perspectives I can find.
What was it about the subject that made you want to paint it just so? What are you saying with this piece?
I am drawn to complex emotions in my subjects. I use a variety of sources for models, and when I find one with just the right expression, lighting, when there’s a moment that connects with me, then I know I can work.