Artist Interview: Henry Schreiber

Born in Fairfax Virginia, Henry Schreiber spent his childhood in the suburbs of Washington DC, the mountains of West Virginia, and the gulf coast of Florida. After receiving his MFA from the University of Central Florida, Schreiber established a studio on a family farm in the Appalachian Mountains. Following his two years of learning the ways of the groundhog, he packed up his studio and moved to Charlotte, NC. We had a chance to talk with him about his new solo exhibition at the gallery which opens Saturday March 8, 2014 and the secret ways of the "Holler".

ME: Alright, first question, what's the deal with the marmots?

HS: After I got out of school, I moved to the mountains in North Carolina to dedicate time to getting better at painting. I painted everything I could during my two years there, including groundhogs. I have to admit, I had a hard time during those two years and painting these creatures, and all of their characters flaws, is really what got me through it.


(Photo by Hannah Yata)

ME: The new show, Hollerbound is about a marmot's journey to a small pocket of Appalachia. Have your personal travels affected your work in any way?

HS: Most definitely. While not much of the show is a direct representation of my stay in the mountains, my experience there has definitely shaped who I am and what I do.  I had never considered painting a groundhog before I moved to the mountains… and I think it’s something that people recognize in my work now. Personal travels to other places have also influenced some of the humor in the show, like this one time I was in Miami for Art Basel week. I was enjoying checking out the art fairs and galleries and decided to eat some barbecue ribs from a street vendor. The ribs were delicious. Anyways, I ended up going through some pretty high end looking galleries and everyone was staring, or glaring, at me everywhere I went. One place even locked their doors behind me as I left. Later on in the evening, my friend pointed out that a I had a big ol’ barbecue stain on my shirt. I was extremely embarrassed upon hearing the news, but after a short while I thought it is one of the most hilarious personal experiences I have ever had. I guess it really doesn't matter who you are or where you are at, no one looks dignified with a barbecue stain on the front of their shirt.


ME: What is your art process?

HS: Haha, this is a fun question. Whenever I show my process to members of my family, they tell me I shouldn't show anyone any of my early layers - they look sort of like kindergarten style finger paintings. I usually start with an underpainting that looks like an abstracted cloud of what I want to paint. From there, I think about how I want to build the characters, experimenting with poses and expressions. I like to think of it a lot like sculpting. This particular practice grew from a lot of trial and error. I don’t know if this approach is for everyone, but it seems to work with how my brain works. Above is a process picture for the “Hollerbound” title card painting, with the original thumbnail sketch. 


ME: The subjects of your paintings are so adorable. Where do you find the inspiration for all these cute critters?

HS: Sometimes I reference past events in my own life. Sometimes there are hidden jokes and sometimes I just bounce crazy ideas off my friends and family over a drink or two. I try to build up a lot of concepts far in advance and refine them as I go.

 

(Photo by John Josef)

ME: What's your daily life like? What are some thing you do when you are not making art?

HS: hmmm, well I really do that stuff a lot of the time… when I am not painting, I like to hang out with my friends and make jokes - laughing is essential. When no one is around, I secretly watch a lot of anime and animation.  I also have a Monday night tradition of figure drawing and chicken wings - not at the same time. Mondays are definitely my favorite day of the week.


 

ME: What artists most inspire you (alive or dead)?

HS: There are so many, but I will say that seeing work by these three artists in person had a profound impact on me - you know that weird feeling where it changes your perspective.

The first was seeing the work of Peter Paul Rubens at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, FL quite some time ago. Sometimes you can’t really “get” a painting by looking at a book. The weight and style of them really got to me, seeing how epic they could be.

The second was seeing “The Voyage of Life” series by Thomas Cole at the National Gallery in DC. These stopped me dead in my tracks as I was walking through the museum. The heavy religious dialog isn't my cup of tea, but having so many elements fit together and play off each other is really amazing. So powerful.

The third is the work of a living artist, Jeremy Mann. I saw a show of his at John Pence Gallery the last time I was in San Francisco. Absolutely amazing painter. Everything seemed so loose yet so totally controlled. I left the show feeling like I had a mission to strive for more in my paints.

 

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Hollerbound opens March 8th at Modern Eden Gallery. More info about the exhibition can me found HERE