Art has been a main thread throughout my life. It has woven through 23 years of advertising agency and photojournalism experience and has resulted in the development of my personal dimension of oil painting - especially in the painting of incredible undersea environments and marine life. This connecting thread of art has made me very aware of the color and light in the undersea world of scuba diving.
I've been a scuba diver since 1976; an underwater photographer since 1983; and a full-time fine arts oil painter since 1998. In addition to lots of dive adventures from Point Lobos to the Monterey Wharf, I've been all over the world to pursue scuba diving adventures - Papua New Guinea, Palau, the Great Barrier Reef, Truk Lagoon, Fiji, Cayman, Turks & Caicos, Bahamas, Roatan, Barbados, and more. At each location the underwater marine life and scenes were photgraphed and sketched.
Looking at the resulting slides with an artist's eye has always been a disappointment. Underwater flash photography can cause garish shadows in images. Natural light is too dim to show any color on the exposed film besides blue (especially in these Northern California waters). The deeper a diver goes, the more the color is lost. The reds and yellows are the first colors lost. My experience is that human eyes are much more sensitive to undersea color nuances than any film.
Early in 2001 I began the creation of a body of work on my Northern California undersea experience. I am endeavoring to recreate the images, colors, and shadows of the undersea world as I've seen it. However, these paintings are not "copies" of my undersea photographs. I use a painterly approach to make various adjustments and modifications such as the lighting angles to counteract the effect of strobe lighting, or I remove the artificial light completely and give the painting an underwater feel where shadows are barely evident and contrast is low. And while I don't paint in "realistic" style per se, the marine environments I create are based on reality, I won't create a school of "pretty fish" in a species that never schools. I won't mix marine life into a setting that wouldn't occur. For non-scuba divers in particular, many of the paintings work well as abstracts too.
The silver thread is that these paintings are meant to resonate with scuba divers and marine biologists. Fifty paintings are planned for the Northern California series, and with each dive I go on, I have more subjects I wish to paint!
Make sure you see the oil paintings I've created from my March, 2002 trip to snorkel with the humpback whales in the Silver Banks off Dominican Republic. One of them is shown in this portfolion, the rest of those painting can be seen at www.UnderwaterPaintings.com
Sonoma County Wine Country Oil Paintings
My "other" subject matter for paintings is local landscapes. I am privileged to live in the middle of the wine country - The Dry Creek Valley outside of Healdsburg in the Sonoma Wine Country. I pass five wineries and acres of vineyards to get home. My "neighborhood" landscapes have glorious seasons and personalities for me to capture on canvas. Some of my painting are accomplished on-site or "plein aire", other paintings are based on sketches and my personal photography. I range from using thick paint (impasto) on some creations to smooth, detailed observations on others. Enjoy!
There's lots of paintings in this series, see some of my other work at my Oil Paintings site www.DonnaSchaffer.com