Thursday, May 8, 2014

Artist Interview with Sydnor Scholer

by Emily Botkin

On May 1st, I had the opportunity to interview Sydnor Scholer, a St. Louis-based artist and practicing architect. She currently has two works up in the “Silence and Noise” juried exhibition on view at Art Saint Louis through May 29. Her work was also selected by Jurors Gary Passanise and Marie Bannerot McInerney for an Award of Excellence in the exhibit.

Sydnor Scholer. Untitled. 2013. Watercolor, Graphite, Colored Pencil, Acrylic on Paper, 20”x16”. Award of Excellence in “Silence & Noise” at Art Saint Louis.

Emily Botkin: Is there any particular architect or architectural movement that influences your work?

Sydnor Scholer: “I don’t think directly—but I think just through visiting a lot of buildings and looking at the different shapes of buildings and lines in buildings I've developed a memory bank of maybe shapes and relationships that I like. And I do find them emerging in my work. But, I guess if I were to have to name a specific movement, it would be the Russian Constructivists. Their architecture is not my favorite, but I do like their drawings—like Daniel Libeskind and Zaha Hadid.”

Emily: Is there any particular piece of architecture in St. Louis that you are fond of (The Climatron, the Wainwright Building, etc.)?

Sydnor: “I think I like the Arch, it’s so important. I think one of the more interesting things about St. Louis is all the different architecture in the different neighborhoods and that it’s still one city. I do like the contrast in all the different neighborhoods. You have the big houses in the Central West End and the old mansions and in the big houses in Forest Park that are really beautiful and the smaller more eclectic houses in Cherokee. Then you have the Pulitzer [Foundation for the Arts] away from all of that, it’s this very focused space. There is a lot to pick at architecturally [in St. Louis], its pretty diverse.”

Emily: How do you begin a new piece of art? Do you start drawing spontaneously or strategically plan your artwork?

Sydnor: “I pretty much start just spontaneous - like the ones that are in the show [at Art Saint Louis]- first I just start, I would work several at a time and just put color on paper. And then I kind of develop a stack of paper with watercolor on them. Then, I’ll chose one and start putting lines on top of it. And it kind of works in that process. So I see the color and it’s kind of always this process of trying to make the color work on the page by using line (and in this particular series) masking regions. So that Initially if it’s just the color on the white paper, the marks don’t necessarily - it doesn't seem like an entire composition. How to make the composition work through line work and masking and through this symbolic writing.”

Sydnor Scholer. Untitled. 2013. Watercolor, Graphite, Colored Pencil, Acrylic on Paper, 20”x16”. Featured in “Silence & Noise” at Art Saint Louis.

Emily: Is there any particular medium you prefer over another?

Sydnor: “ think I like all mediums. I like collage and paint, but I think I am definitely most comfortable with drawing. That’s because of the architecture background, I guess I don’t [have a] fine art background. It’s all technical and technical drawing and graphic drawing and even when we did do sketching kind of classes it was sketching with the intention of it being architectural. So my whole education training is all in pencil. So in architecture, it is basically about making. Ultimately, for architects, what you do—well you might think “Oh well you make buildings,” really you make drawings so that other people can build buildings. So really, since I was eighteen, everyday of my life has been devoted in some way or another to making drawings.”

Emily: In your artist statement, you explain that your art is a response to the question of what if drawing is both the means and the end. Could you please explain this idea further?

Sydnor: “That kind of relates to what I was just saying. In architecture, we make drawings that are intended for another purpose. So what I kind of like to do in my drawings, and when you do make drawings in architecture—for the purpose of building—I mean you’re very restrained not only by what the client wants, it has to be a functional space, that you have these material limitations, cost limitations, so that in a way that these drawings are very free—that I am using the same technique and processes and tools that I do in architecture but its free from any of the real limitations of having to build an actual building. And this is what results. So when you have all of the tools but when you subtract reality and in the process early I guess when you get to real architecture this is what can result. So in that way I do kind of find it —in some ways I do consider my drawings architecture… not really art. Because In one way, well I don’t want to call myself an artist because I really don’t have any formal art training. But then at the same time its not really architecture. It’s not a building. So I think I’ve kind of always been somewhere in-between.”

Emily:  How do you handle mistakes in your artwork? Do you take them as happy-accidents or try to remove them from the composition?

Sydnor: “Well its hard to know what a mistake exactly is, its more that at some point I can just tell that things are not working. So in this current series of work, a lot of the time I would make a composition and then I would use masking so if there was a part that I really didn’t like or I thought was too busy or just needed to go away, I would kind of just mask over it. In some of the previous series, I really didn’t have that—I know it would be that once you do too much the piece is just done. It kind of has to go away. But then there definitely are, its kind of hard to say, mistakes or accidents, at a certain point in the early stage of the drawing there cant really be any mistakes because everything is influencing each other and I think the biggest mistake is overworking a drawing. So that the original intention is just blurred by too much.”

Sydnor Scholer. Untitled. 2013. Watercolor, Graphite, Colored Pencil, Acrylic on Paper, 16”x20”. Featured in “Art St. Louis XXIX, The Exhibition” juried by Buzz Spector (2013) and received an Award of Excellence for this work.

Emily:  Do you want the viewer to interpret or admire your work as you do or discover their own meaning or feeling to your art?

Sydnor: “I think I like people to find whatever they want in it. That’s why I don’t really title my pieces. For me, they are purely abstract compositional pieces. When I’m doing them I’m not trying to try any emotion or feeling. With these kind of initial color on page, how do I make it work into a complete composition. So for me I am thinking of color, shape, line, maybe texture. But if people do want to read into the color, that’s fine. I think what I want most is for people to find it, to take a journey through so that like every time they look at it they can see something new and they’ll look at it and find different moments. I think what I want them to notice is maybe all the space in the drawing.”

Sydnor Scholer. Untitled. 2013. Watercolor, Graphite, Colored Pencil, Acrylic on Paper, 16”x20”. Featured in “Art St. Louis XXIX, The Exhibition” juried by Buzz Spector (2013) and received an Award of Excellence for this work.
Emily:  How do you select your colors/hues within your art? Which you seemed to have covered that earlier…

Sydnor: “I think they’re just colors I try to use. I definitely have my preference for colors. I use a lot of blues and yellow, I mean I like yellow but Its just a personal thing. Maybe other people don’t like yellow. They’re just colors that I have, I try not to use too many colors cause I don’t want it to be about the color. Usually orange, just whatever, really whatever is closest to me at the time… I do choose before beforehand.”

Emily Botkin is currently serving as the Winter/Spring 2014 Intern at Art Saint Louis. She is a senior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville working towards a BA in Art History with Minors in Studio Art and German.