Mark is known for painting objects that people can identify and emotionally connect with.
Photorealist Mark Schiff was born in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, in a neighborhood known as a kuchalane, a Yiddish word which Schiff defines as a place where everyone (from the Old Country) ended up living on the same street, and most likely knowing each other’s business. His Russian grandfather came to the States before the revolution and both his parents were first generation American.
Even at five years of age, Mark showed exceptional talent. In the summer, his mother permitted him to travel by himself on the trolley for art classes at the Pratt institute. He continued studying there until he was eleven and the family moved to Great Neck. Except for a few art classes in high school and playing baritone horn in the band, Mark focused on other things besides art, especially when his mother worried for his financial future, kept insisting “that Jewish boys don’t starve to death.” His father made a good living as a production man in textiles so Mark, who had spent years doing the rounds of knitting mills with his father, decided to major in textile chemistry at North Carolina State.
ROTC was mandatory on his campus and he did two years in order to be eligible for officer status. He won the Armed Forces Chemical Association award and thought for sure that he would be assigned chemical work, but instead was made a tank commander and stationed at Fort Knox. Not exactly what his heart yearned for, but a good job awaited him at Sandoz, a Swiss company that made dyestuff. What perfect training for someone who would soon be working in wonderful rich colors on canvas.
He went on to receive his MBA degree from Hofstra University, left Sandoz and was hired to sell at a spinning mill. He liked it. In 1976 he joined Bennett Berman Associates and had an opportunity to buy the spinning mill Spun Fibers.
But what of art? In the early days, Elsie, his wife of fifty-two years, had a problem with the large amount of space his canvases occupied in their one bedroom apartment. Mark took up photography instead, which only required a small darkroom. Photography was a natural ally for his eventual return to painting in the photorealistic style.
It was on his second trip to Europe that Mark fell in love with painting all over again. The impressionistic museum Jeu de Paume in Paris, renewed his passion and it’s been non-stop since then. Out came the brushes, but this time, he used his love and skill of photography, and built a style based on the photographs he had taken, bringing them to life with paint.
Mark was still not painting to sell until someone discovered and desperately wanted his Sweet Tooth painting. Mark didn’t want to let go of that particular piece, but was finally convinced to sell it and a second candy painting to this ardent art and candy lover. Two years later, Mark was commissioned to make three paintings of candy bars in movie theaters. When Mark went to Art Expo, his second career really took hold with sales of Sweetness, Winning Number and Two Cokes to a known Canadian collector. It was time to really paint again seriously.
Some of the artists who have inspired his work are Richard Estes, Doug Bloodworth, Chuck Close, and Jim Jackson. He appreciates the work of Ralph Stearns, but unlike Stearns’ hard-lined/tape and ruler style, Mark prefers an open touch, using the blending method.
Mark’s subject matters range from candy bars to casino signs. He photographs with a Leica and each painting can take up to 200 or more hours to complete. His palette is rich; his subjects, be it a fire engine or a pretzel cart, take on a luminous quality, always photoreal, but even more beautiful.
Mark developed his own technique for working with bottles (Two Cokes and Cokes from Mexico) by painting a canvas all black, so that the transparency of the bottles allow a wonderful range of light to filter through. The same light and reflection can be seen in the black rotary phone, (You Can’t Hear the Bell Ring), adding an edge of sophistication to a nostalgic, yet ordinary object
He has a strong commitment to meticulous realism. For his Sweet Tooth Series, he bought individual candy bars so that he could study them at home and pick up details that may have been missed in the group shot. He swears he didn’t eat them after.
When he was asked at Russeck Gallery why he painted, Mark answered simply, “I paint art that people can look at, understand it and enjoy.” He likes to paint objects that people can identify with, and have an emotional connection to, like Mickey’s Gum Ball, iconographic and beautifully resolved.
He captures the moment and more often than not, these images are representative of something close in his life. Every summer spent in Kennebunkport resulted in the 3Dkennebunkport, wooden signposts painted in four angles and most recently made into a moving installation. He sees the moment and delivers it back for himself and the fortunate viewer.
Mark Schiff’s paintings have been acquired by many private and corporate collectors. His work has been commissioned by Tropicana, Core Corporation and the Hershey Chocolate Company. He has exhibited in Art Expo, NCWA in St. Louis, Focus on Art in Essex County and the Philadelphia Art Show. His paintings have been shown at Nassau County Museum of Art on Long Island where he has won in the juried competition. Additionally, he has come in second at a juried competition at The Sands Point Reserve.
Some of the galleries where his work is shown include Sher Gallery in Hallandale, FL, Karen Wynne Gallery in Boca Raton, FL, Easel Art in North Miami Beach, FL, Vertu Fine Art in Boca Raton, FL, Frame World Gallery in Boca Raton, FL, Frames USA in Miami, FL, Work of Art Gallery in Coral Gables, FL, Pop Art Miami in Doral, FL, Frame ‘n Art By The Sea in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, FL, Frame-It in Coral Springs, FL, USA Frame in Sunny Isles Beach, FL, Artrageous of Merrick Park in Coral Gables, FL and Profile Fine Art in Jupiter, FL.
If you don’t live near one of the galleries listed, you can click here to view paintings available for purchase.