Visual artist Centa Schumacher creates beautiful photographs– photographs that make you look twice and question her process. I love talking to her because she is clear on the fact that she is always learning and both she and her pieces are a work in progress. In this interview, she talks with us about embracing the stops and starts that come with creating art.
please introduce yourself.
Hey, I’m Centa Schumacher, and I’m a visual artist. I grew up in rural Central California on a ranch a little south of Fresno. I’ve lived in San Francisco since 2009. I’m currently pursuing my MFA at San Francisco State.
what do you make or do?
So I’m a photographer, but I do some weird things with the medium. I’ve built my own lenses from vintage camera parts that allow me to blur and distort everyday objects. With that I’m able to create images of a new emotional reality, one filled with wonder and reverence.
Lately this has led me to peering into the world of the occult– of witchcraft, magic, and the changing of consciousness. Before that, I was investigating the movement of the sun and moon. Being an artist allows me to pursue anything that interests me, which allows me to learn, grow, and never stay stagnant.
My finished products take on lots of different forms. I have made everything from huge 4 x 6 foot prints to intimate hand bound books. I’m aware that only a small percentage of people will get to see my physical work in person though, so I always make sure to present my photos in a digital-friendly way as well.
where can we find your creations?
how long have you been creating and is it your full-time job?
I’ve been very lucky in that this summer I was awarded a residency at the Kala Institute in Berkeley on behalf of my university, so that’s been my job for the past few months! I’ve been working on printing my photographs and using a printmaking technique called pressure printing to give my photographs amazing textured effects. None of this work is completely finished yet, but some sneak peaks are available here and here.
When I’m not working at my residency I pick up part-time work through my school or freelance Photoshop retouching. In the past I was a retoucher for a pin-up photographer, which was interesting to say the least. There will be some things I will never un-see.
when you’re not making things, what do you do?
Make other things!
I love to cook, and I find that after spending so much time trying to interpret vague ideas and feelings through my art it is relaxing to just follow a recipe instructions and know that something good will come from that.
I’ve also been (slowly) learning to play guitar. It is another relaxing counterpoint to my work, because I know if I work at it every day, even just for like 15 minutes, I will eventually get better. One of the aspects of art that I struggle with the most is that sometimes I put a lot of time, energy, effort, and emotion into a project and it can still fall flat. And while I have to be able to push on through those moments, it is nice to have something technical to turn to, like learning a song or making a complicated dessert, so that I can still feel a sense of accomplishment when things aren’t going my way.
is creativity a luxury or a necessity for you?
Creativity is a necessity for my mental health. I would be sick without it. It is so much a part of who I am that I cannot imagine myself as not creative.
I am lucky, however, to have the wonderful luxury of being able to pursue my creative talents in a professional aspect. Attending San Francisco State for my MFA, especially in this economy, is another luxury. I am very lucky (and grateful!) to have a husband and extended family that believes in me and what I do, that too is a luxury.
what obstacles have you had to overcome to lead a creative life?
As I’ve mentioned a few times, I’m still in school. I’m still in the process of figuring it out. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me yet, or what will happen when I’m done with school. It’s not the best economy (or political environment) for artists right now. I think about those things a lot, but I can’t let them overwhelm me. I have to tell myself, “Self, you never know what’s going to happen in the future. You never know what the economy is going to be like. But you have people who love you and believe in you, so you have to take advantage of this opportunity and try as hard as you can.” Still, I get scared sometimes, but I remind myself of my favorite Starhawk quote, “Where there’s fear, there’s power.”
where do you find inspiration?
I’ve had some weird sources of inspiration. Reading helps a lot, and a mere sentence can send me down a rabbit hole of ideas. For example, I read, “…the circle separated them into a new time and space,” in a novel recently (I think it was Mists of Avalon?? Yeah, I know), which led me to read about the concept of casting a circle in witchcraft, which led me to drawing circles all over all my photographs.
Dreaming is a big one too. I know it sounds a little kooky, but I’m not going to apologize for it. Quite a few of my visual ideas come to me in dreams or that liminal time between sleeping and waking. I always keep a sketchbook on my nightstand so I can write things down right away. If you get good ideas in the middle of the night, always write them down! You’ll tell yourself you’ll remember them in the morning, but its most likely that you won’t.
what inspiring advice would you give to other creatives be they established or just starting out?
Most people cannot maintain a constant stream of creative output, and that is ok. Even if it is the thing you love doing more than anything in the world, sometimes you need to take a break from it. Refill the well. Take a walk, read a book, watch a stupid tv show. You can even take a few days, a week, even a few weeks if you need to. Don’t give up, just pause. Don’t feel guilty. Recharge, then hit the ground running again.
Untitled (Work In Progress)
Self Portrait of the Artist