Senior artist profile series: Taylor Schlichting ’16

Each year in May, The Colby Museum of Art hosts the Senior Art Show, an exhibition featuring works by senior students ranging a variety of mediums, including photography, sculpture, printmaking and painting. Over the course of the next several months, the Echo will feature profiles of the senior artists, showcasing their work and speaking to them about their personal inspirations and processes.

Taylor Schlichting ’16 is a senior Studio Art major concentrating in painting. Her work is loosely based in the human figure, but uses large planes of color to abstract the form.

What were you working on this past semester?

“I started out wanting to focus on the figure and I ended up painting myself as a nude figure, so I started out making the figure kind of distorted: a little bit abstracted and faceted. And it sort of morphed into something else. My starting point is with the figure, but it’s definitely just become a vehicle to achieve composition and explore color relationships.”

Was there an initial inspiration for the distortion?

“The facets of crystals and rocks interested me, but it was a little too literal. I had one professor ask, ‘why don’t you just paint rocks?’”

Have there been any classes that have particularly influenced your current work?

“I took a painting and a drawing class by this teacher in Portland, OR, who works solely with the nude figure. He really tried to make painting and drawing the figure not a scary thing so you just have to dive in and any way that you want to approach it is fine, you just have to release your inhibitions and draw the figure how you want to do it. I think that made me love doing paintings that aren’t necessarily observational but are just based in the figure.”

What has your past been with painting the nude?

“I took that drawing class two summers ago and the painting one last summer and I took the figure drawing JanPlan class last year taught by Kris Engman. Also, in Painting II we did a nude figure where none of us knew what we were doing; that was really scary. It kind of scared me away from the figure for a while.”

What was the figure drawing JanPlan class like?

“That was really informative, learning the basic anatomy and understanding what’s underneath our skin, like what’s going on to make the hip look like that. What does a rib cage actually look like? And I think you can see in some of my paintings, like, “that’s a rib cage,” not necessarily a chest. That class really helped me to understand the figure.”

How did you decide to be an art major?

“I always knew I wanted to take art classes in college and I thought maybe [I’d be] a minor because I was in the classes. And then when I heard you had to be an art major to be in the Senior Show that’s when I knew I wanted to do it and I’ve been so happy.”

Are there any artists that inspire you?

“I’ve always been obsessed with Egon Schiele and his distortion and the way he portrays the human body, so I sort of started doing that a bit. He was definitely an influence. But also, Bevin showed me Milton Avery who does something similar to me in that he juxtaposes colors and uses these planes of pure hue. I’ve been looking at some of his color relationships. Also, I was working at the Whitney [Museum] this past January where there was recently a Frank Stella retrospective, so I’ve been really inspired by his large later works which are made of wood and are slightly multidimensional.”

Do you plan on working from the figure this semester too?

“I think I’m definitely going to keep painting from the figure. I mean, my process always starts with observation and then I’ll go into not working from observation at all and just painting from intuition. I really like the way the figure can achieve a composition. I think these paintings are evolving into being something a little bit more abstract, and I think I might start pushing that a little bit more.”

Any new ideas for your coming work?

“My paintings have always had a very layered and faceted quality to them, so I’ve been thinking lately: what if I literally layered on three dimensional pieces of material to make them come out of the wall. The figure has a depth to it, so I kind of want to play around with making the paintings three dimensional.”

How have your professors influenced your work?

“Bevin’s probably the smartest professor I’ve ever had at Colby. She has the most beautiful metaphors for things and she asks the right questions to get you to think about what you want to be painting. With every idea I’ve had, she’s always had good questions for me, but she’s definitely been very supportive and constantly pushing me.”

How do you begin a painting?

“Some are from observation and some are just pictures of myself—I have a lot of nudies on my phone—because some of the positions are too hard to achieve just because I’m painting myself and getting other nude models is way too hard at this school. I’ll start with a wash, and then I do an acrylic underpainting, and then I go in without looking at anything and just build up the colors and the shapes that I want and just think of it as its own painting. And I really try to be super specific in achieving the most luminous color relationships possible in my painting and I’m also trying to do that with different textures, so sometimes I’ll scrape away the paint and sometimes build it up really heavy.”

So what are you most looking forward to in the Senior Show?

“Seeing everyone’s work! We’ve all been in capstone together so just seeing how everybody’s work has changed and seeing it all up on a white wall with little plaques in a museum; I’m so excited.”