Today, we’re sharing an exclusive interview with artist Cindy Shaoul! Inspired by the whimsy and purity of the feminine form, Shaoul is known for her impressionistic and abstract style. She is best recognized for her series ‘Brides’, ‘Dripping Dots’ and ‘Hearts’, as well as her Plein-air street scenes of quintessential New York locations.
Since her first group show at Parsons School of Design in 2009, her work has been showcased internationally – from Italy to South Korea – and has been presented at various art fairs nationwide, including in Miami, Palm Beach, Dallas, and New York. Shaoul has had numerous solo exhibitions and publications including Vanity Fair, LUXE, Authority, and Aspire Design & Home, among others, have written about her work. She lives and works in New York.
Can you share a bit about your background? Where did you grow up and what are your early memories of art?
I grew up on Long Island in a house filled with art and antiques. Growing up watching my grandfather and mother both painting, my mom in her studio, and my grandpa using the living room as his, it was a normal thing for me. Every day, there would be some excitement revolving around art; since my father was in the antique business, the abundance of bronze statues, lamps, and all sorts of oil paintings would be the background to my life since early childhood. One painting that remains a huge memory is one of my grandpa's modern pieces, which when seeing it from the distance appeared to be “moving” I’ll never forget that feeling, looking at that painting and thinking “How was he able to do that!?”
How did you begin your career as a painter?
I began my career as a painter after I decided to transfer back to New York from Boston. I left Emerson college because I realized after a year and a half that I wanted to paint full-time. I began painting every day and also decided to study abroad in Europe to expand my horizon and pick up inspiration. I studied in Budapest and Tel Aviv and was actively exploring my style and expressions reflected in both cities. When I returned to NY I enrolled at the Spring Studio of Art and focused on figure drawing.
What helped you hone in on your creative voice? How would you describe your style currently?
When I enrolled at the Art Students League in 2009. I was able to absorb so much great knowledge from my teachers, learning the impressionistic technique. It was the stepping stone that led me to discover my current style today, which I would describe as an impressionistic abstraction.
Tell us how you developed a few of your most notable series - Brides, Hearts, and Dripping Dots?
“Brides” evolved out of my love for abstract painting. I was experimenting with figurative forms from memories at the Spring Studio - I wanted to bridge my passion for abstract painting with something more identifiable. Inspired by haute couture, the classic beauty from the days of Audrey Hepburn, and the elegance of Degas' ballerinas – the “Brides” emerged.
“My Hearts” started in 2018 but I developed this series during the start of the pandemic in 2020. I was playing with oils on my spatula, and the movement of spreading the colors on the surface of a board became surprising to me. The excitement of how the colors would interact with one another is what drove the inspiration behind the thick oils. Little universes were created inside the paint - and then applying the dripping of gold or silver over the colors was an added thrill. Hearts became an extension of how I was feeling during the pandemic. I wanted to spread as much love as possible and I thought how fitting - offering a piece of my heart to the world during such difficult times.
“Dripping Dots” developed in my studio in 2009. It began while cleaning the paint with my brushes onto a new canvas, because I didn’t want to waste the leftover oil paint, and soon, the motion of cleaning turned into dots on the canvas. I began to connect the dots with linseed oil and this is how this motif was imprinted. It was a freeing moment of painting abstractly after learning the impressionist technique. The experience of discovery with color and emotional brushwork became very cathartic to me. Over the years, I’ve expanded the intention of the series with thick oils, mixed media, silver and gold leaf, and broken pieces of glass. Each piece has a theme and transports you to different parts of the world. I wanted the symbolism of the work to connect in a worldly way because the dots represent people and large crowds, how we are all connected yet separate. Each dot is like a person, and the space that separates us is the bridge that connects us all.
What would you say is one of the accomplishments you're most proud of thus far as an artist?
Bringing happiness into many people’s lives. For example, to see a client jump from joy after installing my art in their home makes everything so much more meaningful and truly makes me feel proud and happy.
What are your most preferred tools, media, or materials?
Lots and lots of oil paint, gold leaf, silver leaf, and broken pieces of glass for the Dripping Dots, spatulas for My Hearts, along with thick brushes. And lately, I have been using diamond dust which I am becoming more and more obsessed with, especially for My Hearts.
Do you have a favorite quote or mantra about art or creativity?
Whenever you get stuck, just create. No matter what you’re going through, having a mental block, or not being able to focus, I always have in the back of my mind, “just start”. It helps me get out of whatever mental fog I am having and allows me to move forward.
Best exhibition you've ever seen? Or, a favorite art book?
The best exhibition I’ve seen was at the Impressionist Exhibit at the Met. That was when I was first starting to learn the impressionistic technique and I feel like this is when I firmly decided to become serious about my craft and fueled my ambition to learn.
What are you most looking forward to in 2022?
I am most looking forward to having one of my pieces exhibited at the Bel-Air Gallery in Cannes, France. It is a special collaboration with the Cannes Film Festival where “Girl on the French Riviera” will be used as the poster for the French Riviera Film Festival this May.
Are there any other exciting projects, exhibitions, or collaborations you can share with our audience?
I am excited to share that my work will be exhibited with Lilac Gallery at the Art Expo this year. Getting back out there is so thrilling!