Briefly describe the work you do.
I create drawings and prints that use pattern and ornament to organize space. I’m inspired by architectural ornament, early and pre-Renaissance art, and Islamic geometry.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I grew up in Beloit, Wisconsin. My mother was a nurse, and my father worked in construction and engineering. He was a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright, and I remember making the family pilgrimage to Taliesin, Wright’s home and studio. I experimented with arts and crafts through my local 4-H, and I had my first try at printmaking at summer art camp in high school. I had the opportunity to study in Mexico when I was in college and was exposed to pre-Columbian and contemporary traditions in the visual arts. I was an art major for a while in college, but I didn’t begin to seriously pursue art until I moved to Milwaukee in my 20s. I began taking classes as a special student and made the commitment to studying printmaking in graduate school. I worked as an audio-visual technician at the Milwaukee Art Museum. This, and other museum jobs that followed, gave me a daily education in art and art history with valuable exposure to art, artists, lectures, and film.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
Most of my studio time is spent alone working on my prints and drawings. This time is often satisfying and meditative. Other times it is just about doing the work. I’ve also had experiences with public art and installations that have taken me outside the traditional studio space and challenged me in terms of scale and collaboration.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I wouldn’t have envisioned myself working on a large scale in a public space or in a collaborative setting. It also surprises me that I am still discovering how art has the ability to interact in a meaningful way with so many other disciplines.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
Late morning and early afternoon are my best times. I have scheduled studio time into my work week pretty consistently for many years. I’m not always as productive as I would like to be, but the commitment to the studio as part of my routine has helped me to continue to make work and grow as an artist.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
For many years I worked primarily as a printmaker on a small scale. In the past five to seven years, I’ve expanded the range of my work to include more drawing and some large scale projects. Opportunities to work on temporary public art through the organization IN:SITE helped me to realize work in a context outside the printmaking studio. My larger scale works utilize themes found in my prints, but they require new media, new approaches to planning and implementation, and the surrender of control and the need for perfection.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
Artists as diverse as Agnes Martin, Frida Kahlo, and the Guerrilla Girls have had an impact on my work over the years. My family has always been supportive. I am lucky to have friends who have pursued their own art for many years, sometimes with little outside encouragement. They inspire me to continue my work as an artist.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
Like most of the artists I know, I have an occupation outside of being an artist. I’ve been fortunate to hold a variety of arts-related jobs over the years, including several museum positions, fine art framing, print editing and design, and my present work in web design and development. If I hadn’t pursued the arts, I imagine myself working in archaeology or historic preservation, or maybe as a librarian.
Paula Schulze is an artist who works primarily in drawing and the printmaking technique of mezzotint. She has a BA in anthropology and Ibero-American studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a MFA in printmaking from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has participated in residencies at Anchor Graphics in Chicago; Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin; Scuola Internazionale di Grafica in Venice, Italy; and Fundación Valparaíso in Mojácar, Spain. She has also collaborated on temporary public art projects with the organization IN:SITE in Milwaukee. She lives in Shorewood, Wisconsin.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.