A Few Words With William Schaff


How are you? Did you have a nice holiday?

I am doing well, today, thank you. Although I am a bit under the weather, and I believe it is directly related to the holiday. I enjoyed it very much as I was able to spend it with family and loved ones, but I am starting to believe that holidays just make me a bit sick in general. But I will be spending going to see the new Tintin film on New Year's Day, so I am very excited about this. 

What have you been working on lately?

I have been working on many things lately. Some commissions I have that are ongoing, some paintings for an exhibit that will be going up with the artist C.W. Roelle (cwroelle.com) at Rhode Island University, and a lot on the projects that are being offered as rewards for a kickstarter campaign I currently have going on ( www.kickstarter.com/projects/1074897687/william-schaff-art-book-with-10-lp-by-jason-molina ), so I have been super busy as of late. And as always, there is the mail art to do, which I am always so far behind on.

How did you get into making art?

As for how I got into making art, I would imagine it is not all that exciting a story. It was something I was good at, and an enjoyment eventually became a passion, which eventually became a vocation which in turn I have been trying to make an occupation out of (with varying degrees of what might be called success).
 
What is your routine in a typical day?

A typical day for me is going to sound rather boring, I fear. I wake up, I go down to my studio, and I get to work. That's about it. I work pretty much non stop. As anyone who is a freelance artist will know, you don't really get days off or weekends, or even if you did, you would probably just fill them with doing more art, because that is what feels most natural to you. To be doing anything else might be like what it is when you have to put a suit on and go somewhere you would not normally go. You're o.k. with doing, it just feels odd.

Working in the studio always is different. There isn't so much a routine to that, because it really depends on the project (or projects) being worked on and how much difficulty I am having with them at the time. Usually at some point in the day, I will bring something I am working on across the street to the neighborhood bar, and sit in there, working for a couple of hours. It is nice, it gets me out of the studio, but allows me to keep working. I am able to interact with folk while still getting done what I need to get done.

How did you come to work with Okkervil River?

It's sort of a long story, but the short version of it is a friend of mine (Mark Pedini, amazing screen printer drummer and all around great guy) moved to Austin about ten or eleven years back and was drumming with Okkervil for a short while. When he got married, he did so back in Rhode Island, and Will and Zach came with him. He introduced me to Will Sheff saying, "Will Sheff, this is my friend, Will Schaff. Will Schaff, meet my friend Will Sheff". Will stayed at my house, we got talking, and before you know it, we had agreed to let me take a crack at their first indie label release!

Will actually writes about it very eloquently in the book the kickstarter project is funding, so for those really interested...buy the book!

How did you come to work with Godspeed You! Black Emperor?

Godspeed was pure chance, and again another long story. The short version here is; I had given Efrim some of my "little books" I make when I met him many years ago. I guess he felt strongly about the work in it, because he contacted me shortly after and asked if I wanted to do the artwork for the soon to be released album they had. I said sure, but then he told me he needed it in a few days or some such. When I said this wasn't possible he asked if it was alright to use some of the pages from one of the books i had given him. I said, "yes", he went forward and the rest is history!

It's funny because at the time I didn't realize how popular Godspeed was. I was quite shocked the first time I saw my image in the new Yorker or rolling stone, or something like that. A real surprise.

What have you been listening to lately? 

Lately I have been listening to a lot of the newest Kid Dakota album, "Listen to the Crows as they take flight". I am huge fan of all of his music, so a new album from him is like getting to sit and have these beautiful long conversations with him. For anyone who doesn't know his music, I would HIGHLY recommend it. Otherwise, it is a random shuffle of stuff like Joe Fletcher and the wrong Reasons, Brown Bird, Dan Blakeslee, Prince, His Name is Alive..the list goes on and on.

What was the last book you've read?

I am currently reading two books. I keep picking up "The Confessions of Saint Augustine" and reading little bits of it. I find it a great book to take small bits of a time and mull on them. And then, because of the afore mentioned Tintin movie, I have been reading this book, "Tintin, The Complete Companion". I have read all of Tintin's adventures since I was a wee lad, but this book is especially neat because of how it shows so many of the reference photos Herge used for his work, and talks about these references.

Of all of your work that you've made available online, which is your least favorite?

All I shall say about what my least favorite work of mine is, that is represented online, is that it is one of my papercuts. I won't say which, because there are those that really love it, and I don't want to detract from that for them. But it is odd, as I usually don't let things I don't like get out there. this just happen to be a piece I did. Odd.

What are you afraid of?

What am I afraid of? Oh my...I could write a book about what I am afraid of. I feel that the world is pretty much run by what people are afraid of. It seems most people (myself included) really live their lives in reaction to what they are afraid of, instead of what they have faith in. Which I guess would be one of my biggest fears, and one I know I fall victim to too, too often, and that is letting God down in what I believe I should be doing to give God praise. I am a Christian, and as far as my witness goes, I fear it is a pretty shitty one.