Chuck Schultz Is That Guy Sketching the Fringe
Who’s that guy sketching in the back of this Fringe show? It’s probably (though not necessarily) Chuck Schultz, a fine art-trained sketch artist. Schultz’s sketches of dance and theater provide a visual review of Philadelphia performing arts year-round and he brings his talents to bear on numerous Festival shows every year.
Schultz recently sketched FIGMAGO, an ongoing mesh of art and dance which runs as part of the 2018 Fringe Festival. He spoke to FringeArts about how his work intersects similarly with different art forms.
FringeArts: What’s your background?
Chuck Schultz: I grew up in New Jersey. I lived on a farm. When my parents divorced I lived on the Jersey Shore. I liked to draw people, or super heroes, and when I met another artist in Toms River, NJ, I decided that is what I am: an artist. I first attended Delaware College of Art and Design in Wilmington and I moved on to get a certificate of fine art painting at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
When I graduated college I tried to weave myself into where artists could find work. I been fortunate to be able to work with author Thom Nickels, photographer Katherine Weber, Thomas Kerrigan at the Kimmel Center, hairstylist Julius Scissor, and writer Chris Munden. I worked with an exceptional couple in Conshohocken: Jim Victor and Marie Pelton, alumni of PAFA. They are making food sculptures that give you an appetite! It is that effect that I am trying to copy.
FringeArts: How did you get into sketching theater?
Chuck Schultz: I always wondered what was happening inside theaters. I would just walk by while getting from point A to point B and I felt there must be something special inside them. When my father died in 2011, I began spending a lot of my time painting in Ocean Grove, NJ, where I met David Bates, a retired actor from the 60s who worked in movies, theater, commercials, and helped start The Muppets with Jim Henson. It was only natural for me to draw what I saw when going to the theater. It made me feel connected to the artists.
FringeArts: How did you start sketching dance?
Chuck Schultz: A chance meeting with a theater reviewer put me in touch with Chris Munden, editor of Phindie, who gave me a platform for my work and the opportunity to see more genres of performing arts. Dance was a new mode of expression from the usual drawings of theatrical drama. My first show was FORE-IGN/ FORE-OUT at the Chi Movement Art Center during 2016 Fringe Festival.
FringeArts: What do you remember about that show?
Chuck Schultz: It featured a piece choreographed by Annielile Gavino created with elements of play, mime, music and dance. I was very fortunate to be able to talk to Annielile afterwards. We talked about her art and the subjects of motherhood, immigration, and pagan religions, and how she transforms her technique and experiences into dance. I learned about Annielile’s path from the Philippines to the U.S. Her dance was a collage of different layers of prejudice and xenophobia and I saw the political activism in her art. I was engaged with how movement was an outlet and I saw how the dance transformed her.
I took my sketches from that show and transferred them onto large canvases for a pop-up gallery about mobility and the urban community for Spoke Magazine. My artist statement was about the dance community and how inspiring it is for artists to feed off their energy.
FringeArts: What do you like about sketching dance?
Chuck Schultz: I really enjoy thinking critically about my experience, and dance really picks my brain. The experience sketching dance and visualizing the meaning behind the movement took me down a new avenue for documenting a series of movements. I make little sacrifices as I sketch the performance, and lose many of the gestures by overlapping the contours in hope of finding an organic form. I like finding the essence of the dance by making scribbles in the dark. There is a discipline with going into solitude and reading my scribbles, hoping that it will come back to me.
My network gradually grows from reporting for Phindie. Following the careers of my favorite artists in Philadelphia is fun to see both my art and their art develop in sync.
FringeArts: How has it influenced your other artwork?
Chuck Schultz: The influence of dance has helped me identify different themes, subjects, and moods in my own art. The theater is a very creative place, and I love being a part of it. The sketches of dance inspire within me a pure joy of following a movement transform into a greater expression of something: real, conflicted, or a kind of premonition of the future.
FringeArts: What did you like about sketching FIGMAGO?
Chuck Schultz: It was the collaboration between dance and painting that spoke to my practice and something I have been considering for the past four years. That is, the bridge between visual and performance art. In 2013, I worked for Meg [Saligman] when I graduated art school at the Academy of the Fine Arts. We met at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Art museum show, Beyond the Paint, and it showcased other mural artists from Philadelphia Mural Arts. It was a real pleasure shock to be back in Meg’s Studio and this time as a critic/reviewer.
Sketching FIGMAGO was an intro to Brian Sander’s JUNK and showed a common interest between Meg and I with Philadelphia theater and dance. My pen ran out of ink in the beginning of the show, but the clarity of the interactive installation made it easy to remember. Like when Isaiah Zagar walked in to check out what was going on at Meg’s studio, he ended up joining us for the entire journey. The impression of motion and stillness was in perfect balance for me to make pencil sketches out of my head.
FringeArts: What has the response been like from the artists?
Chuck Schultz: The artwork is very rewarding because I work with other artists and I document what inspires them to move the way they do. It is the best feeling when the artists reach out to say something about my vision of their work.
And I’ve sold a number of sketches thanks to my visual reviews. My color sketches from Annie Wilson’s At Home with the Humorless Bastard were purchased as a package deal of over 20 drawings from the 2016 Fringe Fall season as a series.
I depend on my ability to stay in the artists’ world even after the performance is over. I keep relating myself to a symbiotic relationship in biology but with different artistic crafts. Dan Hodges, cofounder of Philadelphia Artist Collective, approached me about his project The Rape of Lucrece, and my drawings of it were something he wanted have to show his acting work. He talked to me about the ephemeral quality and how it makes him want to keep acting and to keep bringing something new to the stage.
Another theater company, Seagull Productions, was extremely appreciative of the visual review on Phindie. They marketed the play, The Roses in June, with my sketches. I continued to develop this work into a series of paintings for a group show at Little Berlin Artist Collective in November 2017.
I would like to do this for a long time, for artists, and for the community. If you’d like me to sketch your show or purchase a sketch please follow me on twitter @chschulk, and see what’s new on Phindie.
FringeArts: What are you looking forward to this Fringe Festival?
Chuck Schultz: At this years Fringe Festival I am anxious to learn about the recent history of “massive migration” in Syria. I am very pleased to see Lebanese artist, Tania El Khoury share the Arab world with U.S artists in As Far As My Fingertips Take Me and her other shows. There is a parallel of influences: modern dance and poetry coexisting in a love of knowledge. I am expecting this to connect well with Heiner Goebbel’s orchestration of Gertrude Stein’s World War II memoir in Songs of Wars I Have Seen. I’m also on board with The undergird. The inspiration of modern dance for me is a feeling of freedom, and I think this performance will bring me a little bit closer to what it’s like to be in the dancer’s skin. I am also following independent Philadelphia artists in the Fringe: Sarah Knittel’s NIGHTMARE FUEL, Chris Davis’s The Presented, Wally Carbonell’s Carry Me, Brian Sanders JUNK, and the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium.
FringeArts: Thanks Chuck! Happy sketching!
Artwork by Chuck Schultz.