Brittany Schall

by Megan Bedard

Honey Gotta Fresh Blowout
Interviewer: So Frank, you have long hair. Does that make you a woman? Frank Zappa: You have a wooden leg. Does that make you a table?

Artist Brittany Schall started drawing hair because of the inherent challenge it presented. “My thought process was that if I was able to draw hair in a photorealistic manner, I would be able to draw almost anything.”

She’s since garnered status in the art crowds for her realistic renderings—mesmerizing heads of hair in various states of grace or chaos [Schall reinterprets Spring ‘14 hair trends for exclusive works for Flaunt, featured herein].

With the attention has come analysis of what her works—referred to as “portraits” but devoid of necks and faces—say about their subjects. More broadly, the portraits have precipitated discourse on what hair tells us about people at first glance.

“While practicing drawing hair, I showed several colleagues my work. Unprompted, they openly started making comments like ‘That’s totally a bohemian dropout’ or ‘She’s middle aged, isn’t she?’ and most profoundly, ‘That’s a rich white girl’s blow out.’” People could identify gender, race, and even socio-economic status. “I thought it was utterly profound how in-tune our culture is to catch the difference between a ‘rich’ woman’s blowout or an ‘imitation’ hair relaxer done at home. It made me realize even the most subtle nuances of hair communicate who we are—or maybe more importantly, who we attempt to be.”

Schall has capitalized on those expressive characteristics of hair to depict a very specific segment of personality: emotional response. Her piece “Dark Waters” focuses on a woman who, at the time of the portrait, had recently left an emotionally abusive relationship—“tipped on the side of becoming a physical one,” as Schall puts it. “She had a silhouette of a memory of the person she was before the relationship, but had to rediscover herself. She is well known for her hair, so I did the ambitious portrait of her in attempt to capture the struggle, but also exemplify the beauty and personal growth that comes from hardships.” In “Temporal Touch,” the subject had undergone an extreme life event; in the portrait, her hair is laced around her neck, and she’s biting it—a choice Schall made because “I wanted to capture this experience by having the hair give the sense of tension.”

Transparency about her work—how she does it, what she incorporates—is key to Schall’s philosophy of art. Working as an artist assistant for several “more established” artists, she was disappointed to learn that it’s commonplace for artists to hire others to create work for them, acting more as a brand than an artist. “It was somewhat of a disenchanting experience. I also think it deeply skews the public’s perception of what art is. They are seemingly led to believe one individual can fill a lofty galley with enormous floor to ceiling painting all within six months of work time.”

In response, she offers free mentorship to strangers via her project “Where’s North?” which hinges Schall’s belief that “the arts should be community based and artists should support one another instead of seeing one another as competition.” To put it plainly: There is enough room for everyone. “Only by creating a sense of hierarchy in the art realm do we create finical, visual, and educational exclusivity.”

The mini apprenticeships, conducted via Skype, can run as long as an hour, but say you fancy an off-the-cuff bit of wisdom right now? “My advice in technique goes as follows: Patience is the root of all skills, skill is the conduit to all talents, talent is nothing without time, time takes patience.”