Meet Our Raising the Bar Juror :  Olaf Schneider

Olaf Schneider lives his life large – in every way.
As a commercial artist, his murals and billboard advertisements are spectacular, reaching sizes up to 12,000 square feet and capturing the imagination of viewers in towns and cities around the world. His alter-ego finds peace in painting large-scale landscapes, based on his travels through northern Ontario and eastern United States.
Abstracts, and still life renditions of marbles and glass are also on the artist’s menu , as well as the occasional portrait – which he does to fill the gap that adds to the challenge.
“Almost anything inspires me,” Olaf says, “if it’s bright, loud, out there, off the wall or different. I am fascinated by both complexity and simplicity, depending on the subject matter. I love children’s happy faces, colorful swirly marbles, Ferrari and Porsche autos, glass ornaments, powerful landscapes and complex still life settings.” Not surprisingly, he has an extensive picture file of “Things 2Paint,” in his image library.
Canadian landscapes enhance the illusion. The true inspiration of Olaf’s work is found in things that present themselves while he’s paddling, walking, driving, or meditating on a moment inspired by God. Traveling with his wife through northern Ontario continues to be a tremendous influence. “My wife, Tracey, is the best, she’s my biggest fan. We love to getaway to Algonquin Park and go snow-shoeing in the winter. Camping and take the canoe out on a quiet lake and spend hours listening to the sounds of nature in the summer and fall,. Our ‘Ferrari red’ canoe is one of my favourite subjects to paint.

Olaf sold his first oil painting, which happened to be of a race car, to renowned driver Michael Andretti.

Olaf grew up in Toronto and attended night school at the Ontario College of Art and Sheridan College. In 1984, at the age of 20, he began working for one of the largest outdoor advertising companies in Canada, reproducing small works of art into enormous murals. Mentored by seasoned masters, Olaf soon became one North America’s top artists in the field, with his renditions adorning streetscapes in Canada. His Canadian showpieces include murals in downtown Huntsville, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal.
After more than 24 years in advertising, Olaf decided to strike out on his own and opened a studio in Toronto.
When tackling a large project, Olaf takes his cues from a smaller version of the completed work. He squints to visualize the most important information as blocks of color and shapes. First, he will block in the basic shapes, looks for key shapes in the artwork, zeroing in on smaller shapes at the end and usually going from light to dark.
Olaf describes the process as “almost magical. I have to exaggerate everything up close and then when you look from the other end of the studio everything tightens up.

Olaf has a tip for beginning artists. “If you want to know how to ‘see,’ ask a photographer. Every Tuesday for 2 years I went to popular Toronto camera club meetings to listen and watch. Every person has a different perspective on the same subject and it’s that perspective that makes the picture come alive. I take a great many photos when we’re traveling, so I have them as inspiration for my paintings back at home.”
Olaf’s technique varies from image to image, depending on the mood of the painting. For landscapes, he applies an underpainting in large masses of base colors and then continues with smaller points of detail overtop. Often, he begins with dark tones, allowing him to add the lights and mid tones where they fall.
A vast variety of subject matter in huge proportions contributed to the development of Olaf’s exceptional eye for detail and color. “I like to paint whatever inspires me,” he says. “To describe it best, it’s like going to a banquet and deciding to just have a simple salad, but once you get to the table of choices … look out! Anything goes.

To learn more about talented artist, Olaf Schneider, and see samples of his amazing work.