Door photo by James Tafel ShusterBiography
Born and raised in Philadelphia, James Tafel Shuster has formally studied art since enrolling at the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts. He is a recent graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts where his main focus was oil painting. Shuster has also worked gouache and watercolor as well as various drawing and printmaking mediums including pastel, pencil lithography and woodcut. Shuster has shown and sold work throughout the Philadelphia area and currently produces new work in his Germantown studio.

My education in art was very formal and traditional. I was taught to draw and paint classically. Now, as an artist out of school and painting for myself, the challenge I face is to use that classical training (almost unanimously deemed out-of-date for over a century) to attempt to make my own statement and create something compelling. The human form and portrait, and especially the personality of any individual, have been main focuses and sources of inspiration in my work. However, the rapid and strained way in which most people interact in the world today has its effect on the model-artist relationship (insofar as it’s difficult to get anyone to sit still for more than five minutes). This is reflected in the way my recent portraits are all possessed of a fleeting, somewhat obscure quality. Only certain elements are recalled clearly. Sometimes the figure is deformed by the very strokes intended to construct it. Sometimes it is almost completely absent. Such is the way people are. A camera is capable of freezing a person’s image in place, but my paintings strive to allow the image to move and the personality to be the element that is frozen.