UnderwaterPaintings by D. Schaffer
Two Underwater Photographers In the Coral Heads On a Wreck Dive (old pic - look at that horse collar bcd!)

Artist's Statement

Art endeavors wove through my 23 years of advertising agency and photojournalism experience and has resulted in the development of my personal dimension of oil painting - especially in the painting of incredible undersea environments and marine life. This connecting thread of art has made me very aware of the painting image possibilities in the undersea world of scuba diving.

I've been a scuba diver since 1976; an underwater photographer since 1983; and though I painted all my life, I've been a full-time fine arts oil painter since 1998. In addition to lots of dive adventures from Ctalina to the Mendocino, I've been all over the world to pursue scuba diving adventures - Papua New Guinea, Palau, the Great Barrier Reef, Indonesia, Truk Lagoon, Fiji, Cayman, Turks & Caicos Islands, Bahamas, Roatan, Barbados, Solomons, Bonaire. At each location my husband and I photographed the underwater marine life and scenes, and at times I would make reference sketches.

Looking at the resulting photos with an artist's eye can be a major disappointment. Underwater flash photography causes high contrast shadows. Except in shallow water snorkeling, natural light is too dim to show any color on the exposure besides blue (especially in Northern California waters). The deeper a diver goes, the more the color is lost. The reds and yellows are the first colors lost. I've noted that the human eye is much more sensitive to undersea color nuances than any lens, film or image capture process.

As I began creating paintings based on my Northern California undersea experiences, I endeavored to recreate the images, colors, and shadows of the undersea world as I've seen it. My paintings are not "copies" of my undersea photos. I use a painterly approach to make innumerable adjustments and modifications such as the lighting intensity to counteract the effect of strobe lighting, or I remove the artificial light completely and give the painting an underwater feel where shadows are barely evident and contrast is low. I seldom paint in true "realistic" style, however, the marine environments I create are based on reality, I won't create a school of "pretty fish" in a species that never schools. I won't mix marine life from different oceans into a setting that wouldn't occur.

These paintings are meant to resonate with scuba divers and marine biologists, but non-divers collect them too. Many more paintings are planned for my underwater series, and with each dive I go on, I have more subjects I wish to paint!


If you have any comments or questions, please let me know!!! - Donna Schaffer Just send me an email me at dsscha@hotmail.com. Or call me in California at 707-328-5281. I create more than "underwater paintings", see some of my other work at my Oil Paintings site.

Click here and check out the photos from our March, 2002 trip to snorkel with the humpback whales! Make sure you see the oil paintings I've created from this experience!

California Diving News, December, 2002 cover

A couple of my paintings have been featured on the cover of

California Diving News

Click here for more information.


St. Petersburg Junior College, Foothill College,
Santa Rosa Junior College - Art Studies
University of Florida - Bachelors Degree
Santa Clara University - Masters Degree


Artworks, San Francisco, CA
Upstairs Art Gallery, Healdsburg, CA

Upcoming and Recent Exhibitions:

Monterey Open Artist Studios, Pacific Grove, CA Annually, the last weekend in September
All Things Orange, Juried Art Exhibit, Healdsburg, CA 8/12
Jade and Ocean Art Festival Juried Exhibit, Santa Barbara, CA 3/14/11-3/16/11
Wild Things, Juried Art Exhibit, Healdsburg, CA 2/1/11 - 3/31/11
Solo Show, Chase Palm Pavilion, Santa Barbara, CA 4/1/10-5/15/10
Tiburon Art Festival, Tiburon, CA 8/23/08 - 8/24/08
Solo Show, Finley Center, Santa Rosa, CA, 6/25/07 - 8/24/07
Fiesta De Artes, Los Gatos, CA 8/04
Scuba Show 2004, Long Beach Convention Center, 5/04
Marine Wildlife Juried Art Exhibition, Mendocino Art Center, Mendocino, CA 3/04
Solo Show, Pedroncelli Gallery, Healdsburg, CA 7/03
Solo Show, Pinnacles Dive Shop, Santa Rosa, CA 12/02
Solo Show, Healdsburg City Hall, Healdsburg, CA 12/02
Digital Annex, San Francisco, CA 9/02
Four Artist Show, Cloverdale Library, Cloverdale, CA 9/02
Solo Show, Cafe Venue, Market Street, San Francisco, CA 8/02
Scapes of the Land, Sea, Mind, Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Sebastopol 11/01
Moved by the Land, Finley Center, Santa Rosa 4/01
Solo Show, Analy Gallery, Santa Rosa J.C. 3/01
Scapes, Fine Line Productions, Sebastopol 3/01-5/01
Fur and Feathered Friends, Fine Line Productions, Sebastopol
Seeing Red, Cultural Arts Council of Sonoma County, Santa Rosa - Spring, 2000


Painting featured on the January, 2006 cover of California Diving News

Jury selected painting as artwork for the 2003 Bodega Bay Fisherman's Festival

Painting featured on the December, 2002 cover of California Diving News

Selected List of Collectors

Available on request.


Canvas Preparation - Professional quality stretched canvases and panels from the John Annesley Company.

Paint - Gamblin Artist Oil Color is used exclusively. Galkyd Lite medium is used as required. Odorless turpenoid is the cleaning/underpainting agent. Gamar varnish is the gloss finish agent. My work is designed to be archival.

Framing - The floating frames I use for most pieces are either basswood or maple made by John Annesley Company.

I create more than "underwater paintings", see some of my other work at my Oil Paintings site.

If you have any comments or questions, please let me know!!! - Donna Schaffer Just send me an email me at dsscha@hotmail.com

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