Now Featuring Brian Scott Campbell

Brian Scott Campbell keeps mixed company.  A lover of painting and the history of painting, he works mainly in graphite. Influenced by great painters of the figure, his work is strangely, deserted, like an empty stage. But Campbell is aware of these contradictions, the ellipses that occur between image and association. His work still bristles with humor and surprise, as beer cans and googly eyes pierce the grey stillness of his drawings.

To view the full print collection go to the LPP shop.

Exclusive Print 1, Gimme Gimme Gimme Shelter

Exclusive Print 2, Ben Hornes Lodge

Exclusive Print 3, Wild Times

Exclusive Print 4, Untitled Modello

Exclusive Print 5, Before the Sighting

Exclusive Print 6, Lookout, Hideout

MH: You work in pencil in charcoal but talk about your work in terms of painting, rather than drawing.  As a big fan of the power of drawing myself, I’m curious about this, and wonder if you can talk about your affinity with painting and the media you use.

BSC: I agree with you, actually. Drawing is primary, in terms of expressing an idea, and it maintains a number of unique qualities compared to any other medium. My work is monochrome and utilizes graphite pencil and charcoal, of course, but the language is very closely related to painting. I suppose this is where I differ from some of my friends that also make drawings. I find that I most often look to painting in art history, and in contemporary art, more than to drawing. It will do me a favor though, because we certainly have much more painting to look at than drawing. Also, in my work, I am often spraying the paper, painting in graphite or gouache, and really trying to consider the abstract forms that are created within the picture. These drawings aren’t as mechanical as people often assume.  I have been making drawings exclusively in my work since 2005, and have noticed a major shift in the early 2000s with the way that drawings get shown, both in galleries and in museums.

Brian Scott Campbell, photo by James Ryang

MH: While researching you I got sucked into all the music you’ve posted, along with a lot of other great stuff, on your blog. Do the aesthetics of pop music/psychedelic music inspire you in any way?  Your work is pretty open, and so is pop/psych, so perhaps it’s not a huge direct influence. But on the other hand I can’t help associating fan art, poster art and other popular forms with some of your images.

BSC: I would say the common denominator here is psychedelia. I wouldn’t really say that I’m a big pop fan, although I do really love the Beach Boys and some garage pop. The blog is replete with samplings of folk and prog-rock stuff that have a very underlying psych tendency. Music is definitely an influence, but only because I really care about it, and spend a lot of time listening to music in the studio. It will make it’s way into my art, whether I want it to or not. For instance, the piece Gimme Gimme Gimme Shelter is this impossible combination of the Rolling Stones title and a Black Flag reference. I’m sure that I could write a manifesto that incorporates the ethos of some of the music I admire. When I started blogging it was by the recommendation of a good friend of mine that took notice of my image and music database. It’s a nice way for me to catalog some of the things I am thinking about for myself, and for my students.

I never really thought about the fanatical fan before with my work, but I am a bit obsessive, and that kind of excessive enthusiasm, earnestness, is something I hope that people see. An artist that I really admire is Jim Nutt, a Chicago painter. He really stands out from the Pop Art historical moment, because he genuinely loved comics. It wasn’t ironic or conceptualized for him. Although, over time I think he realized that he loved Matisse most.


MH: Your blog also shows that your an omnivorous art lover, especially of painting and drawing.  Who are some big influences for you, and who are you excited to have discovered recently?

BSC: Phillip Guston, David Hockney, Ed Paske, Henri Rousseau, James Ensor, Fernand Leger, William Blake, Lucien Freud, Francis Picabia, Tom Nozkowski, Catherine Murphy, Henry Darger, and so on. There’s an interesting artist that I’ve been following for a few years, that doesn’t show very much in the U.S., and his name is Fredrik Hofwander. A few other artists that I’m interested in that also make drawings are Colin Cook, Nick Cortese, Ion Birch, Keith Mayerson and Frank Magnotta.

Drink Number Two

MH: What’s the inspiration behind your work from 2012 in particular?  There’s an interesting shift… it’s more doodly and also somehow retro, reminding me of 1950s/’60s illustration.

BSC: I really love old New Yorker covers and cartoons from Saul Steinberg, so I can see the newer ink drawings relating to his illustrations. Or even possibly old advertisements and Tex Avery cartoons. I really love that stuff. I’m also looking at the drawings and prints of Grosz, Picasso, Matisse, De Chirico, early Warhol drawings, and even the work of Bauhaus artist, Oskar Schlemmer. I know that this work seems like quite a shift, but I’ve been making small drawings like these for a while, an have only recently decided that they deserve a life outside of my sketchbook. I think they’re funny and that they manage to achieve something different than the more elaborate graphite drawings. So far, many of these have something to do with taking a drink, liquids passing through the body whether it is something good for you, or not. My work until recently has always had a lack of human presence, all we are left with is a trace. Portraits always linger in my work, but they are typically abstracted in various ways. They are the least persuasively “real” element. I haven’t shown the new drawings just yet, but I’ll be interested to see how they coexist with the other drawings. I’m excited about them.

Saul Steinberg, Girl in Bathtub, 1949

MH: What’s your sketching process like?  How do you develop ideas for finished work?  You mention Steinberg-like sketches (he must have had the greatest sketchbook) and now I’m wondering what else we might find in yours.

BSC: I keep a sketchbook, and use it everyday, if I can. Inside, you would find a range of quick sketches to more elaborate plans for final drawings. Most of my work deals with language in some way, so you will find lists, song lyrics, poems, and various semantic games. Grocery lists or to-do-lists are everywhere in my sketchbooks, and have been known to migrate into the poems in strange ways. Over time, as I flip back the pages, I find cryptic messages that I can’t make sense of. They’re messages to me that are supposed to trigger an idea. I’m looking at one right now that says in emphatic lettering, “Lemon, Carton, Train, Pyramid”, which I suppose should mean something to me, but I can’t make much sense of it now.

Oskar Schlemmer

MH: Where do you teach?  How does teaching affect your own process?  I remember some classroom experiences profoundly influencing my thoughts on color and form, even though I was leading the process for students.

BSC: I’ve taken a position at Santa Barbara City College in Santa Barbara, California. Teaching has been a very interesting influence on my studio life. I’ve had a very similar experience to the one that you describe, with some of my lessons, and have noticed them enter my mind, while in the studio. I’m sure that the decision to use ink and china markers was born out of my lesson planning. Also, I think the activity of constantly searching for new and better ways to successfully communicate concepts and drawing principles for students is a steady challenge, but one that I think has managed to crystallize some of my own thoughts on drawing. Gathering images to show to my students always leads to a long, frenetic traversing through a number of rabbit holes, and new discoveries for myself. It also, for some reason, leads to a little too much time on IMDB and YouTube.

Apple of My Eye

MH: Also, how are you liking California?  Your teaching position just brought you out here, right?

BSC: I love California! This interview couldn’t have been timed any better, as an introduction to the various art scenes here. It was difficult to leave New York, but that was softened quite a bit by the appeal of California. I’m not far from L.A., and I love northern California, so I hope to take road trips to the Bay area as often as possible. I’m still in shock over the farmers markets here, and the number of different types of avocados. A few students have already helped us with moving couches, and office supplies, which was really nice.

1 comment

1 Daniel StoneNo Gravatar { 08.20.12 at 11:52 pm }

I love the work and the scope of what Brian does. Most people have no idea of the mediums he had worked with. I for one treasure the few works in my home and place of business that demonstrate his wonderful talent. It will not be long until you are truly discovered.

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