Interview with Artist Scott Kowalski
Aug 26, 2020
Interview with Artist Scott Kowalski

by Virtosu Art Gallery

Aug 26, 2020

Interview with Artist Scott Kowalski

He is working from his studio in Pittsburgh, PA. Scott tries to find peace within himself and explore internal duality, which seems to always conflict. One of Minimalism and simple structure and one of chaos and immense depth. Using this approach, the artist considers himself minimalist abstract expressionist, using acrylic on canvas, bold, vibrant colors.

Post minimalist abstract art is fascinating and infinite in its possibilities: everyday surroundings, objects, and flashes of negative space. I enjoy the evolution of the process and the art it creates.

What materials do you use? And why?

I primarily paint acrylic on stretched canvas. I make all of my paintings using ‘two-by-two’ wood planks as stretcher bars and then pull the canvas. It's satisfying for me as a process. I love going from the raw materials of uncut wood and unstretched canvas to a frame and perfectly stretched canvas. It's become an essential part of my art process and ritual. Beyond that, I also love having the ability to customize my canvas sizes fully.

I love acrylic paint because I am impatient. I don’t want to wait for the paint to dry. Through all these years of painting, I have refrained from buying a blow dryer, but there are times where I have a fan going to speed up the drying of the paint.

What is your artwork about? What does it speak to?

Through abstraction, my work explores my inner duality of personality. This abstraction can manifest itself in two general ways; very minimal & calm or chaotic & loud. This duality is best exemplified in my internal series.

My art is an exploration of the internal discussion I have through the paint better to understand my sophisticated approach to the world around me. This complexity manifests in my seemingly polarized approach to reflection –– both self-reflection and external reflection –– in which sometimes I am very calm and relaxed while at other times, I am on-edge and anxious. There seems to be no middle ground; it is one extreme or the other. In my art, this internal conflict, this ‘pushing-and-pulling’ manifests in the act of painting itself, as very controlled lines with limited, yet contrasting color palettes –– sometimes so limited that they are just black and white.

Many times I am happiest with this minimal black and white exploration. Other times, when I am exploring my more anxious personality, I throw color at the canvas –– I swipe, I mix, I scrape. I hate it, and I love it, I fear it. It is a challenge for me. I am choosing colors and putting it on the canvas –– picking colors that might not necessarily work together. I'm challenging my ability to translate and create within this chaotic approach –– to build, to compose a piece of artwork through randomness, through “happy accidents” as Bob Ross would say. When I am in the middle of this chaos, the joy and satisfaction I get from painting these pieces are like a song's crescendo. It builds to a high. Through action, the anxiety of the uncontrolled approach eventually becomes controlled.

In contrast, when I create my more minimalist work in a more defined and controlled manner, I am most excited by the final result rather than the painting itself. I just finished a piece called Dancing with the Goddess –– the white and orange are so calm and so simplistic in its approach and composition, in its shape. But then I added this black dancing chaos to the piece, and I can't even explain the excitement I felt, the high I get from completing that black motion. There is a contrast to calmness below that brings the viewer into the piece with just a moment of action. The excitement, the satisfaction, the beauty in which this final finished product holds –– I am simultaneously filled with sadness, joy, and happiness all through that single stroke of my palette knife.
Interview with Artist Scott Kowalski

Where do you get your inspiration?

The world around me and the photographs I take of that world. This is where that external reflection I was referencing above comes into play within my work. I love it when I am walking and photographing around my city, and I stop and say, "Huh, that might be neat!” so I take a picture or make a mental note. Sometimes I return to my studio to paint it immediately, and I enjoy how it turns out. Other times, not so much. It is all about that exploration of chaos and minimalism –– finding the right balance to explore what I am trying to reflect upon.

What is your typical routine when you get to the studio?

I don't have too much of a studio routine. I am lucky I have a very flexible schedule. So I could wake up in the morning, throw some paint down and work on some other tasks while it's drying. I'm also a graphic designer and a web developer, so depending on the day, I might have projects in-house that would take away from my painting.

My studio and work time are intertwined. Pretty much, my workday/studio day runs from about eight o'clock in the morning until midnight. No set schedule between the two; it doesn't matter, I can work on graphic design projects at 6 pm, and I could paint at 10 pm or vise-versa.

Do you work at a particular size or scale? Why?

Many of my pieces on Art in Res are smaller –– under 10” on one side –– but if I had my choice, I would use a large canvas every time. 48”x48” and larger. I love that you can get physical with larger-scale canvas and create big swatches of color while also approaching smaller areas to do more detailed work. Smaller paintings don't convey some of that duality, and they're not as dramatic either. So I would enjoy working on a larger scale all the time.

What are you currently working on? Please share with us what is exciting to you about this most recent work.

I usually have 5 or 6 paintings going at once, if not more. I might do a series, but I don't necessarily do the same thing or the same subject matter all the time. I enjoy creating paintings as a series because it allows for further exploration of a singular idea, thought, or approach. Different colors may be used or differing techniques, but the same concepts are being experimented with.

I'm currently working on a suite of paintings that I've been exploring throughout the past year. I am currently working on pieces number 4 and 5 of the series I’ve titled “A Bluebird Day.” This series is one of my more conceptual approaches to art-making. I use a specially mixed blue to create a “bluebird day” on canvas and frame it in white. For those of you that are West Coast skiers and snowboarders, you understand what I mean by a “bluebird day.” I enjoy this series because it is one of the most conceptual and minimalist series that I do.

I'm also working on the Red Umbrella, where I am attempting to place a red umbrella within a minimalist piece. I am trying to challenge myself about perspective.

Which artists most inspire you and your work?

An artist who inspires me is Bob Ross. He was a wonderful human being. Yes, his work was beautiful; his style was his style –– unique to him –– but his attitude and his philosophy, on what art is and who one is as a person, is what truly inspires me. Those “happy trees” are important because it doesn't matter what other people think as long as you are smiling when you're painting those happy trees.

Instagram is another huge influence. Not the app itself, but the number of people whose work I can explore and enjoy and be inspired by. I can be inspired by somebody in Pakistan, Chili, Brazil, and Mexico. Somebody can inspire me in a tiny little town in Wisconsin whose work I would never have seen if it wasn't for this technology.

Do you balance another job in addition to being an artist?

I'm a graphic designer and a web developer also.

On a given day, one workload might be light, and another one might be heavy. I might have a painting commission that I need to do. I might have a website to develop. I might have a logo to design. And I love it all. It's such a great way to go about a day. It gives me flexibility. It provides me with different mentalities for approach. It's such a good way to go about my day. I could spend 10 hours working on a website and not feel like painting that night. It can be tough some days, but ultimately, it works for me. Working without a safety net is the hardest part.

Do you have any current or upcoming exhibits? Please share!

The coronavirus has screwed those up so far this year.

I am involved in developing an online event for “Art All Night” in Pittsburgh, PA. Usually, it's an event that draws over 1,000 artists and 15,000 spectators who show up at a warehouse in Pittsburgh to enjoy 22 hours of amazing art and live performances.

I was supposed to have a show on May 3rd at a cafe in Lawrenceville, PA, but that was canceled.

I might be having one this month at CURIO and Burgh’ers in Zelienople, PA, if the state re-opens for general business.

About author Melanie Reese is an artist and curator. As an artist, she creates abstract, minimal, color-based paintings exploring the act of painting itself through various layering techniques. She is the in-house curator and artist community lead for Art in Res and has published 13 virtual curations to date. She also works directly with Art in Res artists to build virtual studio visits.

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