Visit the Studio with Scott Kowalski - Art in Res
What is your artwork about? What does it speak to?
Through abstraction, my work explores my own 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 paint to better understand my own complex approach to understanding 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 ARTISTS am happiest with this minimal black and white exploration. Other times, when I am exploring my more anxious personality, I just throw color at the canvas –– I swipe, I mix, I scrape. I hate it, I love it, I fear it. It is a challenge to myself. I am choosing paint 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 is like the crescendo of a song, it builds to a high. Through action, the anxiety of the uncontrolled approach eventually becomes controlled.
When I am in the middle of this chaos, the joy and satisfaction I get from painting these pieces is like the crescendo of a song, it builds to a high. 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 action of painting itself. I just ﬁnished a piece called Dancing with the Goddess –– the white and orange is 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 the 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.
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 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 6pm and I could paint at 10pm or vise-versa.
Do you work at a particular size or scale? Why?
A lot 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 the fact 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 just don't convey some of that duality and they're not as dramatic either. So I would enjoy working at a larger scale all the time.
What are you currently working on?
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 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 speciﬁcally 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 so much because it is one of my most conceptual and minimalist series that I do.
I'm also working on a piece called Red Umbrella where I am attempting to place a red umbrella within a minimalist piece. I am trying to challenge myself with regard to perspective.
Which artists most inspire you and your work?
An artist who inspires me is Bob Ross. He was an amazing 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 so 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. I can be inspired by somebody in a tiny little town in Wisconsin whose work I never would have been able to see if it wasn't for this technology.
Do you balance another job in addition to being an artist?
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 coronar virus has kind of 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. Watch some great videos of Scott in his studio! We hope you’ve enjoyed this special peek into Scott's creative environment! Even in a virtual age, we encourage all budding collectors to take the time to connect with the artists you love directly. We want to remind you of our awesome artist messaging feature directly on the Art in Res site––reach out now and foster that creative energy! Have more questions for Scott on his art and practice? Follow up with him directly via our messenger. We know he’ll be thrilled to answer any questions you might have. Ask about a speciﬁc painting or about his speciﬁc process in general––either approach works!