Interview with an Illustrator: Scott Campbell

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Illustrator, Artist and doodler Scott Campbell has just released the follow up to the successful Great Showdowns book – The Return. It builds upon it’s prequel and again is filled with classic defining Pop Culture moments. It takes on the same competitiveness as a Where’s Wally (or Waldo for you guys across the sea) book where you’re instantly trying to guess the scene as quickly as possible. With no verbal clues you’d have to be a real film buff to get them all correct but even if you don’t the book reads like a more playful version of a coffee table book.

I spoke to Scott recently on the origins of this series and his background in design below.

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Firstly, I just received the book the other day and it’s brilliant – I wanted to read it over and over to make sure I got every one right. Can you explain your job title and how you came to it?

I would call myself an illustrator, I suppose. I’ve created comics and video games for the past 15 years. I’ve art directed a few games at Double Fine Productions including Brutal Legend and Psychonauts. I’ve been showing work in galleries for a while now, using those opportunities to try out themes and stories that I would love to turn into books and cartoons someday. The Great Showdowns came out of one of those art shows. I’ve only recently gone full time into the world of children’s picture books and I am very much enjoying it.

What was your experience with formal education – did your style develop during this time?

I went to the Academy of Art College in San Francisco to study comic and children’s book illustration. My style was very different back then, more realistic and traditional. I grew quite a lot in the few years following college as friends exposed me to new ways of creating. I was fairly confused as to what direction to take actually, what mediums to use. I was a part of an art collective in those years in which we all encouraged each other and threw big art shows with bands and puppet shows and art on the walls, my art grew tremendously in those years.

Would you say your time during your Art Collective was more influential to your process and style than your years studying?

Definitely. I learned technique and discipline in school, but I learned concept and the reason why I create with my friends in that collective. It helped me to explore my own style and what I was trying to say with my art because I never really had any hardcore political messages to share. Just the nuances of human nature, I guess. I was just exposed to so many ways of interpreting the world in those days with the collective. We even went to Japan at one point and did some projects with artists out there. That’s changed my life for sure.

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How did the idea of taking the initial Art show and turning that into The Great Showdowns come about – were most of the pieces already there or was there a singular piece that set it all off?

I think it was just drawing the characters together on a sheet of paper and thinking they looked nice hanging out with each other. All of the characters were defined by their antagonist – so seeing them together made sense. The obstacles a character comes up against make them who they are, even if the obstacle is a printer that frustrates the fellas in the office, so that taking it out to a field and destroying it might be just what they need to move forward in their lives.

What has been the hardest part of putting this book together and was there anything you learnt during the process?

Honestly, I love all of it. It is truly like making a mix tape and getting excited about people enjoying it when you are done. Cutting showdowns is hard, but it feels good when you get that flow exactly right. It was like looking at your baseball card collection and getting psyched about which to put in the album for the coffee table. Knowing that anyone could just pick it up and any moment and get impressed by your sweet collection.

Lastly, what’s been the most surprising thing you’ve learnt during your career as an artist and Illustrator?

It has always been surprising and incredibly fulfilling when strangers like my work. I remember the first time someone wanted to buy a painting who was neither a friend or a member of my family. I felt so grateful! So happy that this thing resonated with this person I had never met. That feeling I get is just the best feeling and it keeps on giving. I love it.

You can pick up a copy of Great Showdowns: The Return here!

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Michael Arnold

November 26, 2013 / By

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