Scott C.’s art is silly in a good way and childlike in the best way. It’s on display in his two books of art — Amazing Everything (Insight Editions) and the recently released The Great Showdowns (Titan Books) — as well as his webcomic Double Fine Action Comics, his gallery shows, and his design contributions to games.
I had a chance to interview Scott C. by email. He seems really friendly and goofy, the kind of person it’d be fun to riff with for a while. I wish had a chance to talk to him in person since there are some questions I should have asked (but missed) and a couple follow-ups that could have moved a conversation in interesting directions. Since we both grew up in the same city (San Jose, though he’s a couple years older than I am), I probably would have asked him more stuff about the South Bay, like if he ever went to Bullwinkle’s when that was still a thing.
Scott C. currently lives in New York, and based on his Twitter feed, he’s holding up okay after Sandy hit. Fellow artist Kate Beaton (Hark! A Vagrant) was hanging out at his place during the storm and did these sketches. Like Scott C.’s Ghost art we posted on Halloween, Beaton’s work is a nice dose of levity, though these sketches during Sandy are a good from-the-ground chronicle of Manhattan over the last few days.
I heard you were at the New York Comic Con this year, but I didn’t get a chance to say hi. How was your experience at the convention? Had you gone any previous years?
I have been a couple times, yeah. I love conventions. Everyone is so excited to be there and dress up with each other and get pumped on nerdy things together. I go to lots of shows, some are big mainstream ones like NYCC and some are smaller and more indie style, my favorite of which is TCAF in Toronto. I find I like the community of the indie shows more than the mainstream ones, but I can’t help getting excited about all of the costumes at the big shows.
How did The Great Showdowns begin and how did it evolve?
The Great Showdowns started with 10 little paintings for a show at Gallery 1988 in LA called Crazy4Cult. They were just 10 little scenes that I enjoyed from films. I found that if I drew them all just standing there smiling at one another, they appeared to be on the same level. Seeing them as a group of showdowns was very enjoyable for me. Other people seemed to enjoy them, so I kept doing them for that same show each year and eventually I started the Great Showdowns website so I could do them more frequently. Having a self-inflicted weekly schedule sure helps with motivation. They found a nice audience online and that has been super encouraging for me to keep making them. But they are still simple little smiling characters in all kinds of situations.
I like that you don’t label any of the showdowns in the book. Was that a conscious decision, and if so, why?
I very much enjoy the game aspect of The Great Showdowns. It is part of the fun to have to figure out what the film like little puzzles. People will talk amongst themselves to figure out the answers and I like encouraging that as much as possible. If someone really wants to know what one is they can go door-to-door with the book and ask people! Maybe make some friends!
You’re really prolific, so not every showdown you’ve done could be included. Was it difficult deciding which pieces to include in the book? How did you make those decisions?
Yeah, it is always difficult to make cuts on projects this like this. But there is always the possibility of more books! …is what I tell myself, to soften the blow. I tried to choose largely from the first 200 on the site. So there is a bit of chronology to them as it pertains to my own life and the style changing through the years. The first 10 showdowns are very different looking from the last 10. I like seeing that evolve.
Jack Black and Neil Patrick Harris have done forewords for you now. How did that come about?
Jack Black was the voice of a character on a video game that I worked on called Brutal Legend. He came to one of my shows one time and bought a painting of a Cute Hunter playing a flute for a lady. It was a hunter of cute things, so there were adorable trophies on the wall above them. So we had met in that fashion and that is how the foreword for Amazing Everything came about.
Neil Patrick Harris collects The Great Showdowns from past exhibitions. He emailed me about the NPH vs. NPH riding the unicorn in front of the whirling portal from Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay and that is how we met. We did a trade: a sweet foreword for a sweet showdown of his choice. He chose the film called Clue. I feel super fortunate to have had these guys write amazing forewords because both are crazy idols of mine.
Could you talk about your work on Psychonauts and Brutal Legend?
Yeah, sure. I oversaw the look and feel of both Psychonauts and Brutal Legend as Art Director. Both games varied greatly in style. I designed the characters and various environmental elements here and there in Psychonauts. Created things like the collectible vaults and hand placed every single figment with my own hands. On Brutal Legend I oversaw the pre-production process as we came together to figure out what the visual style of a heavy metal epic constitutes. Later Lee Petty came on board to direct the whole game. Both games varied greatly in style, which is something that I love about designing for games and films. I like switching styles like that.
Do you foresee any future videogame work on the horizon?
Well, I just finished working on Double Fine’s new Kickstarter Adventure game. I am in episode 4 and episode 6 of the documentary! I am very interested in the indie game scene. My friend Brandon Boyer just started the site called Venus Patrol, a site that celebrates the creative world of videogames. I am always exposed to real amazing stuff through that guy. And I love Tim and the gang at Double Fine, so I will always be involved with games in some way.
How do you feel about the fan response to your work?
Oh, it is the best! It is more than I could ever have hoped for! I have always enjoyed watching people view my paintings at shows, point and laugh and nudge each other. But the response to the showdowns has been amazing. I read every single comment. I am always surprised how every film seems to be someone’s favorite film somewhere in the world. That boggles my mind and I love it.
You work a lot in watercolors. What is it about watercolor that you enjoy so much?
I like the looseness of watercolors and the muted color palette you can get with them. They are light and airy and full of sweet texture. Watercolors are just right for me. I like old-timey looking things and there is a nice old-timey vibe to watercolors that I really dig.
Are you working on any new comics projects, whether at the big two or a creator-owned/indie publisher?
I’ve been finishing up volume 2 of my webcomic Double Fine Action Comics collections. Oni press will be releasing volume 1 and 2 in spring of next year. Aside from that, no immediate comic projects on the Horizon. But I have ideas in the works for things.
I also grew up in San Jose. Do you think there’s anything about the South Bay that seeps into you work?
Wow, no way! That’s great! I wonder if we hung out at the same spots. I hung out at Saratoga Lanes a whole lot. And visited the abandoned winery. The South Bay was probably not so different than any other suburb I would think. I guess a chill suburban life gave me a pretty stable and balanced vibe. I have no crazy intense stories from growing up. So perhaps the good feelings in my work stems from that. Or when my characters are just hanging about looking for something to do, that stems from me and my bros kind of cruising around thinking of things to do.
How long does it usually take to create one of the showdowns? What’s the process like?
I would say one showdown takes about 3 hours from start to finish. I know because that’s how long the livestreams usually take. But I try to do 20-30 at a time, conveyor belt style. I have a big list of films that I continuously add to. I go down the list and do my research, collecting clips from the internet and photo reference. Sometimes I have to rewatch films and other times I can just refresh my memory with clips. Once I have decided on good moments, I take my reference to a cafe and doodle little guys all over sheets of paper. I scan them into the computer and compose them into showdowns to be printed out. I trace them onto watercolor paper and paint them! I jump around between paintings as the paint dries to save time. I paint all the skin first, then the shadows, then the pants… conveyor belt style. I like seeing entire group come to life together because that is how I see the whole series. As an awesome collection.
Do you have a personal favorite showdown from The Great Showdowns?
Yes, the Ghost showdown that depicts Demi and Patrick holding each other tenderly showing down with the little smiling clay dude on the pottery wheel. I like it because it is so silly. And also so sexy.
Is there a showdown that was hard to make work but then finally clicked?
I remember wanting to do a Point Break Showdown for that ending scene where Keanu arrests Swayze just before he rides the ultimate wave. I couldn’t decide if it should be them fighting or Swayze versus the wave, but in the end making the two of them handcuffed checking out the smiling wave was the best answer. Because again, it is just so silly.
What’s coming up next for you?
I recently finished illustrating a new children’s book written by Bob Dylan. It is a song of his called If Dogs Run Free. Lot’s of dogs running around like crazy. That comes out later next year. I will be starting on the first picture book that I will be writing and also illustrating very soon. And continue with the Showdowns. And more art shows here and there. And that is about it!
[For more of Scott C.’s artwork, visit pyramidcar.com]