From Eliza French. Follow her on Twitter @elizaenbref; email her at eliza[AT]borderstan.com.
Scott G. Brooks has been living and working in the DC area since moving here from Flint, Michigan in 1990. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts at University of Michigan in 1983, and considers himself “lucky” to know he wanted to be an artist from an early age. Although he has primarily worked in the world of painting and fine art over the past ten years, he also works as a children’s book illustrator and works in animation, graphic design and drawing.
Although some themes do translate from his work as a children’s book illustrator into his fine art, he says the process for his commercial and artistic work is much different. He uses different materials when creating the two, which puts him in a “different mindset” for each. His illustrations used to be all watercolor or gouache, but now he creates them using digital programs.
For his paintings, he prefers the more “flexible” medium of oil paint, which gives the artist a long time to manipulate the paint and also harkens back to the Pre-Raphaelites and Flemish masters he admires. Brooks has recently begun experimenting with Spike Lavender, a non-toxic alternative to turpentine used by the Flemish in the 17th Century.
Brooks’ two divergent interests in high-brow, classical art and low-brow, light-hearted cartoons and animation both contributed to his unique artistic style. As a younger artist, Brooks mostly painted in a more photo-realistic, traditional style. “It always bugged me when people would say, ‘It looks just like a photograph,’ ” said Brooks. So, he started to incorporate some distortion and other techniques from animation. The large heads on his figures, for example, are “very common in comics,” he said, pointing to the well-known Charlie Brown strip as an example.
Brooks’ distinctive style has helped him cultivate an audience around the country – and the world. In 2012 alone, he has exhibited works in New York City, Los Angeles, London and Melbourne. He still frequently exhibits work in DC and is a member of the Mid-City artists. Although he said it would be difficult to make a living if he only sold pieces within the DC Metro area, he says the network of artists here is “very supportive” of one another. “DC isn’t necessarily know as an art town,” Brooks remarked, “but there’s some great people.”
Most of Brooks’ friends, however, aren’t visual artists. He doesn’t go to “all of the big art parties,” but he does love to entertain and stay connected to the larger arts community. Many of his friends are performers and musicians, and he recently collaborated with one friend on a music video. Tom Goss’s “Make Believe,” released Monday, October 29, features one-shot animation by Brooks.
Brooks said he has a “hard time settling in” to just one thing and bounces around from one type of art to the next. This tendency to have a hand in multiple projects and incorporate a broad range of cultural references into his art has developed his distinctive style, but it also keeps propelling him forward in his artistic development.
Now, he says, “things are quiet.” He just opened a group show at Last Rites gallery in New York, finished his first music video collaboration, has plans to expand his illustration work and is just beginning work on a comic with a writer in Australia. His paintings, with their twisting distortion, dark satire and vivid backgrounds, capture the same tireless energy and broad range of interests that continue to inspire Brooks’ career.