Interview by Jen Zern
Photos by Love Ablan
Scott C. is in his own world. Literally. For our photo shoot, the artist is hanging out with puppet-sized figments of his imagination: a caveman, a mummy, and a knight, to be exact.
And yes, they did walk into a bar. They also pet a rooster, rode a motorcycle, played videogames and went to class — but what really interests Scott is where they live.
“Caveman lives in a house shaped like a dinosaur,” he says. “Mummy has a pyramid house of course, Knight has a castle house, and they’re cut away so you can see what they’re doing inside.”
It’s what his latest solo exhibition Homeslice (running now through March 23 at Nucleus Gallery in Alhambra, CA) is all about: whimsical cross-sections of all kinds of dwellings, from a huge, multi-floored rocket for astronauts and aliens to a hollowed-out gravestone fit for a zombie and his TV.
Scott isn’t only known for painting. He also writes and draws comics, some of which he has won awards for, and some of which are being compiled in a book slated for release this month, Double Fine Action Comics (Vol. 1), which everyone should buy.
Also, he is awesome.
COMRADE: Your style is so playful and distinct. How did it evolve?
SCOTT C.: I was struggling a long time trying to figure out what it was I wanted to say, what made me super-excited about creating. That was the biggest thing for me: Why create something? What is the point of it? But then I realized that what I got out of it the most was people enjoying it, people having a good time looking at it, laughing and pointing… that was the greatest sensation. More than ‘Oh, that’s well done’, it was seeing people have a good time, that’s what got me.
Your work seems so fluid, so effortless. Do you ever agonize over the process?
Oh yeah, all the time! That’s the thing, if something is going one way or maybe things aren’t interesting enough for me, I think, ‘God I wish I could think of something better!’ And then I start struggling and painting and the stuff I’m really struggling with, I think I’m not really excited about the concept. Once the concept feels really funny or awesome, the painting and everything goes superfast and smooth. If the concept isn’t there it totally bums me out and I just have a hard time painting that. And that’s the hardest thing, is coming up with the concept, that’s when I pull my hair out, is coming up with something interesting.
What made you decide to start the daily comic?
The whole idea of sitting in front of a blank piece of paper and coming up with an idea was so stressful for me that I thought, ‘Okay, great: Every morning when I get to work, I’ll do a little comic. Just spend a short amount of time on it, an hour; and we’ll post it every day on the website.’ Just as a way to loosen up. And if that joke isn’t awesome or whatever, it doesn’t matter; tomorrow’s gonna be another one. Somehow [taking off the] pressure, in a sea of all these ideas, helped me loosen up and come up with cool new storylines.
Speaking of, you have a new book! Tell us about it!
This is superhot off the presses, my first time holding it in my hands. This is the collection of the first 300 strips of my Double Fine Action Comics, with a bunch of other stuff in there, there’s a war game in there, and some making of, commentaries… It’s very inspiring, there’s also a pinup… (Opens to centerfold of Knight in Burt Reynolds pose) It’s really racy. You can put this up in your bathroom, your den, maybe in a private place where you don’t want anyone to see… perhaps. Anyway, yeah I’m excited to finally have it, so this is out now. It smells good, too! (savoring its new book smell) It smells super good.
An important selling point! Tell us about the characters.
There’s five main characters in the book. There’s obviously this guy (points to flying two-headed baby on cover), the logo for Double Fine, the Two Headed Baby. 2HB is just a silent kind of dude that hangs out. But he is very magnificent. And then there’s these two space men, the Captain and Thompson, the Muscleman, and Knight. Those are the main guys, those are the really good friends. And in here it shows how they met and became friends. And on the back of the book is all the other characters that you meet along the way, just falling. And it’s amazing; (talking to Caveman puppet) It’s so amazing.
What about your other characters in other comics? Igloo Head and Tree Head, for instance.
Oh yeah, in Flight comics 4 & 5, there’s igloo head and tree head, which is a dude with a igloo on his head and a dude with a tree on his head. And all their friends have other things on their heads. There’s tank head and teepee head, and canoe head… just different heads. And they all just have adventures together.
How does an idea like that come to you?
I think it’s just one of those things of hanging out and doodling. That’s the thing about coming up with ideas for [anything I do], [it comes from] drawing random stuff and writing notes, and just kind of free floating and seeing where it takes you. At some point probably I just drew an igloo and had a dude smiling under it, and it just looked funny. And after a while I thought, Oh man this’d be great, to have a whole bunch of these guys, and all the humans are still hanging out with them, but they don’t say anything! The humans are just kind of the side civilization.
Who do you consider your comrades, in terms of other artists you know, friends who keep you inspired?
My friend from school, Paul Allen, he’s probably one of my biggest inspirations. We’ve just been friends forever and I love his art style. So he’s always an inspiration to me. My friend Graham Annable who I do comics with, is really inspirational, and Nathan Stapley, and relatively new friend John Klassen is an amazing illustrator and Chris Appelhans and all those guys are just super-inspiring. And they’re all very driven, so they’re just some of the many people that I’ve met that I’m excited about.
Does their drive keep you driven?
Yeah! It makes it so great! That’s why that art group was going, and why Hickee kept on going, because it was a group of people. The group dynamic totally helps you create stuff; if I was on my own with it it’d probably be much more difficult. My friend Graham is so driven, he does these little movies on youtube called The Grickle Channel, those are amazing; and I love talking to him on the phone because we get each other all riled up and excited to do stuff. It just helps to know other people are doing it too. You’re not in a vacuum working on your stuff. I mean, I think that’s a [valid] technique too, but I think that’s better for me.
Who are your early childhood influences?
I think it was probably all the superheroes. I was really into Spiderman and Superman and I’d get those coloring books, and want to copy them. I traced them a lot, I cheated a lot. And Star Wars – just watching those cartoons got me into drawing. My mom had a lot of art books, too.
What do your parents think of what you do?
Oh, they think it’s great, man. My mom reads my comic every day, even when there’s no new one. That’s her way of keeping tabs on things. Both my parents, they’re awesome, they’re super, they’ve always been supportive — my mom’s always been supportive of art and stuff, she painted, she’s really crafty, she makes quilts now. They say they get a kick out of it.
How useful do you feel your formal education was?
I think everything that has led to being where I am right now has been super-useful. Anything and everything I learned in school was awesome. I learned the basics in drawing, being disciplined… But the main thing was meeting people; people who were really driven to do things, and after graduating, when you have no idea what to use your skills for – I had NO idea what to use my skills for — everyone went their separate ways but kept in touch… Everyone tries to help each other out, and you meet more people through them, and that’s probably the best thing.
Have you thought about doing animation? Have you done any?
No, but when I was a kid I made a lot of flip books. I used those Big Little Books, those little ones that are really thick? Somebody else had made one in there: it was a little circle with two wings, and every page is down, up, down, up, and it would just fly around and I’m like ‘This is amazing! It’s animation magic, and it’s just a circle and some lines!’ So I copied that, and then I started to try other things. But since then, no, I haven’t done much with animation. I love the idea, and I love making these guys [the puppets] move.
You should have a TV show.
Yeah! I’d love to! That would be awesome. It just like takes a lot of time and I don’t have a full amount of patience for animating, but… maybe.
You could get someone else to do that part for you.
Yeah, that’d be great! I’ve always wanted to, I’ve always loved to see my stuff move, and seeing it in the video games* has been really satisfying, but I’m really interested in [live action] stuff too. Seeing them move is incredibly satisfying, I think there’s a little extra imperfection, a little more reality in seeing these guys move in 3D. So I’d like to see these guys do something, have some adventures.
[*Scott also does art direction for Double Fine videogames.]
I wanted to ask you about your transition from 2D to 3D, with these puppets, and some of your rad 3D flyers for shows – the 8bit flyer that folded into an arcade, the rocket for your latest show…
I have to give credit [where it's due]: Jon Gibson had the idea for those awesome standup arcade games, I love ‘em, and then Ben at Nucleus thought of the idea for the rocket flyer and they’re amazing. I love making those things tangible. I’d love to get into that more. Russ Walko made these puppets and they are amazing! I mean, even just sitting here like this!
Did you meet them for the first time today?
A couple days ago. I’ve been spending some time with these guys. I mean, I wish this guy’s mouth would stay closed right now… (tries to close mummy’s mouth)
He thinks you’re fascinating. Or he’s sleeping, I can’t tell.
(Does impression of open-mouthed mummy puppet with accompanying noise amid laughter) But I kind of think with their mouth closed it’s a little more emotional, because he (points at close-mouthed Caveman) could just be thinking about something for a long period of time. Or this one (Knight)… He’s over what I’m saying. He’s so bored. I’m sorry, bro.
And after today, you’ve got a bunch of new storylines. Like, involving the rooster petting, the caveman’s death…*
The caveman’s death! (laughs) He was just exhausted. He had a long day of shooting.
[*Caveman fell over during shooting. It was very dramatic.]
It looked pretty bad. Maybe they rushed him to the hospital.
Maybe they did. (addresses Caveman with concern) What happened, buddy? What were you trying to convey my friend? (met with silence) Okay, that’s cool. (back to us) Yeah, there’s definitely a lot of storylines to work with now. That rooster, definitely, I’m excited for him to be involved. These guys and their lives.
Yeah, I think for sure they need a show. I mean, what else are you gonna do with them?
I don’t know, hang out with them. I’ll ask them what they want to do. ‘Cause they’re kinda new, so they haven’t seen that much around the world. So, maybe back in New York I’ll take them to the Brooklyn Bridge; they can see that, maybe they can see the Empire State Building. They’ll like seeing those things.
What else do you have on the horizon, Scott C.?
I’m participating in the 8-bit show in Berlin [Ich Bin 8-Bit, March 17-Apr 4]. In two months I’ll be part of a show at Gallery 1988 called Quiet Storm, that’s a three person show, so I’ll be back in L.A. for that. And a zodiac show [New Moon: Interpretations of the Chinese Zodiac, opens April 10th] at a place called My Plastic Heart in New York City.
- Check out Homeslice, online or in person up to March 23 in Alhambra, CA (just outside of LA).
- Scott’s blog
- Pre-order Scott’s new book, Double Fine Action Comics published by Nerdcore
- Scott’s daily (awesome) comic at DoubleFineActionComics.com
(Recent margin doodle: God and Creation of the Turkey: “Yeah, it was easy. I just traced my hand on this one.”)
- Ich Bin 8-Bit Show, Berlin
- Gallery 1988, Los Angeles
- My Plastic Heart, New York City
Art by Scott C