Today’s culture of millennials has become more art aware. Museums have taken over the post-brunch “Sunday Funday” routine. Knowing a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting can give you some bragging points. Purchasing artwork has become a hobby of some while creating pieces of art has become a profession of their peers. Recently after attending a museum and talking about my musical history, a close friend asked what does music look like in my head. I explained that there are colors, plumes, pillars, and orbs floating and dancing. We agreed that I should attempt to paint what was in my head. I turned on my favorite music playlist, closed my eyes, and put paint to canvas. I recorded moments of creating and shared my colorful canvas with my inner circle. While I know painting isn’t my destiny, I decided at that moment that I would pick up my brush and palate to relax and just to allow my creative side to breathe.
With social media being a promotional platform for many artists, I began searching hashtags associated with painting. One day, I came across O’Neil Scott, a Philadelphia based artist who posted a painting that he was finishing of Colin Kaepernick. Being Pennsylvania proud, I sent the photo in a Direct Message to a group of my friends and one told me that it looked so real that she felt she could reach into her phone and play with his hair. True artistry is in the detail. O’Neil Scott is a man of detail. Intrigued by his precision, tones, and emotion in his work, I began to research him and eventually reached out.
SUAVV: How long have you been an artist and how did you get started with painting?
O’NEIL: I have been drawing all my life but just started seriously painting two and a half years ago. My passion is art and I always felt like something was missing in my life if I was not being creative. As a result, I created a goal to get a body of work together and then start to approach galleries. To my surprise, I was about two paintings in and I started to get approached by galleries. This fueled me to work harder and get better fast. I started to work with a gallery and had my first solo exhibition last September, which was within a year and a half of getting started.
SUAVV: That’s pretty amazing. You hit the galleries quickly. While you are still becoming a full-time artist, you also have a masters degree in IT. Did you ever have a regular 9-5 in the IT field?
O’NEIL: Yes, I worked in analytics for a long time and still do to supplement my income. Even though I took foundation art classes at Syracuse University, I am really a self-taught artist. Hopefully, one day I will be only doing art but I currently have a few different means of income.
SUAVV: Understood. The starving artist look isn’t the best way to go, LOL. Speaking of Syracuse, you were obviously great at football to have a scholarship with Syracuse University. When did you know that this was what you wanted to do for a living instead of football?
O’NEIL: I would have loved to play football in the NFL and I was very driven to get there. I even tried out for a few teams. I think everyone has to pursue what drives them and for me, I decided early on that I wanted to establish my career and develop some valuable life skills and not fall into the trap of trying out for the NFL each year. I feel like I may have quit a little early, but I don’t regret my decision. It gave me a head start on another passionate career path. I always felt like I was good at many things but great at nothing. When it comes to art I am extremely motivated to become great.
SUAVV: That’s was great planning at a young age. When I look at your art, I see greatness, but I’m not an art critic. What would you consider your style of artistry?
O’NEIL: I don’t like to categorize the work because I am always experimenting, but I think it can be considered a form of contemporary realism. I am very drawn to people and try to capture how the current state of the environment is impacting their world.
SUAVV: Okay, so, what were your inspirations for your different pieces? Do you find yourself treading on controversy?
O’NEIL: Well, I do think some of the pieces can be controversial and do spark feelings that many would like to suppress. One of my major goals in my art is to try and give a voice to communities that don’t normally have one. Some people think the paintings have a political lean, but I think of it more as addressing issues that affect marginalized communities. I have had some backlash around some of the pieces, however, I think it is coming from a lack of understanding the work in general. Provoking commentary on the topic of the painting is already a major win in my book.
SUAVV: Do you ever look at your “finished” pieces and wish you’d done something differently? When do you know a painting is complete?
O’NEIL: Yes, especially with some of my earlier paintings. I don’t think I laid out the composition or made preliminary sketches beforehand. I find that the paintings that turn out the best are the ones with more work done upfront before the painting is even started. I think my more recent paintings have better color harmony and I work with a more limited palate. I feel like DaVinci when he says, “A painting is never finished, only abandoned”. Most of my paintings take more than a hundred hours and can easily be worked on longer if I want, but I feel like I have so many ideas in my mind that I get extremely excited about the next painting. One day I want to work on a painting for a year and see how it turns out.
SUAVV: Okay nice, I don’t know if I have seen any of your early pieces. And a year on one painting is a really long time. Which means your putting a lot of hours in at the studio. So, when you are not painting, what do you like to do?
O’NEIL: If I’m not checking out a gallery or a museum I am usually watching a moving or hanging out with family. Being an artist is such a solitary occupation, you are alone in the studio for hours and the time you have away from the studio needs to be cherished and spent with the ones you love.
SUAVV: Nice, and I see that you wear headphones while you paint. Are you a big music fan? What do you listen to?
O’NEIL: I listen to a variety of things; it could be a podcast usually an artist interview or talk. I do like a lot of audiobooks, anything that involves a mystery or artistic growth. I think it goes without saying that I am listing to music, it’s mainly Hip Hop or R&B. Jay-Z, Nas, The Weeknd, and Drake are some of my favorite artists.
SUAVV: I’m from the northeast, so I keep a little Biggie, Jay-Z, Common, Talib, Mos Def, and the Roots on repeat. LOL. Last but not least, I know most of my circle love your work. Are your pieces for purchase? If so, how does one purchase one of your paintings?
O’NEIL: Yes, the paintings are for purchase. Most of them sell through Jo Hay Open Studio gallery in Provincetown MA. If anyone is interested they are welcome to contact me. All the info is on the website oneilscottstudio.com