As a curator of art, I am always on the lookout for extraordinary artists like Scott Lilly. I was fortunate enough to meet Scott personally and we quickly discovered that we were both involved in the art world.
As we spoke about the art scene, creating, and even selling, I knew that I had to bring this vibrant artist's work to the forefront of my ARTINFO blog. I am honored and humbled that Scott has agreed to kick off the new year and our Artist Spotlight section with an interview.
Although I already knew Scott personally, I was still highly impressed and captivated by his artistry. His work is truly unique and I wanted to share it with the world. I am excited to learn more about Scott, his art, and what we can expect from him in the future - which I have no doubt will be bright.
So let's dive in and discover the vibrant art of Scott Lilly, a Harlem, NYC artist who is sure to make a big impact in the art world. We hope you enjoy our first of many artist spotlights with the talented and vibrant Harlem-based artist, Scott Lilly.
How did you first become interested in art?
Art has always been the lens through which I see, share with, and shape the world around me. When I was very little - maybe 4 or 5 years old - my family didn’t have an inordinate amount of income, so we cultivated crafty and creative sensibilities at home. Our Halloween costumes were always homemade, as were quite a few Christmas and birthday gifts. In lieu of all the expensive action figures and such I’d see on TV, my Mom, who took a couple of art electives in college, would sketch approximations on paper and cut them out for me to play with. At some point (probably after the 400th paper doll request) she sat me down and showed me some basic techniques on how to draw forms. I learned fast, and when I discovered that I could realize - could bring to life - anything that existed in my mind through lines, shapes and color on paper - it felt like I had acquired a Superpower! I felt limitless, and I began a daily drawing journal that I’ve kept up with every day of my life since.
What inspires your work and where do you find inspiration for your pieces?
Perhaps it’s a bit cliché, but my inspirations come from everywhere! A view from a particular window, a story I heard, a collaboration with another artist, a personal crisis - I’m a cross-disciplinary creative, and my interests are as eclectic as the mediums in which I work. With my paintings specifically, I’m usually trying to capture a mood or a feeling - something associated with a particular place or experience.
How would you describe your style or aesthetic?
I play in a lot of different sandboxes: in a lot of different styles and disciplines, but I like to think that there’s a distinctive point-of-view that carries over throughout. There’s always a bit of whimsy & sense of movement in the quintessential “Lilly Look”. Most of my Fine Art pieces are usually described as vibrant and kinetic, generally abstract or impressionistic in aesthetic, whereas my Graphic work is very much inspired by the Pop Art movements of the later half of the last century, particularly 80’s street art and 90’s anime. What can I say? I’m a bit of a nerd.
Can you talk about a piece or series that is particularly meaningful to you?
For the exception of the occasional commission, painting was always more of a hobby than a livelihood - until the Covid Shutdown of 2020. Working in the Theatre at the time, I had no other option but to supplement my income by shifting my focus to artistic expressions that I could pursue from home…mainly, painting, graphic design, and concept work.
One of the first paintings I created during the Pandemic (titled “Us.” See photo) has remained one of my favorite pieces to date - and one of only a handful in my possession currently not for sale. It’s one I’m particularly connected to, both because of the personal subject matter, and that it was the piece that truly solidified my style and perspective as a Fine Arts painter. Ironically, though I LOVE working with color, this piece is an exploration in shades of black and white, featuring some signature metallics (a Lilly staple). It’s an interpretation of a photograph of my fiancé and myself: we’re a queer interracial couple, and have been involved in countless conversations regarding racial dichotomy and duality - particularly during and after the movements inspired by the murder of George Floyd and so (too) many others. The piece is a perfect example of what I like to call ‘controlled chaos’. It has a seemingly manic, messy sense to it, but each brush stroke, each blend of color is intentional and thought-out. “US” has an almost ‘Rorschach-ian Stereogram' vibe to it - and while I’m happy to tell you exactly what the initial photograph was, I really enjoy listening to the interpretations that others find when looking at it.
How do you approach the creative process?
Well, I’ve always thought of myself as a Storyteller first and foremost, so each creative endeavor begins with one question: what story am I trying to tell? As a visual and theatrical artist, I think of artistic mediums as different avenues for storytelling - so every decision I make, from venue presentation to materials used, is made to support and be of service to that particular story. After that, I love a good mood-board. And research, research, research! I’m also a very collaborative spirit, so with some of my commission work, I will make an effort to include my patrons (to a comfortable extent) in the creative process, in an effort to make something that is truly organic, unique and personal to both of us.
How do you think the art world has changed or evolved in recent years, and how has that impacted your work?
In times of crisis, Art always becomes an important part of the global conversation. You can see that happening now. It’s how we as a society are able to present ourselves TO ourselves in ways that can be digestible, engaging, polarizing, and unabashedly honest. I’ve always felt it’s an Artist’s responsibility to create work that mirrors the truth of the times we live in - and I definitely feel that pressure nowadays. As a cis white male-presenting Human, I’m constantly asking myself “what can I possibly see that others can’t, and how can my perspective contribute respectfully and responsibly to the larger conversation?” These days, where anyone can “create art” with apps and filters that conveniently exist on the marvel of modern technology we keep in our pockets, what the Art SAYS feels like it carries so much weight - now more than ever.
What advice would you have for other emerging artists who are just starting out in their careers?
Honestly - trust yourself. Trust that your point-of-view is valid and worthy enough to be shared. Trust that you are capable of creating something no one else in the world can. Trust that continual practice and commitment to your craft will make you a better Artist.
For a Creative, the “inner-saboteur” may be a constant presence in the conversation of voices hear in your head, but it’s a daily discipline to not become fixated on those negative thoughts, and to keep yourself open to learning more, pushing further, and trying things outside of your comfort zone. If we are in full control of one thing in this world - it’s our own perspective, so practice self-love , and remember that there is no one path to artistic success. Blaze your own trail.
What are your future goals as an artist?
At the moment, I am living my dream: I am making my way, establishing a brand, and paying my bills as a full-time, freelance Creative - in New York City, of all places - a reality that, at some points in the past, felt like an impractical pipe dream. Moving more-than-optimistically forward into the new year, I’m excited to be getting back involved with my first love, the Theatre, and finding ways to incorporate my visual work into theatrical settings - with Set, Costume and Lighting Design, as well as exhibitions of works inspired by theatrical pieces. Eventually, I plan to cultivate my own creative space for other emerging and established Artists of all mediums to come together to explore, produce, and witness new work. Bring it on, 2023 - I’m ready!
Milton Wes Art Closing Thoughts: We just have to mention that we absolutely love Scott's motto, "Living creatively...for a living." It really resonates with us and aligns perfectly with our motto, which is "Live Colorfully!" It's always inspiring to see artists living their passion and making a living doing what they love. Scott's dedication to his craft is truly admirable and we can't wait to see what he creates next.
Reach out to Scott via IG or his website for Commissions!