Finger painting is serious fun. And not just for kindergartners anymore.
I, Charley Morton, time traveler and science geek, have set out to record my interview with a contemporary artist and innovator who has carved an original niche out of making serious art using finger paints. And now, the serious art world is taking notice! This conversation is part of my "Superheroes of History" project. Please read on!
All you need is one moment or one idea to change the course of your life.
Charley Morton: Tell me about your work—especially how you see science, technology and art combining to create new/different insights.
Iris Scott: My work is mostly organic in subject matter, which reflects what's typically on my mind on any given day. But it's not like I just walk up to a canvas and sneeze out some ideas! There's a thorough and tedious process behind the curtain that combines skills in Photoshop, image research, math, and science. I love watching lectures, documentaries and TED Talks about nature, neuroscience, multiple dimensions, quantum mechanics, time/space, and the interconnectivity of different planes of reality. Concepts from all of these different disciplines merge to become paintings that capture essential truths about our world—truths at the intersections of scientific knowledge, human consciousness, and the intelligence of animals and plants.
Charley Morton: How did you get involved in this? Was it something you always wanted to do, or did you just happen into it?
Iris Scott: I got really involved with painting, enough to go pro and full time, about ten years ago. Before that, I didn't know that art could be a lucrative career and I believed all the “common sense” wisdom that being an artist was synonymous with starving. So I did the responsible thing and got a Master’s Degree in teaching K-8, so I could become an art teacher and practice my art on the side. Of course, I always wished to be a professional painter, but I never expected that my art could pay the bills. In 2009, however, I turned into a pro nearly overnight because I started to cover rent with online art sales. Full disclosure: my rent at the time was $100/month because I was living abroad in Taiwan and selling to a global collector base on the Internet. That’s how the passion turned into a career. Fast forward 10 year to now, 2019, and I'm still using the power of the Internet to sell globally, but I've partnered with galleries and my rent is no longer $100/month.
Charley Morton: Were there courses you took, or any special line of study?
Iris Scott: I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Washington State University, and I also took some courses in Florence Italy during my junior year. My favorite classes were in advanced painting and art history. But my first exposure to painting in a disciplined, careful, professional manner was in my third grade art class (with Miss Quirie). I was very lucky to have a grade school teacher with a strong background in the arts. She let us use her nice squirrel hair watercolor brushes and she provided strong fundamentals.
Charley Morton: Why finger painting? This sounds like such a kindergarten activity. Do you get any comments/criticisms about that not being a “serious” art form?
Iris Scott: I've been really lucky to not experience any heckling or negativity in the ten years I've been at this. If I do get criticized, I haven't read or heard about it. I think people generally have a phobia about criticizing artists because they don't want to be perceived as uncultured or catty. Sure, finger painting is a great introductory style for children, but it’s also the foundational technique of all human art—the first cave drawings were finger paintings—and I’m trying to take the art form to its most sophisticated potential.
Charley Morton: What’s your favorite subject to paint, and why?
Iris Scott: Ultimately, my favorite subject matter is grandiose mythical narratives depicting larger-than-life futuristic beings. I'm striving to accomplish large profound imagery that feels museum-level. Aim high, right? When I go to a museum, my favorite artworks are the blow-your-hair-back pieces of supernatural beings and animals, tremendous in size and saturated with color. They feel timeless, and they aren’t made to look good as decorations on a wall in someone’s house. In fact, they are so powerful that they practically need an entire Art Temple (the museum) to contain them.
My favorite subject is whatever makes the viewer say “Wow!”
Charley Morton: Tell me about how you get into the creative mode—are there exercises or prompts that help you unlock that creativity? How would you define “flow” in that spirit?
Iris Scott: I wake up very slowly, so my day starts with a little morning coffee ritual. I do best at starting the day strong if I've prepped my workspace the day before and already have a painting planned out. I love working, so I’m always in a creative mode. I'm totally addicted to painting and crave it when I’m out and about or with friends. The best time to note an idea is right when you think of it, so I sometimes disappear during a party to make quick sketches.
I have to actually be quite intentional and self-aware about socializing so that I can be present and connected to the person I am speaking to. Very rarely, if I have absolutely no idea what to paint, I put a bunch of words on strips of paper into a jar and pull out three. Inspiration!
Charley Morton: As a woman, do you think it’s easier or harder to pursue this path? How have you managed that? Has there been a cost?
Iris Scott: For the past 10 years I have had moments of deep sadness when I started to believe in the total fiction that no matter what I do in my lifetime there's no way I'll ever be accepted by the male-dominated museum circuit and modern art world. Lately, with the success of my first solo show in New York and the fantastic press we've received, I'm starting to really detach from this toxic myth. In the next 50-70 years of my productive career there's actually a tremendous amount of time for a major global shift and pendulum swing that could completely knock the art world on its head.
The future is bright: I think female-made art will actually dominate the art world consciousness in just 30 short years. The art history that I've felt so oppressed by will soon look obsolete and outdated. I can see more and more signs that it’s starting to happen each day. I'm excited for what the wild future may bring.
Charley Morton: What’s your dream?
Iris Scott: My dream, as of this interview on May 26, 2019, (which happens to be also my 35th birthday), is that I will build a super state-of-the-art studio along with a small hacienda ranch in the wild country outside Santa Fe, New Mexico. There, along with my true love Sasha, a writer by trade, we will create an artists’ home base. This will serve as our workshop as well as a retreat for other artists to come stay.
The ranch will be totally off-grid, solar panels, greenhouses, and so on. There will be a farm sanctuary for rescued animals—cows, pigs, chickens, goats, all extravagantly named and famous on social media. I want to help people fall in love with veganism because of how much I love animals and do not want them to ever be hurt.
I'll paint massive museum-bound masterpieces well into my late 90's and travel the world teaching people what I have learned about art. In my late 30's I'll launch a large art education platform that teaches art step by step through kits and free video instruction.
When Sasha and I pass away in our early 100's our home will become a museum where two eccentrics and their children lived; my studio and his will be kept just as we left them. A peacock or two will be continually cared for along with sanctuary animals for decades to come. People will come from all over the globe to tour this magical property museum and learn about the animals and the artists. There will also be a large koi pond in the courtyard.
Charley Morton: That is an extremely vivid vision! Can’t wait to see it come true. Meanwhile, I am interested in any stories you might like to share about your experiences in following your dream so far. Are there questions you would like to answer that I wouldn’t necessarily think to ask about?
Iris Scott: While this doesn't apply to a lot of dreams, it might apply to yours: get poor and work. By this I mean save a little money, move abroad to a country with an incredibly low cost of living, and start practicing/building your portfolio. The less money you waste on things you don't need like fashion, cars, rent, eating out, entertainment, travel, etc... the more money you have to cover you basic needs: shelter, water, food, friends, and, most importantly, time to master something. So few people in the world actually take the time to master something. Focus on doing one thing over and over, better and better, and pretty soon you will be the only person in the world that can do that thing—you will definitely stand out from the crowd. You will break rules you didn't even know were there. You will make things nobody has ever made. You will innovate. Practice is the only law of success. Just put more hours into the thing you love than anyone else and watch magic happen.
Charley Morton: For teens like me who want to do it all, do you have any advice?
Iris Scott: Try to combine all your passions into one art form. You'll probably have to invent a new product/art form/service to encompass that—and that’s exactly what you want to be doing.