Today we’d like to introduce you to Selina A. Scott.
Hi Selina A. , so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Some of my earliest memories include drawing at the dining table with my dad and scribbling with chalk in the backyard. I was practically raised as an artist ever since my parents witnessed my creativity as a child. I remember my dad telling me that I can be an artist for the rest of my life, and it could be my job. From art classes to frequent visits to the art store, my family has always been supportive of my artistic aspirations and encouraged my decision to pursue art as a career. It wasn’t until friends and relatives expressed their interest in buying my artwork that I started taking this dream seriously. I decided to study at Arizona State University and this past spring I graduated with a BFA in Drawing. At ASU, I discovered how I could express myself and my culture in my work, and I finally felt my art had a purpose. I see how my art is making an impact and now I want to continue to create impactful work in my professional career.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I definitely experience challenges as an artist and the root of those struggles is from within. In college, I was creating work that would appeal to my audience rather than myself because I was scared to reveal a deeper piece of me within my work. I thought my ideas wouldn’t translate to others outside of my mind or that the work I wanted to create wouldn’t be valued. When I finally shared that first sketch out of my artistic comfort zone with my professor, I realized how completely wrong I was. The feedback I received outweighed the anxiety I originally had to share it, and it motivated me to complete and perfect the painting as I envisioned. And now, that same painting paved the way for me to exhibit my work in New York.
Among the highs and success I have achieved so far, there are still some lows to overcome especially coming out of school. I went from working on multiple projects and creating every single day to struggling to have one successful studio day in the week. I miss being in that creative environment in the classroom and even my senior year at ASU was robbed of that with the pandemic halting on campus learning. Adding the stresses of everyday life and mental health challenges, I am struggling to find my artistic rhythm again. There is always that “not in the mood” excuse in the back of my mind that keeps me out of my studio, and sometimes it is hard to work when you’re not feeling it. It’s easier to ignore what I’m feeling emotionally instead of trying to channel it into something productive and creative. Most people take a break when they are dealing with their pain, but artists are told to use it, express it into their artwork, and then share it. There are days I am in tune with myself and ideas fill my mind, but lately I don’t know what to make of my thoughts and my creativity feels cloudy. But the clouds always clear and artists find a way to create again, you just have to find the motivation to start.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I am an Indigenous and Hispanic artist and my work reflects my cultures, connection to nature, and the exploration of identity. Growing up in Diné (Navajo) and Mexican household, I was surrounded by the culture and people of each that inspires my work. I want to progress our representation in contemporary art and share the beauty of culture and these communities. For me, there is no better way to represent that than with portraits. I create my portraits in a realistic and detailed style that I have always used to create. I consider myself an artist of many mediums as I have developed an interest in both traditional art and digital illustration. I enjoy oil painting and graphite drawings, but I also love to create work with mixed mediums like acrylic, graphite, and pastel combined. The surface I choose to paint on has become an important step in my artistic process. Aside from a traditional canvas surface, I like to work on wood and leave the raw wood pattern to complement the subject. I select panels that have an interesting wood grain and I start my portraits by studying the patterns and shapes that occur naturally. The wood typically inspires a certain design or composition that coincides with the portrait and message I hope to express in my work. I have fallen in love with the interaction between a portrait and the natural wood grain pattern, and it is the focus of my current work.
I am proud to be a Diné and Hispanic woman and showcase that in my artwork. Exploring my own cultural identity and vulnerabilities in my work has brought me healing, a new sense of pride, and success in my career. I am a 2021 AXA Art Prize finalist and one of my paintings will be displayed at the New York Academy of Art this November. Hundreds of applicants entered this exhibition from different schools around the country, and I am one of 40 artists that were selected. Knowing that my painting was able to make an impression at a national level, leaves me speechless but inspires me to keep making more impactful art.
Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
It’s not always easy to network and make connections, but it is so important in the art community. I have made most of my connections at events I have been invited to. Most recently, I was invited to display my work at the Indigenous People’s Day celebration at the Heard Museum. I met so many people and made connections with individuals interested in purchasing artwork. Circulating art events, you almost always run into the same artists so it’s good to build those relationships with them as well. My advice is to accept as many opportunities as you can for your artwork and make sure to always have business card on you! If you can’t find places to physically show your work, social media is also such a strong tool for artists today. I have probably found more opportunities and connected with more artists on Instagram than I have at events. Instagram was where I started to share my work and it has been so helpful to have as I am in the process of getting a website up.