Updated: Apr 20
Michele Scott is one hell of a clean designer and illustrator. I just recently ran into this guy’s work at one of the countless craft markets that I’ve been attending recently, shout out PHILA MRKT! I was initially drawn in by his fun, diverse, and very Philly illustration style but when I did a deeper dive into his work, the design and incredibly professional display made me want to see and hear more about it all. Scott’s got a series of trippy cartoons that can tell all sorts of stories, he does some bad-ass illustrations over actual images that are shockingly immersive, and he can apply his work to some clean but still exceptionally engaging design. Equal parts trippy, funny, elaborate, and exciting, Scott’s work is definitely a treat to look at in all forms.
I was incredibly excited to interview Scott not only because I loved his work but because the energy that he put into it was contagious. The energy and character in this interview is just a peek into the same energy that’s put into this awesome body of work. There’s lots of talented artists out there but an artist with truly inspiring passion is tough to come by and I think this is one of those rare occurrences. Enjoy the read and be sure to check out all that Scott has going on!
1. So to start off I always ask about background, so what got you into art? Schooling? Big inspirations? What shaped you into the artist that you are today?
Honestly what got me into art was mainly the ability to draw at an early age. I don’t necessarily believe in “destiny” but I’m not very good at many things and have always been drawn (haha) to art, painting, sculptures, bright colors, funny looking objects and cartoons, like the simpsons. I remember winning some art shows in elementary, middle school, and high school and was obsessed with Keith Haring, the Looney Tunes, superhero comic book characters, and stand up comedy. I actually think stand up comedy had a huge part in my personality and growth as an illustrator mainly because, even when I’m not trying to be funny, my illustrations have an inherent comedic feel to them, that a lot of people seem to notice. So did music, it feels weird working on any artistic things without music playing. So I would say my biggest inspirations would be Steve Martin, J. Cole, Keith Haring, local illustrators (Like Keith Greiman, Loveis Wise, Mario Zucca), and my brother. He’s a dentist, but he’s been wanting to be a dentist since 8th grade and got his bachelor's, masters, and then 4 years of dental school (10 years total). Just to be a dentist. That’s probably the most determined anyone has ever been to be a dentist, and determination and persistence inspire me. So all of that, plus various life experiences have made me into the current human flesh sac that somehow stumbles his way through every situation in life.
But obviously great artists, whether it’s illustration, music, comedy, etc. are going to be great inspirations for any artist. But I think the most underrated inspiration is family. I already mentioned my brother but my whole family inspires me. It’s a different kind of inspiration. They inspire me to be great because of everything they’ve done for me and because they believe in me. When you love your family it’s very unconditional I think. But at the same time for everything they do for me I wish I could return in double. The only reason I’d want to be super rich and have that kind of success is so I could pay for my sisters school and pay for my parents retirement and what not. My sister is a huge reason for me to keep going and pushing even when it’s tough. She’s only 16 but there’s something about her that you know she’s going to do great things. So any guidance or assistance I can provide I will always. My brother is like my best friend. When I retire and our wives die I want to buy a house with him and just watch the Sixers for the rest of our lives.
My parents are huge for me. I don’t know where they rank on the list of best parents but I’d put them up there. Maybe they’re really low though, my dad did kick me in the balls once. I love them so much. My dad is filled with mystic sarcastic wisdom. He’s always been there for me, he’s a very comforting presence for me. Definitely more confident confronting life things with him in my corner. My mom is insane. Which makes sense because I am also insane. The older I grow the more I’m turning into my mom. We constantly butt heads and argue but I still love her and have most respect for her. She’s one of the coolest and smartest people I know and has allowed me always to be myself and appreciated my weirdness. She always thinks I’m super intelligent and have the potential to do amazing things and having someone who relentlessly believes in you is a powerful thing. I owe her and my family everything.
Also my girlfriend. She’s the best and I love her very much. She gets me through the individual days and weeks. She’s the stability I need in my chaotic never stopping schedule and brain. She knows me way more than I think and always has my back. And she always tells me when something shouldn’t be happening or someone is being rude and I don’t realize it, like that John Mulaney joke about his girlfriend.
2. You've got quite a distinct illustrative style, so what were the big inspirations that brought about your style? How does your work begin and develop?
Well comedy and humor play a huge role in my work. I like to be funny and I like to laugh and be goofy and it shows in my work a lot. Also literature! I don’t really read that much and paragraphs intimidate me, which is ironic because I apparently answer in paragraphs. But I loved books that personified objects, I believe Dr. Suess did that a lot. He would just put a face on a car and all of a sudden you have a character in a story that doesn’t really need to be there or shouldn’t really? But the thought process of personifying inanimate objects resonated with me and I can’t stop doing it. I’ll put a face on anything. So I guess Dr. suess is another big inspirational figure for me. Mainly his work, don’t know much about the actual guy. I’ve heard he wasn’t that great. My work always begins with sketching and conceptualizing. It’s the best part. I’ll come up with 5 to 15 to 30 ideas until there’s that glorious moment. I don’t know what to call it. It’s like a click and it makes me feel fuzzy, warm, smart and smile. That’s when I know I’ve got something special. After that I create the final product and hope the client loves it or my online audience loves it. But how a project begins and develops can change depending on the medium and what it’s for. The most important thing is to keep drawing and coming up with ideas. I make lists and my list for ideas/concepts for illustrations or illustration projects is 30+ right now. It’s like student debts. It keeps growing and I keep making small dents in it. There’s not enough time to keep up with all the ideas and stuff. Oh well.
3. You also work in design, but your illustrative style is still very present in this work. So how does the design experience and process differ from the process of making your illustrations? How do you keep your style in-tact enough that the work represents the message of your client but also represents you as a designer?
Wow, that’s tough to answer. Keeping the two separate is actually quite hard, yet not many people see me as both. People/friends mainly know me as only an illustrator or designer. When I approach my design work, things are always a little bit harder with clients because it’s more about exactly what they want. So I actually try to approach the conceptualizing stage in design the same way I do in illustrations for a client. That can be a lot tougher because my illustrations have a distinct style so clients have some sort of idea of what they’re going to get. Clients love knowing what they’re going to get. It’s natural. The same reason I would sneak into my parent’s room to find Christmas presents. I want to know if I'm getting something cool and good and what I wished for. In design you definitely have to take some blows. Sometimes you have to give the client exactly what they want. But it can be really fun and exciting working under so many restrictions. I think it creates a neat path for your creative thoughts. Sometimes it just sucks though. But no matter whether it’s a client via illustration or design I love using my style, thought process and personality to help bring someone’s vision, business, or whatever it may be to life. It doesn’t always pay well but money sucks and this shit is fun. But always make sure you’re working for a respectable rate at least.
4. You feature a lot of animations in both your illustration and design work, is this an important aspect of the presentation of your work? Is animation something that you'd like to push further in your work?
I’ve been trying to get more into animation and motion graphics. It’s hard and frustrating at times. I have all the elements to create something awesome in front of me but I have to learn a bunch of programs from scratch and it takes a while. I’m always practicing and trying to get better at animating. I use after effects and do a lot of stuff by hand, and recently got an apple pencil and procreate which allows me to create some cool quick animations. I do really want to get into character animating. Right now life is very busy and trying to get everything in order takes up a lot of my time but if it’s something I want to learn and personally think is crucial to some of the things I want to do in the future I’ll definitely learn it some day. The design part of me is so much more driven to learn while the illustration part of me is like “I just wanna draw some cool shit”, I have to get that same mentality in learning more how to animate my characters. I recently discovered this artist James Dybvig and they’re animation stuff is insane, I’d love to be that good someday. But I’m happy with the small amount of animations/motion graphics i’ve done so far. My roommates and I are actually working on a show/cartoon. It may never get created but we have a whole backstory, concept and characters so hopefully we do something with it some day. Another idea on the list.
5. The quality, presentation, and overall development of your work is extremely advanced so what's next for you? Any big plans in terms of illustration or design? Are you looking to pursue one path more so than the other?
Truthfully I see myself more as an illustrator. I love design but it really comes down to the fact that I illustrate for fun. Like for no reason at all sometimes. The enjoyment is pure for me. Design feels like a really engaging hobby. Being in the design community and working as a designer exposes me to the awesome new programs and new features on adobe programs that can elevate my illustration work and efficiency. But also I just love branding. That’s the best part of design. I definitely am looking to grow as both but obviously I’d love to be just an illustrator one day. I’d love to incorporate my illustrations in the branding process for companies. Like Keith Shore does the branding for Mikkeller beer. But I’m looking to grow as an artist/illustrator and spreading my style through more than just the digital medium. I want to go back to painting, watercolor, and charcoal; that’s where it all began. I want to get into animations, 3-D printing characters, sculpture, murals, etc. Like I said lots of ideas, not enough time. But I will get as much as I can get done.
6. Finally, PLUGS! Where can people find your work? Any shows/events coming up? Anything and everything you'd like to promote and everywhere people can find your work, fire away!
You can find a lot of my work on insta at @m.scooot and on my website mscottstudio.com! I recently just did my first art market and it was a blast, so I'll be trying to part of those more often but nothing concrete yet. There might be a couple coming up but I can’t 100% confirm yet...so follow me on insta and you’ll find out where to find me soon enough. A shop on my website is also in the works so you can purchase all my goodies. I’m pretty busy with some freelance work right now, for privacy sake I won’t mention who the clients are but it’s definitely not the Prime Minister of Sweden...I am totally open for commissions so hit me up on insta or email@example.com and lets work together! I am also just starting to work on a show. It’s still in the conceptualizing stage but will be focused around the concept of home, in general and personal. It will have paintings, prints, watercolors, 3-D elements, etc. I’m hoping to have that by the end of the summer or next fall. Still figuring things out but the art has begun! So again follow me on insta to see when that will be happening. I’ll also be holding some prize insta post things soon so be on the lookout for that as well. I don’t know if i should have a catchphrase for the end of interviews but here’s mine: Papa John isn’t real.