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SCOTT ROHLFS: POP SURREALISM

Scott Rohlfs is a super-talented artist who resides in San Diego, California.  I own about six of his early, airbrush paintings www.scottrohlfs.com which are all marked by his signature super-contemporary, colorfully-dynamic, graphic style.  What inspires him?  Here’s our cool chat …  

“…Art should evoke a feeling. Yes, it's not curing cancer, but there are plenty of careers out there that do not “save the world,” but they all have their place in this universe…”

MICHAEL: Hey Scott, we go way back and I have several of your paintings that date even before your “Big Eyed Beauties.” First off, your works are very bold, vivid and graphic ... almost like billboard advertising. What's the appeal for you?

SCOTT: Thanks again for supporting my art from the beginning of my professional career. I have always been attracted to bright, bold colors that catch the viewer's eye. I know my art isn't for everyone, but I feel my style draws them in and at least makes them look at my work and make an opinion from there. 

MICHAEL: How would you describe your style?  Is there a name for it?  I could easily brand it myself, but that's your job.  LOL.  Have there been any artistic or world influences that led you to this style?

SCOTT: I am not really good at putting a label on my work and its style. I guess you could call it, “Pop Surrealism.” I don't really focus on specific styles or genres. I just paint what I like. That is one of the many perks to being a self-employed artist. I have no one to answer to it. I just wake up and paint what I feel like for that day.  As far as influences go, I am a huge fan of pop artist Ron English. I just love the humor in his work. I love the colors and smooth blends he uses as well. I know his work is a big reason why my work has gone down the path it has. I have been lucky enough for him to recognize my paintings and for him to commission me to paint a portrait of his daughter for his collection.

MICHAEL: You clearly like painting eyes.  What's with the big eyes?  Even the early works that I have emphasize the eyes ... or you were heading in that direction, anyway.

SCOTT: I have always felt that the eyes are what draw the person in to a painting. At least that is the way it is for me, so that is what I have focused on the most. The “Big Eyed Beauties” started as an accident at first. I was just doing a portrait painting and I kind of got carried away when I was painting her eyes and they ended up a little bigger than they should have normally. I received tons of positive feedback and the painting sold immediately.  I received multiple requests to do more like that. That is when the Big Eyed Beauties began.

MICHAEL: Your use of color is very cosmetics-oriented and any of your works could be advertising.  Do you live with a make-up artist?  Where and how did you learn this?

SCOTT: Haha! No, I do not live with a make-up artist, but my wife is the next best thing. She loves her make-up and shopping for it. Anything I can do to add some color and contrast to my paintings is right up my alley.

MICHAEL: Don't you mainly use airbrush?  How does that compare to hand painting?  Also, your work has a sort of glamour vibe to it.  Is that due to the glossy finishes?

SCOTT: Airbrush is a big part of what I do, but most paintings now are 50/50 between airbrush and paint brush. Airbrush is just something I am most comfortable with. I have been using it for 25 years now. I used to paint t-shirts back in the 90's before I started my full time "professional" painting career. There aren't a lot of artists who use the airbrush in their work, so I think it is something that helps set me apart from other artists. The glamour vibe is probably due to my love for shiny, colorful things. I love the high-gloss varnish on my paintings. I think it really helps them pop.

MICHAEL: Did you think of yourself as an artist back when you were painting t-shirts?  Also, do you come from an artistic family?  Where do you think your talent comes from?

SCOTT: Not really.  It was just something I did on the side from my "real" job to make some extra money. I never really thought being an artist was something I could do as a profession. Even when I did start to paint full-time, it took me a while to say I was an “artist.” I don't really have an artistic family in the way of visual arts. I do have a lot of musicians in the family. I am not really sure where my artistic side came from. It is just something that I have always enjoyed since I can remember. 

MICHAEL: Aren't you in Portland, Oregon or somewhere in the Pacific Northwest?  What's the art community like there? Shouldn't you be in Los Angeles or New York?

SCOTT: I actually live in beautiful San Diego now. Not too far to LA. The art community in Portland was amazing when I was there. It was a great place to start my professional career.

The cost of living in Portland vs. San Diego was much cheaper so it was easier to get through the ups and downs of my career when I first started painting full time. Portland has these amazing art events every first Thursday of the month where you could set up a booth downtown in the pearl district. Thousands of people would come by to see all of the artists. It was great exposure. Portland was also where I met my first art agent, Barbara. She helped get me in to various shows up there. 

My family and I moved to San Diego for my wife's work. I was great with it since I am a California guy to begin with and I missed the sun. Portland's rain really starts to wear you down. I haven't been in San Diego too long so I am not really sure about the art community here. I do have an amazing gallery here that represents me and has done so much for my career, Distinction Gallery where I will have my third solo show with them in March of 2015.

MICHAEL: Most artists dream of having solo shows.  What's that like?  The ups and downs?

SCOTT: It is a dream to have a solo show but the stress can be tough to handle sometimes. Every painting I make I want to be special, but when they are for the solo show, I sometimes try to over think every stroke or idea and the paintings sometimes don't come out how I want. The key is to just relax and paint how you normally would and not worry about fitting some theme or idea you had for the show. The show I am working on now I just paint any painting I feel like painting and when I have a couple done, I email the images to the gallery owner, Melissa. She has a great eye for what her clients want. She chooses which ones she thinks would fit her clients. It seems to make things easier for me because I am just painting freely without worrying about every painting being the "perfect" piece. There will be tons of amazing paintings when the show opens.

MICHAEL: When you're actually involved in creating art, what's that process like?  Emotional, intellectual, spiritual?  Do you listen to music? What kind? Do you eat or watch TV while working?

SCOTT: My art process goes through a couple of steps. First, I need to find a model to work with and photograph to get reference images. From there, I tweak the reference images to get the look I want for the painting. Once I have the sketch done, I crank up the music and paint through the day until I have to pick up the kids from school. I listen to all kinds of music when I paint. I just put the ipod on shuffle. Anything but country music and I am good. TV is too distracting while I work, so there isn't a TV in my studio.

MICHAEL: Your work strikes me as being edgy rock or hip hop inspired.  No?

SCOTT: Wow, you do have a good sense of my work. Hip hop used to be all I listened to while I painted and it is still a big inspiration for my work. My little brother turned me on to some post hardcore music recently like Pierce the Veil and Sleeping With Sirens. I am really loving that genre as well and it has been in my music rotation to help get me inspired while painting.

MICHAEL: As your art career continues on, do you feel more people are coming to understand contemporary art or does it remain mysterious to most people?

SCOTT: I think it’s still a mystery to most people. The ones who understand it or embrace it are the ones who keep coming back. The others just want something to match their furniture and don't want to get out of their comfort zone and try something new.

MICHAEL: What do you think about the art world/art market and how they function?  Famous, dead artists are thriving while living artists are struggling.

SCOTT: I really don't think about it too much. My focus is on what I can control. I just try to hone my skills, learn new processes and create great art with each new piece. I truly believe my time will come as long as I focus on those things. There are plenty of living artistS who are making a decent living creating art. What else can you ask for as an artist? I get to do something I love every day. Life is good.

MICHAEL: Cool.  Finally Scott, why do you love art so much?  What does it do for you?  What's the point of art anyway?  It's not curing cancer or ending poverty.  Why should people even care about art?

SCOTT:  I love art so much because it is the only way I know to express my creativity.  I can't sing or dance. I can't play an instrument. This is my outlet. When I am painting, my mind is free of everything else going on around me. I am just immersed in that painting. It is a great release from the everyday pressures.

The point of art is to bring out certain feelings in people who enjoy your work. It might remind them of a happy moment, a sad time or something they would like to see happen, etc. Art should evoke a feeling. Yes, it's not curing cancer, but there are plenty of careers out there that do not “save the world,” but they all have their place in this universe. People should care about art the same way they care about anything in life that makes them happy.  If my art speaks to you in a certain way that evokes a special feeling, then enjoy it. If not, find something else that does.

MICHAEL: Indeed.  Cool chat.  Thanks Scott.

SCOTT: Thanks for the interview Michael.

Check out Scott at www.scottrohlfs.com.   



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