AN INTERVIEW WITH SCOTT CANTY By GINGER VAN HOOK
“A Drawing a Day” is a challenge Curator and Artist Scott Canty set for himself. Once he embarked on his mission he discovered a great deal of inspiration in the every day, ordinary objects of his life. This in turn yielded an extraordinary result. Currently Scott Canty is the Juror for ALL THEMES CONSIDERED Exhibition, Sponsored by South Bay Contemporary Gallery, which opens tonight, Saturday August 2, 2014. I had a rare opportunity to catch up with him this week.
In a recent interview with Mr. Canty, the Director and Curator at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Park and the Department of Cultural Affairs for the City of Los Angeles, he revealed his process.
Right away, he went looking for his portfolios and pulled out several sketchbooks full of drawings. Page by page and one by one he would describe his motivation for each image also detailing a moment in the day when he studied his subject. He showed me the covers of his notebooks, some very simple, some more elaborate and the insides where bursting with images; some of color, some of black and white pencil drawings or pen and ink and on a rare occasion he opted to fill in some background with color inks or oil pastel as well.
Then he revealed to me the source of his original inspiration. His friend and artist Robert had seen his work and encouraged him to do more…Having graduated from CSU Long Beach, many years ago, Scott had dedicated his life to his family, his art community and supporting local Los Angeles Artists that now he was feeling the pull to come back to the page; the blank canvas that he had taken for granted for a period of time. What better way to come back to the work than to have a fellow artist pull you back in?
… Thus, Scott and Robert found their way over to Griffith Park one day and began refreshing a familiar path. Soon after, he got more artist friends to come with him as well.
“I never realized how beautiful Griffith Park was! I’ve lived in Los Angeles for so long and yet I had never seen the intricate landscape of the inside of the park before.
I learned there was an old abandoned zoo and structures from so long ago that they were covered with ivy. Some days I would go alone, sit in the bushes, very still, sketching and drawing until the sun would set, never giving any consideration for the dangers that might have sprung out at me!” For instance, I asked?
He continued…”Some days I would sit for so long and then see a lizard race by and then the thought would occur to me that there might be snakes in the bushes…I lost all concern as I just went into some kind of meditative trance taking in all the beauty surrounding the city I lived in.” Thus Scott Canty brings not only his drawing skills to his daily sketches but he brings a deep and sincere appreciation and discipline for the landscape of life.
And some of his favorite subjects is drawing his own feet, resting on the pillows of his couch…certainly a man and an artist who spends a great deal of time standing on his feet and designating where art should go in a gallery, Scott Canty has a special appreciation for the part of the body receiving the least attention given it is one of a most important appendages…the almighty FEET!
He also has his favorite objects in-house, such as his favorite water glass he drinks from, full of ice cubes dancing on the surface.
There is also a spiritual side to Scott Canty that emerges from his art practice as he explained the subject of an image he made long ago. The image hanging in his office behind his desk is framed in a gold leaf frame and at the center drifts a boat cast out at sea, with a tiny little rope dangling from its side. Vicious storm clouds fill the horizon. Yet there the boat is adrift at the center, threatened by an enormous wave coming out of the ocean. The image is surrounded by a deep blue hue representing the ocean with an angry bubbling of white foam pursuing the tiny fragile rowboat. Describing the scene he drew, Canty’s voice became emotional as he recounted a time when he felt a deep fear or dread closing in on him.
He described a time in his life filled with trials, and the feelings of being lost at sea.
And yet, he surmised, this too was coming from a moment of enlightenment because in further drawings he felt another equally positive force of nature pulling him out of the water, a force like God, rescuing the lost soul; a soul wandering in a tormented sea. “It was a figure that was looking away from me, just pulling me and the boat with the rope on to shore. It had to be a stronger force than the force keeping me lost…It was as if the figure in the scene, did not care what I had done, or what my history had been, it was there to pull me out and save me and I was deeply grateful to have arrived at shore.”
Scott Canty credits his family for all their support in his endeavors to pursue his artistic ambitions. He smiled when he said his father-in-law had built him a studio when he got married. “That meant a lot to me!” Scott reminisced. He also grinned while telling me his children bought him sketchbooks for Christmas and several color pens and pencils. Then the family got even more involved. Scott started to notice there were new objects within his sight that had never been there before when he meditated on his couch at home. “Why is that fruit bowl there?” Scott would ask his wife or his children. The answer was revealing. “Because we thought you might enjoy drawing it. We are providing you with inspiring objects!” His family replied, often in unison. His family would enjoy helping Scott select his subjects. (Scott shook his head.) “The purpose of my drawing random objects is so that they would be randomly in my sight…” He sighed. “So I drew them anyway.” “My family means the world to me! My son, Joshua, is a talented artist as well.”
In his sketchbooks there were drawings of stacks of books or magazines on the coffee table or simply the hoodie that hung from a peg on the door; sometimes the chandelier from the kitchen or seashells or his family dogs that lounged in his sight.
Eventually, Scott Canty also discovered the IPad and he scanned his images bringing his work into the new digital age. This also revealed his most favorite image of all, as he paused for a while to discuss with joy and excitement the portrait of his grandson: yielding a huge wide smile in his baby seat a grinning happy child wore a royal blue
well, sometimes what happens at Grandma’s gets documented in pen and ink by Grandpa Canty!
For more information about Scott Canty’s role at the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs or at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, you may go to the website:
http://www.lamag.org Additional information may be viewed at http://www.culturela.org
©Ginger E. Van Hook August 2, 2014
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Scott Canty selects a quote from the German poet
and dramatist Johann Wolfgang Von Goeth to describes his art :
Artists have a double relationship towards nature: they are her master and her slave at the same time. They are her slave in so far as they must work with means of this world so as to be understood; her master in so far as they subject these means to their higher goals and make them subservient to them.
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749–1832), German poet, dramatist
The statement above has set the stage for me and has helped me create a foundation for expressing my creativity. Early in 2013, I decided to start drawing every day, sometime at night when I got home from work, from errands, relaxing while others watch television, or while I am at the beach.
I have always wanted to do this for some time. But, finding the time can be the most difficult task in this project. So I took the challenge and decided to make the commitment, as the statement above stipulates, I've become a slave to this art and this project. The drawings usually start when I come home late from work, or a long day of activity, arriving home, I grab my sketch book and pens and start to draw. Now the subjects are not glamorous or spectacular, they are normal items in our home. I usually sit in one spot and choose a composition, subject or take a random approach and draw from an unsual perspective. My main subjects are usually my feet and pillows which are stacked on the couch, but other items creep in as well. This project has expanded to my work environment, vacations, the car wash, or any place I have my sketch pad and pen in hand.
The enviornment around me provides a vast wealth of inspiring material. My most favorite subject is of course, drawing in nature. The wonders of the natural world have inspired so many artists throughout the centuries, each looking at the world differently, expressing their beliefs and thoughts. Here this series of drawings express my world in which I am placed, its a visual diary of my experiences and life.