Complexities of The Human Condition: O’Neil Scott

I am a self-taught, Philadelphia-based artist. Influenced early on by both my grandfather and uncle, each of whom pursued creative careers, I took to drawing as a child and spent much of my youth filling the pages of empty notebooks with images of individuals, both fictional and real. In college, I had hoped to study art. But I’d been awarded a football scholarship from Syracuse University and therefore had to prioritize my activities, which meant dropping my studio courses since they conflicted with the school’s training schedule. While I ended up majoring in Information Technology and then later earned my MBA at the University of Delaware, I never lost my passion for art. Rather, it remains a vehicle that I continue to utilize as a means to give voice to my innermost concerns.

Inspired by the Old Masters as well as contemporary realists, I always have been captivated by portraiture and its capacity to impart the complexities that comprise the human condition. It wasn’t until I stopped working with acrylic and started experimenting with oil two years ago that I started spending so much more time at the easel. Not only have I found the material’s pliability so much easier to navigate, but it’s ease of use has pushed me to delve that much deeper into my subject matter and risk voicing my trepidation about the many issues that I hold close to my heart, such as social justice, climate change, police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. At their core, I want my paintings to invoke mindfulness, to inspire contemplation, and to convey understanding.


Your work has heavy political themes, what is the specific inspiration behind your current series?

My current series was centered around my 2018 Solo Exhibition, “American Emotion”. The exhibition takes a look at individuals and their different emotional states in relationship to America. These emotions span from a sense of pride to a sense of sorrow and anger. Currently, I am thinking about how America as a country is feeling about its current state and trying to reflect that through each painting. Even though each painting is portraying a different topic they all have an underlying theme of society’s current state.

What is your favorite part about working with fluid paints?

For me, it’s about capturing an emotion and a sense of truth about the subject. Oil painting evokes different emotions depending on the way the paint is applied. A smooth painting can bring in a sense of calmness and a heavy thick tactile painting can easily imply a sense of anxiety and disruption. The application is just as important as subject matter.


Were you always interested in realism? What drew you to painting in this style?

I grew up drawing nonstop, filling up notebooks with sketches of any and every one. For as long as I could remember I was sketching people, I think I fell in love with the form at an early age. To me, realism is the closest to nature and humanity. It’s about people and the things that make up the world around us. There is endless emotion in all of it.


What do you hope the viewer will take away from your work?

I hope each painting encourages the viewer to take a step out of their current world to relate and connect with the subject. In the end, it should bring us some awareness and insight into the life of others.


What are some goals you are working towards in your career?

My main goal in my career is to expand the level of truth in my paintings, in doing so I hope to extend my reach as an artist nationally and globally.


Who are your biggest influencers and mentors?

I draw most of my technical inspiration from the old masters. I am currently obsessed with David and Rubens. Lately, I have been spending hours in the Philadelphia Museum of Art studying Thomas Eakins. His application of paint is impeccable. I don’t have any mentors but I often go back to the works of contemporary artist like Mario Robinson and Cesar Santo for inspiration.

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What is next for you? What should we be on the lookout for?

I am exhibiting next at Gallery MC in NYC for “Show Your World” on September 28th and have been invited to be a part of “Painting the Figure Now” at the Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art hosted by Poets & Artist in early 2019.