Meet

Scott Sueme

How has your work developed in the past few years, and how do you see it evolving in the future?
My work generally has simplified over the last few series, aesthetically speaking. I think my process has been evolving, and over the years I’ve incorporated a few different strategies in how I can go from blank canvas to finished work. Some of that is through action painting straight to surface, or using cut paper, projection, or working digitally to start. I feel comfortable now being able to decide, and also draw upon different methods to produce.
When did you begin your current practice?
I’ve been an abstract painter for about seven years. My introduction to painting was through graffiti, which I started painting in 2002.
How did you transition from graffiti/street art to painting and printmaking?
I feel graffiti to me is about traditional influence and rules but also how you break them to push the movement forward. There came a point where I started to take more interest in the areas between letter forms over the style or look of the letters themselves, there was this unplanned nuance that existed in areas of my graffiti work naturally, or without direct planning. This sort of lead me into abstraction and abstracting my graffiti works, and in turn started to take new meaning and be more along the lines of geometric abstraction, color, and design. So it was sort of a reductive process in my transition.
What are some themes you find recurring in your pieces, intentional or not?
Recently the focus of my work has been more on color, or interactions of shape and color, and less in the realm of motifs or essences of recognizable elements. I have certain forms that I am drawn to, for sure, but I seem to focus more on the idea of positive and negative when I compose a piece - when I add something, I’m also taking away, that’s always consistent in my thinking as I create. But at the root of it is the interactions themselves, or where two colors find an edge. I think I’m drawn to the idea of creating a language with my work, and that they exist onto their own, or at least that is the goal.
How do the different elements of color come together in your works?
Recently I have been working with color quite systematically, I started cataloging colors, almost like creating inventory cards with recipes on the back. I try to isolate colors as a way to study and understand how they relate before anything actually gets painted. It also gives me an opportunity to look at potential color schemes or choices before I commit to a surface.
Slant
I think I’m drawn to the idea of creating a language with my work, and that they exist onto their own, or at least that is the goal. — Scott Sueme
What tangible objects or intangible moments are you most interested in representing through your works?
One thing that I’m trying to focus more on is showcasing the tangible qualities of paint as a material. I think my work can look quite flat if you’re not seeing it in person. I like the idea that there’s texture and experience with paint, or the contrast between a flat image and the volume of paint.
What necessities do you require when making your art?
Well I don’t start many days without coffee, so that’s probably at the top of my list. When I’m painting I’m usually listening to music - it’s usually rap for the most part, but I do enjoy true crime podcasts or sports podcasts when I’m designing or working at my desk. Besides that, I don’t need much else besides my set of brushes, some water, and my paints.
Do you maintain a sketchbook, or do you start directly on the canvas?
I don’t maintain a traditional sketch book, but I catalog my ideas in other ways, sometimes digitally. I also keep color profiles on swatch cards and cut paper studies. It functions in the same way as a sketchbook I guess. I treat these things like a library in which I can always reference and utilize to start a new work.
Of those strategies, which are you most excited about continuing in the future?
I really enjoy using cut paper. For me, it’s the most organic design process and doesn’t feel precious at all, I can have a lot of fun with it. Lately I’ve been documenting some of my cut paper studies and manipulating them digitally, or designing arrangements with them. I definitely see myself doing more of that in the future.
What is the most difficult part of the artistic process for you?
I would say its finding time to really flesh out your ideas, or sitting with them. Everything now is so fast paced, and I feel the need to always be in the studio making and wanting to produce more. We all know managing time can be difficult, but for me I want to always feel confident that I’m spending my time wisely and giving the right things quality time, and quality energy.
Are there any aspects of your process that are left to chance?
Definitely. Chance plays a big role in my work, in multiple facets too. At times I might be refining a painting, thinking it’s 90% there - and suddenly decide to paint over a large area in order to proceed in a new direction. Sometimes if I’m refining a work it can start to feel overdone, where I’ll sort of need a fresh start. I take chances by painting over areas, and also with color and placement too. Sometimes doing the opposite of what you think is important when you want to move into new territory and explore.
How important is spontaneity in your art?
It’s important for sure. It’s the best feeling when you embrace spontaneity and the results just click, or fall into place. It feels like you’re imposing very little and just letting the work happen. Usually after six to eight hours of painting I find things start to flow and decisions are clearer. You can get in a nice rhythm and spontaneity or decisions feel more natural.
Slant
Sometimes doing the opposite of what you think is important when you want to move into new territory and explore. — Scott Sueme
How do you choose your materials?
I try and keep an open mind with materials, as I’m always looking to incorporate something new if it fits. Color and color quality are probably the most important, next to texture and sheen. There’s a local manufacturer here called Kroma, and they make their own small batch acrylic paint. The pigments are really good and it’s cool to know they make it here in small batches. I recently started incorporating some of their product into my work.
Is there a work with Kroma paint that you’d like to point out?
A lot of the whites I use are Kroma, both the smaller works “Yellow Rudder” and “Solarium” contain Kroma in the whites. Also the piece “Shifting Plates” has a mixed dark grey in a section and the whites as well.
Why did you choose to work with silkscreen?
For the most part I’ve always been a painter. I did study screen printing in school, and so with my most recent series I wanted to work with silkscreen as a way to inform my paintings. Specifically with screen printing the process was more spontaneous as I was placing the shapes and selecting colors on the fly, often before the paint would dry up in the screens. It was a good exercise in the way I was working with limited colors and 13 total shapes which shifted my focus onto placement without overthinking or getting too caught up in composition - I pretty much had to go with my intuition. A lot of them didn’t turn out but the ones that did I really enjoyed. Some of my best work I feel are the ones that seem effortless, or that they just happened in a moment’s time.
Are you formally trained?
I went to art school for two years before I went on to working freelance in 2007. I did a couple semesters in painting, and studied with Elizabeth Mcintosh, an established abstract painter working in Vancouver. Although I was only there briefly, I took a lot away from my time at school. I do have a few mentors currently who I see regularly. I think doing crits in school is something that breaks barriers, which is why I still enjoy having that time with someone else, or a mentor. It helps shed some light into the dark cave in which you rarely step out of.
Do you remember the first work of art that captured your attention?
Well, I do remember one of my earliest introductions to abstract painting I was looking at Jackson Pollock’s “Autumn Rhythm”, I think we were doing a study or essay in art school about his work. So, not necessarily the first artwork that captured my attention, but I just remember understanding the work in a different way then just aesthetics. I remember being fascinated with how radical it was for its time, and I think it frequently comes to mind when I think about painting, just as both an action and as a finished work, it just visually represents both so well. It was cool to sit with it at the MoMA in person too.
Are you influenced by any artist that does something completely different than you?
I think I actually take a lot of influence from athletes. I just really appreciate their work ethic and how within the sport athletes find a creative edge within the set rules of the game. I grew up playing sports, which I am super thankful for.
Do you find that your location strongly influences the direction of your work? Where do you feel you create your strongest work?
I get a lot of people out here that say my work reminds them of Vancouver, or the Pacific Northwest in an indirect way. I think it’s interesting that my paintings don’t have representational elements yet they still resonate or carry the same energy as the “vibe” out here. I think it’s one of the reasons why I’m drawn to neutrals and subtle colors. We have long winters and damp springs with lots of rain and cloudy days. We have the most amazing mountains too, and on certain days they are not visible at all because of the low clouds. So yes, I think it does play a role in my colors or compositions, but maybe subconsciously.
What’s your favorite part of Vancouver?
There’s so many great neighborhoods in Vancouver, but I’ve spent the last eight years living in the Mount Pleasant area, it’s central to the city and has a bit of everything, and my studio is there too. I think generally my favorite part of Vancouver is more about what’s around and outside of the city than the city itself at times. The city has most things you would expect in larger cities like Toronto, San Francisco, or Seattle: great shops food, coffee, etc. But the surrounding areas of the city, if you can take down time to explore, is where the real magic is.

This summer my partner and I will be doing some kayaking on a lake a few hours outside the city that has about 19 boat access campsites, we’re so excited! There’s a lot of nature and pristine places to check out outside the city and almost too many to see in one lifetime.

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