Artist Interviews 2024

Iris Scott  
By Julia Siedenburg

Experiencing Iris Scott’s art is like being gently pulled into a magical fairytale land. Inspired by listening to bedtime stories and watching artsy movies with her family, she decided to put those dreamlike scenes from her head onto the canvas - and paint each of them with her fingers as her only paintbrush. Each image simply glows with its beautiful vibrant color and skilled lighting techniques.

From magical forest scenes and female warriors draped in the most amazing fabrics to dogs shaking their wet fur dry - this artist can do it ALL. Her Images will bring a gigantic smile to your face. You just can't help but feel light and happy while studying her work closely. It was truly love at first sight for me and her beautiful work and I do very much hope that you will feel the same way, dear reader. Please enjoy diving into the fantastical world of Iris Scott:

What does creating art make you feel personally? Is it a tool to relax and forget everything around you or rather used as an activity to both work your mind and your body equally?

It’s certainly an impulse to paint, and I’ve had this impulse since I was 7. That drive to sit down for a long stretch of time and really try to accomplish something in a visual medium that gives me some kind of natural high. The physicality of painting plays a small role, like watching TV on a treadmill, it’s harder to notice you’re being physical because your mind is so locked on what it is watching play out. 

Which artists inspired you to paint the way you do?

I was inspired by Pollock’s invention of a new painting tool. I loved how he questioned “do I even need a brush?” Thus, when I stumbled upon finger painting with oils, I thought back to Pollock, and knew it would make sense to assert myself as a fingerpainter, an inventor actually. 

Your surreal, magical works of art are glimpses of a fantastical world where harmony and peace reign. What made you want to focus the majority of your work on fairytale settings with animals as your biggest subject?

I’m a child of magical storytelling. My mom was an oral storyteller, but my sister and I also watched countless surreal movies as kids. I believed in Santa longer than anyone else in my grade, I’m proud to say. Personally I feel that the real world is already so damn magical and surreal, just to be lucky enough to be alive, looking around with eyes, standing on a planet that’s hurdling through space? Isn’t it all so insane and wonderful? And now as an adult who annually takes psychedelic trips with my close friends and husband, I find that the magical world wasn’t fantasy at all, it’s always right there all around us, just barely out of sight. Only our childlike perception of magic fades away. We are living one very trippy reality!

The aspect that blows my mind is that these pieces have NOT been drawn with a brush but with your fingers. Can you explain why you chose to use that specific painting technique?

Fingerpainting chose me. One day all my brushes were paint-stained dirty and I needed to jump to bright yellow. I needed a clean point, a fingertip, there! The yellow dab was added to the painting and in that instant an accident happened that was so provocative to me I decided in 2009 to dedicate my career to it. Fingerpainting excels at chunky impasto oil painting, so that’s where I went. I stuck to what finger-painting wanted to do, I ran with its natural strengths as a medium. 

Can you run us through your process? What kind of steps does it take to bring your ideas to life?

I love Photoshop, photography, and hunting for images to collage together on the Internet. Once my idea is flushed out with the basics of form and composition I dont really worry too much about palette, because colors can all get worked out at the painting stage. I paint from 10am to 4pm most days, it’s a job, it’s a passion, it’s my life. 

Please tell us a bit about your childhood and upbringing. What was the catalyst for your start in the arts?

Both my parents worked at home. My mom is a writer, and piano teacher, while my dad is a cabinet maker. I watched both of them practice their respective crafts day after day and I took that for normal. Once I discovered in elementary school that art made my heart sing it just made sense to try to turn that into a very serious pursuit. My parents were so good at modeling that practice is the key to success. 

One of the series I love the most is the one that shows shaking off water after a bath. Those are so wholesome, and I am in awe of all the water drop details that you created through finger painting; and as I can see on your website, they are rightfully very popular. What sparked this idea?

I was on a canoe trip down the John Day River in Oregon in 2011, with my then boyfriend, and his wonderful labrador named Jake. It was the end of the day, we were setting up camp on the riverbank, deep in the canyon, and sunlight was barely peeking over the edge of the rock wall. As the dog shook off water the droplets shooting off his back were dramatically backlit by a setting sun. The dark canyon background behind the yellow dog, coupled with the lit-up droplets was such a remarkable visual. I grabbed my camera and photographed Jake as many times as I could before we lost the light. Having recently discovered that fingerpainting was already prime for movement, texture, color, and dots, the subject of a shaking off dog was simply ideal. When I returned home from the canoe trip I painted “Shakin’ Off the Blues”, it went viral and the rest is history. 

Something that I think is so great about you is that you not only share your breathtaking art with people but also try to educate others interested in learning how you do what you do. You share insights into your process online and have posted full-length “How to finger paint “videos to teach others the same process. What inspired you to share your process in this way?

I do offer a book and some free how-to videos. I think it’s just good vibes to put that out there. While I don’t share all my secrets, I do share some because it’s a nice way to connect with other people on this planet that love making art too. 

Your work has been featured in galleries in New York City and beyond. What was it like to see your work hanging in a gallery for the first time and what tips would you give young artists who are hoping to have the same experience one day?

Yes, making it in New York was a wonderful experience. I’m very grafeful for the thumbs up I got from critic Jerry Saltz at my 2018 show, “Ritual in Pairing” in Chelsea NYC. If you can’t make it to New York and live there for a stint, at least try to go to art fairs, especially those in Miami. 

What are your plans for the future?

My plans for the future. Funny you should ask. There’s a big hand-painted sign written to myself in my studio on a large piece of paper hung above the door, it reads: “It’s so simple Iris, just make huge masterpieces…”

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