Scott Soeder: Inside My Art — A Passion For Illustration
With Professional Illustrator, Scott Soeder
As far back as I can remember I have been into art and participating in its creation.
I’m from Louisville, Kentucky. Growing up I enjoyed the Sunday Comics, my favorite at the time being Peanuts. Like most kids from that time, I was also a connoisseur of Saturday Morning cartoons– particularly old Warner Brothers ones. I would draw all the time and it became my way to keep myself occupied. When I was riding in the car, I was drawing. When I had to go to my sister’s dance classes, I drew. Among my friends and elementary school classmates I had a reputation as a “good draw-er”. I got a couple of art ribbons and a really sweet dot matrix print out for being “Most Talented” which I still have! When I was still just a kid, a neighbor hired me to recreate a larger scale ink drawing of her family’s coat of arms. She belonged to a group of people who could trace their lineage directly to an individual from the Mayflower. The art was needed to make a reproduction for something I don’t remember, but the original hung in her house in her living room. I remember feeling great earning money for my art and honored that she had it hanging in her home.
At a very young age I knew I wanted to be an artist or musician. Being either one of those is probably not a straight, well-known path, and being in Kentucky likely didn’t make it any easier. In high school my guidance counselor told me he had no doubt that I was cut out to be an artist, but didn’t have any idea what to do with me. Already I had kind of viewed myself as a misfit and I kind of floated around a bit. I worked odd jobs, played in a band and had a small business painting murals and doing art commissions. I was interested in animation, comics, children’s books and commercial applications of art much more so than cathartic oil paintings. College was something I really wanted to do. I would be the first in my family to attend college and it was important to me. I came very close to going to Savannah College of Art and Design majoring in computer animation and sequential art. Instead I went to the Hite Art Institute at the University of Louisville majoring in Communication Art and Design. I also took life drawing and airbrushing classes on my own.
While still in college I got a job as a graphic designer and I worked doing design for 10 years. Two years ago I went full-time as an independent artist working in the children’s market and occasionally for bands. Which is a pretty unique mix I suppose, but seems very natural to me. I mean, how cool would it have been if Dr. Seuss had done some artwork for the Beatles? Crazy awesome.
Illustration has a lot of attractive elements to me! Illustration is visual language. I’m putting things into my art that communicates something about the subject matter and also about me. I love to laugh and I’m kind of a goofball. I’m a certified SCUBA diver with a keen interest in sharks, I love music, and I like working with kids and inspiring them to draw. I think that comes through in my work. As kids before we have full command of language, we draw. All kids do it. They are illustrating. They are communicating and expressing thoughts and ideas they don’t have the vocabulary for yet. Then when the verbal part catches up, the crayons sit idle. Kids stop drawing.
I think the world needs image makers. As the world becomes more global through modern travel and communication technology, the ability to communicate with others who don’t speak the same language is needed. Images have the ability to communicate without words. Images let others into your thoughts and ideas in a way that words can’t. Drawing is a great skill to have and one that I think should be fostered in kids–or anyone really–whether they want to be an artist or not. I’d like to see more kids drawing. I visit schools and encourage it. For sure an attractive element of being an illustrator is that I’m invited to schools to work with kids and encourage them to draw. Another is I enjoy the work! Although it can be frustrating, tedious, time-consuming, etc. And I get to work with people and companies I admire like Highlights for Children and the band 311.
My Artistic Process, From Idea to Completion:
I work with both traditional and digital tools. Everything starts with pencil and paper. You can’t beat pencil and paper! It is really hard to pin down where an idea comes from because it seems they can come from anywhere at anytime. I usually have a sketchbook with me and I will jot down an idea or just doodle when I have downtime. I have three kids now so there are book clubs and karate classes, etc. I often use that time in the waiting area to doodle. A piece starts as a loose rough doodle in my sketchbook, progresses into a more refined sketch, then some color work in markers, ink or colored pencils and scanned in to the computer. Then the art is redrawn and colored digitally. The work done outside the computer helps me plan the piece so by the time I am working digitally I have a good idea of where I am going with it. Sometimes when the timeline is tight, I will sketch digitally and print out the sketch and do some analog color work to plan. Then I can take that digital sketch to work from and know where I am going with color. Sometimes all the digital color palettes, brushes, interfaces, bell and whistles can get in the way and slow me down. Working traditionally can quiet my mind and help me focus on the art. I can work from a few days to several weeks on a piece.
Overall, my style comes from an amalgamation of my influences and interests over time. And a whole lot of work!
Music/Entertainment as a Focal Point:
I love music and it is a big influence in my life now and when I was growing up. In the home I grew up in we had this stereo which was a big piece of furniture that looked like a buffet table. It was wooden with built-in speakers with a lid you lifted to reveal a turntable and tuner. I would sit in front of it staring into the gold mesh of the speakers and listen to music. The music came out of it and seemed to go right into my body, not just my ears. I can distinctly remember hearing Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust” playing on the stereo although I couldn’t name the band at the time. But I remember the goose bumps. I thought how are they DOING that? What is making that sound?
When bands would be on TV I would watch them intently. One time KISS was on and I saw Peter Criss (the drummer) and I thought that’s what I want to do! I remember thinking he was in charge of it. After all, it looked like he was sitting behind a giant machine on a stage a little higher that everyone else. I begged and begged for a drum kit. My dad got me one for my birthday and I started teaching myself to play. I was 10 years old. I had already formed an interest in art through Peanuts comics and Warner Brothers cartoons as I mentioned before. My dad jokes that I all needed when I was a kid were pencils and drumsticks. So music is in my art because it is a part of my life, something I love, admire and find interesting. It feels natural. I listen to music often while I’m working and sometimes will sketch a musician that I’m listening to in order to warm up and get ready to work.
My art has been featured on local art association websites, design blogs, websites of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Dribbble, and AIGA. I have worked with local Louisville bands, 311 and Lake Street Dive. 311 and Lake Street Dive are two of my faves that I listen to often. I would love to work with Foo Fighters, Motley Crue, G. Love and Special Sauce, and Rival Sons which are some other faves of mine. Recently I discovered a band called Wolf Alice who are excellent. So I’ll add them to my list as well.
Where You Can Find Me:
I can be found online at scottsoeder.com. I’m fairly active on social media via Twitter [@scottsoederart], Instagram [@scottsoeder] and Facebook [@scottmakesart]. I’m working on adding a YouTube channel to that mix, where I can take people inside my studio, show my work in progress, and ramble on about art, music and life. And I can be found in person most likely at a 311 concert. Or someplace that serves Mexican food.