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SAS Interview by Mike Hicks

Q and A with Mike Hicks of Art In the Vault. Scott Andrew Spencer
April 20 2006

a/v: Give us a little background: Where were you born? Where have you lived?
Scott Spencer: I was born in Santa Monica, California, and haven't strayed too far since. I grew up in Huntington Beach, bounced around Orange County for awhile, and have been living in Los Angeles since 1996. I love it here and probably won't ever leave. I would like another place to paint, though. If I can get myself another studio someday, I'll probably buy a property someplace rural, away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
a/v: You had a serious brush with cancer. Explain how this experience affected you as an artist.
SS: Yes, I had cancer in my mouth and surgery to remove a good portion of my tongue, a salivary gland and all of the lymph nodes on my left side. I'm fortunate to have regained my speech. I had trouble with Ss and Ts for a while . . . still do when I get a few beers in me. My cancer actually started my career as an artist. It helped me realize that our time hear on Earth is ephemeral and not to be taken for granted. Up until then, I wasted a great deal of time and didn't have much direction. It was a gift. I really didn't have a say in the matter. It just happened. Something deep inside me had something to say and decided to express itself. I started painting right after recovering and fell in love with it. It's my one true thing. And my paintings will outlive me . . . that's kind of cool.
a/v: You are a prolific painter and you work quickly. I guess you're not troubled by the “painters' block” that frustrates many artists.
SS: Now I am. I had no idea such a thing existed until you just mentioned it. I'm afraid to even look at the canvas now . . . I'm kidding, of course. One of my first artist statements (I'm diametrically opposed to these things, by the way) went something like this: "The self-taught artist has the greatest chance to be unique. Without knowledge of 'rules' to hinder the hand or an instructor's style to imitate, what results is pure--entirely his own." In other words, what you don't know can't hurt you.
I paint fast and often and easily "lose" myself in the moment. I have no apprehension or knowledge of "painters' block" because I primarily paint abstraction and seldom start a piece with intent pictorially. I trust in the knowledge that the time spent out on the balcony with my brushes will be worthwhile. Even the ugliest painting can become beautiful when given a second chance. Let it dry, scrape it off, some of it, all of it, whatever, anything goes. Painting is the freest form of expression I've found to date.
a/v: What puts you in the mood to paint?
SS: Anything can make me want to paint: an interesting object, a sound, a feeling, a pretty girl, and a pretty boy. Basically, I always want to paint and will pretty much make up any excuse imaginable to make time for it. It's normal for me--what I do more than anything else--so actually it's the other way around; I need something interesting to come along and put me in the mood to get away from it. Otherwise I'll just keep painting.
a/v: Certainly you must rate the success and quality of each painting when you have finished it. How do you know when you have created an extraordinary painting.
SS: That's a tough one. My favorites, I've found, aren't necessarily the ones that other people like. Each painting is independent and must have something going for it in order for me to sign it. I think my most extraordinary paintings are still to come.
a/v: I guess I was a little shocked when I discovered that you almost went pro as a golfer. I just don't equate the game of the privileged class with the outside-of-the-boundaries labor of the artist. Is there a connection for you between these two seemingly disparate activities?
SS: I did play as a professional for one year. I wanted to play golf for a living or not at all, though. I could shoot par or better on occasion, but I couldn't keep up with the guys that were shooting 64s and 65s. So I quit. I haven't golfed in over ten years. Art is my golf now. Maybe I'll try for the senior tour somewhere down the road if I get the itch again.
In golf, I was always looking for a "key", one thing I could do that would always work. I was technical, analytical and always tinkering with my swing. I know now that there are no "keys" in golf, or in life for that matter.
a/v: What should I do to improve my short game?
SS: The short game is just like using the driver or hitting the midirons, just closer to the hole.
a/v: Why are you a painter? Why not a sculptor or a photographer or a performance artist?
SS: I intend to sculpt later on in life. For the time being, I have space issues and can't imagine having as many sculptures lying around the house as I do paintings. Sculptures are hard to stack.
a/v: What is your favorite gallery or museum in Los Angeles?
SS: I like Chac-Mool on Melrose. It's kind of stuffy, but they show great art. Manny Silverman and Don O'Melveny Gallery are nice, too.
a/v: If you could sit down and have a drink with any artist, past or present, whom would you choose? What would you order to drink?
SS: Margaritas with Henri Matisse. Beer with Constantin Brancusi or Max Beckmann. Hot totties with David Hockney or Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Actually, I'd probably enjoy and benefit most from a drinking binge with Francis Bacon. That guy was so wacked, he'd be certain to make me feel "normal". Rumor has it he despised his father but desired him sexually. Talk about sick and twisted.
a/v: There are those who claim that painting is dead and that such mediums as video, power-point, and installation are what matters these days. As a painter, what do you say to these critics?
SS: Hogwash. We can't all be lazy bastards. Just because there's a simpler way to do something doesn't mean that it's correct or more viable.

 SAS Interview by Mike Hicks   Q and A with Mike Hicks of Art In the Vault.

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