Alumni artist Campbell reflects on career

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Pranav Mishra and Lillian Fu

Scott Campbell graduated from Lynbrook High School close to 30 years ago, and since then has become a successful artist, working with watercolor, creating works from comics and games to gallery pieces and art for children’s books.

Sunny Li

Scott Campbell graduated from Lynbrook High School close to 30 years ago, and since then has become a successful artist. He works with watercolor and has created works from comics and games to gallery pieces and art for children’s books.

How did you develop your interest in art throughout high school?

There was one person who I can attribute to my increased excitement in the possibilities of creativity and art and that was Lee Akamichi, my art teacher at Lynbrook High School back in the early 90’s. He was such an excitable and charismatic guy, he made art class quite popular in those days! It helps when teachers get real excited about they are teaching. That excitement is contagious. He exposed us to all kinds of art materials and techniques and was quite encouraging. It was a fun time to explore.  

Who were the people who had a great influence on you, as a person and on your artwork?

Lee Akamichi was a big deal for my growth as an artist. There were a bunch friendships blossomed for me in college that opened my eyes to many different ways of seeing the world as we created books and artwork for various types of events in San Francisco. It was a wonderful time to explore who I was and why I wanted to create and what I wanted to say with my artwork. My friend and first boss at Lucas Arts, Tim Schafer, has helped me grow tremendously as an artist through the years. We started a company called Double Fine Productions together to make strange and fantastic video game worlds. His friendship and talent for storytelling were a huge influence on my art and stories. And my mom was a big influence on me. 

How did your friends and family react to your decision to pursue art as a career?

My mom always nudged me towards art. She enrolled me into art classes at a young age. She was quite creative herself, so we always knew I would get into art in some way or another. My career path has been a long and winding road from creating comics and video games to painting for gallery shows, cartoons, film, and ultimately children’s picture books. It is a wonderful time to be an illustrator. There is abundant opportunity to work in a wide variety of disciplines. When I was in school, you had to choose your specific artistic career path, book illustration, editorial, storyboarding, fine art; they were all very separate paths.  Now you have people straddling all of these worlds in wonderful ways and I think it pushes entertainment to a magnificent level. You have comic artists moving into making cartoons like Adventure Time and Steven Universe while also shifting into making video games and film and live action projects, books, and music. It really is a splendid time to be an artist.  

What challenges have you faced in your career? Have you always wanted to be a professional artist or did you realize that later?

I have always wanted to be an artist, but there was a time after college when I felt quite lost. The passion to create had drifted away from me and it was difficult for me to see the point of doing it at all. I was not sure why I should be making things and I had no real things to say with my art. I began seeing a therapist to explore this loss of motivation and started to realize that it was that uninhibited feeling of excitement I had as a child that was missing from my life. I began working with homeless children in San Francisco, painting and drawing with them on a regular basis, enjoying their stream of consciousness excitement for creating. I enjoyed listening to the wild scenarios they would create. That was very inspiring to me and helped me find my love for art again. 

What were some things that you have learned from art?

I have learned that there are ups and downs in life. When I am having a particularly hard time coming up with a concept for a new piece, the rest of my life becomes a bit of a struggle. It is a strange thing to be in those valleys and it can feel impossible to get out of, but I always get out of them eventually and that is a comforting thing. The conceptual process is my favorite part of creating. Those eureka moments are what I live for.  

What were some breakthrough moments for you?

When I was struggling with my art and passion for art, I also found myself struggling with the mediums I was using to create. I was not enjoying using gouache or acrylic or pencils; nothing excited me. The colors would get away from me and everything would just feel like a mess. It was not until I attended an art show by a fellow named Marcel Dzama that I first became intrigued by the soft pleasantness of watercolor. It has become my medium of choice for many years. I love it.

What would you say to an aspiring artist in high school?

I would just say have fun! Do not worry so much about choosing the right path because any path you take is moving in the right direction, even if you fork off onto a many different paths as you go! And keep creating! Try different things! If you hit a wall, take a step back and approach it from a whole new direction! And don’t worry about solidifying your signature style, that will come naturally as you grow as an artist.