Dollar and a Dream: Scott McCurdy

March 13, 2019


is the kind of artist who just seems to have it. That kind of talent that makes his work look natural and effortless- a style that’s instantly recognizable. After following Scott’s artwork via his Instagram account for the last year or so, we finally pulled the trigger on commissioning him for a new tee shirt graphic. We released that collection at the end of last week, and it seems only right to follow up by getting to know more about the man behind the illustrations. All of you aspiring artists out there- this one’s for you.

Let’s start off with a brief bio: who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?

My name’s Scott McCurdy, I’m from Manchester, NH, and I’m an Illustrator.

How long have you been drawing for?

As long as I can remember. My grandfather was a talented artist so I would always see his work when I was younger. I have some drawings from when I was 3 or 4 years old that my parent kept. I used to draw Disney VHS tapes. I would pick characters and draw them on big pieces of cardboard. That’s probably the furthest I can look back. And actually, I was kind of impressed with how accurate I was with color.

So you could tell pretty early on that it was going to be a part of you?

Yeah, it was definitely natural.

Nice. What kind of stuff did he (your grandfather) do? Was it commission work, or illustration…

Well see, he didn’t even sell his work or anything. He just painted as a hobby, but he was unbelievable. He was a landscape painter-- wasn’t that good with portraits. He had done one of his father but actually had someone else paint the face for him. Other than that though they were beautiful paintings. It was clear that he was very talented.

How would you describe your style of illustration?

It’s kind of tough to put a name on it. It’s still developing itself as I continue to observe and be influenced by skateboarding and snowboarding. Usually it has that kind of commercial aspect along with some witty or funny type of work. I mean, I used to focus a bit more on just testing my skills to see how I could push it with portraits and things like that. I can do some realistic work, and sometimes I’ll do that just to remind myself that I can, but I enjoy the pen work the most because I can do it confidently and it usually ends up coming out looking like my specific style.

It’s almost the style of like a classic comic illustrator. Like a less vulgar R. Crumb.

Yeah, and I’ve always focused on characters. There’s always been some kind of face or cartoon. Then, even when I’m getting away from that, I’ll still use that pen, comic, sharp, bold line style.

So going off of that a bit, there’s obviously a ton of artist/illustrators out there and one thing that a lot of them struggle with is developing a unique style. When I look at your work though, I can definitely identify it as yours. I see the style coming through. I guess what I’m wondering is, do you have any tips or advice that you’d be able to offer somebody who’s trying to develop a style and come into their own in that regard?

I would say, just be confident in your marks and the work you’re trying to do. Don’t force it. Also, looking at other artwork is really the only way to find something new or something that you find interesting. For instance, there’s Jamie Brown who does a lot with puns and that witty drinking/beach style stuff. I’d seen that a couple of years back and thought, “wow, I kind of like that. I like the palm tree feel, I like the beach style.” After that I took it in the direction that I felt comfortable taking it in, instead of trying to actually copy it and pretend that it was my own.

Yeah, so it’s almost just observing art that’s out there, taking different pieces, and then gathering them into your own.

Right, because then when you put it all on paper it’s not going to look like their work. It’s going to look like your work because you’re taking the stuff that you enjoy. So really, you’re developing it without even realizing. The more you do it, the more you’ll find out what works and what process is easy for you. Then it’s going to become consistent.

Set the scene for us: when you sit down to knock a piece out, what do you need to have? Are you in your studio with a whole bunch of art supplies, are you on the fly, maybe out in nature somewhere… what’re you up to?

It’s pretty loose. It depends where I am, but I usually just have a spot at like a kitchen table or something. Then I’ve got this one bag with my supplies and I’ll just sit down, get on my laptop, and just start getting themes and ideas. Usually when I’m doing a project that’s for someone else, it can take a while ifI can’t figure out exactly how to nail it right away and it ends up being a lot of trial and error. Most work I’ll sit down and try to finish in one take though.

"Just be confident in your marks and the work you’re trying to do. Don’t force it."

Yeah I mean, art in general and illustration in particular can be hard to produce if the focus is purely financial. What kind of balance do you have between drawing for fun and drawing for commissions?

The work is pretty consistent, so I usually always have something that I should be focusing on. It can get a little bit exhausting when I put too much pressure on myself to get something done quick, but that’s why I’ll put it aside for a while and do something that I want to do. Mostly so I can just enjoy drawing again. Sometimes it’ll feel just a little too forced and then I’m not enjoying it anymore and in turn you would see it in the work. So I will give it a break sometimes and then just do something that I think is funny or just something fun to look at that I can put on Instagram.

Kind of just as a refresher.

Yeah, so the work can get a bit of attention and I can remind myself that people are still looking at it’s like, “ok, I’m still doing it right.”

When did you start getting serious about selling your artwork and doing commissions?

It started happening slowly on it’s own. I switched my major as a Junior to drawing from business. I knew that I was good at it and I just figured I didn’t really need to take classes. Then once I did, I started appreciating artwork a lot more and I started learning a lot. Once I started finding the type of work that I actually wanted to do and people recognized that, they started asking me to do something little like a tee shirt and I thought it was a really big deal at the time. Then after that more and more people started asking for work. Probably about a year and a half ago, maybe two years ago is when I first started thinking I could make a career out of it, and then maybe a little over a year ago is when I decided that I was going to spend as much time as I can trying to go for it.

Are there any particular commissioned pieces that you’re most proud of?

I did the artwork for Superpark this year for Snowboarder Mag. It was a tough project, I was honestly pretty scared of it coming out. When I had a meeting with Pat Bridges, he wanted to do this Animal House style graphic. He had me come out to meet him to figure out who was going to be in it and all of the sudden he’s giving me 17-19 names that he wanted me to make into cartoon characters. He had a cardboard box just stacked with Snowboarder magazines that he was just flipping open and saying, “this guy right here.” He’d put a sticky note on the page and throw it back into the box. He goes, “I’m pretty excited about this,” then gives me this box. I was just thinking, “Holy shit. I haven’t actually ever done this before,” so I was terrified though. Then once it was done I was like, “damn, I just did that.”

Knocked out 19 caricatures.

It was something ridiculous like that. I’d never really approached a project like that before. It was close to 30 hours or something like that.

I imagine you learned a thing or two from that one.

Oh absolutely. I definitely could tackle a poster like that again and I’d approach it a little differently. I’d have more confidence. I was pretty scared, especially because they were all professional snowboarders that I look up to.

And you had to make it look like that person.

Right, because they were going to see it too. So there was even more pressure to nail all of them.

Did you get any props from some of them? (Asked by Ryan Bent)

Yeah for sure. It was used on a lot of platforms, it was on the credentials, it was on the checks for the winners, and the registration poster which was huge. Everyone got to see it and I got to talk to a few people about it. It was kind of funny though, walking by while people were looking at it and being like, “who is that supposed to be?” I definitely didn’t always claim that it was my work though. Especially when that would happen, I’d just keep walking.

Let’s talk real quick about the designs you’ve done for Hemetic here. With this flag design we came to you with an idea and you transformed it into an illustration that’s exactly what we were imagining. Is it usually pretty easy for you to get an idea of what your client wants, or is there usually a bit of a discovery and research process for you?

Well, working on this was honestly one of the easier ones that I’ve had to do in a while because you came to me with an idea and you had a little bit of a drawing. Even with that little sketch that you showed me- this is what I thought of from seeing that. So even just something little like that helps a lot with the process because I can sit down, I can map it out pretty much like what you showed me, and then just go into my details. Other times though, people will come to me and say they want a logo or a shirt graphic and give me a super rough idea. They’ll say stuff like, “I honestly don’t know what I want, I just want you to run with it.” That’s just not that easy. I could go anywhere with it and you could just say no. You could be bummed on it. So when it comes to work like this where it’s already mapped out, I can usually get it the first try. I’ll just sit down and try to take care of it the way that I want to. Other times, I end up with a page full of sketches that I’ll send to the client and have to wait to hear back. Then we’ll narrow it down, pick one, and start going into the final process.

I mean, you did this really quickly. This was probably about a week and a half, two weeks maybe in turnaround time.

Yeah, and I was excited about it to begin with. Going into a project that I’m stoked on is much easier. I wanted to see it get finished so I sat down and just wanted to get it done.

Cool man, I’m definitely pumped on it. We’re excited to get that onto some tee shirts and koozies for the Fall here.

So what else is coming up for you here? Any big plans for the winter?

Well, I just got back (from the West Coast) about two months ago, and I’ve had all of this work so I’ve been focusing on that and not really focusing on what happens next. But, I need to figure out a place to live. Possibly someplace down in Portsmouth, NH or maybe even up here (Burlington, VT). So that’s the next thing I guess, is just figuring out where I’d like to go and lock myself into for a little while.

It seems like you’ve made enough connections now that you can kind of just do your thing, and people will get in touch…

Yeah, I can hop around a bit. It’s nice but I don’t want to be living back at home for too much longer. Honestly I am a little bit more productive when I’m out on my own and forced to do work. Being at home it gets kind of easy to just go through the motions.

Right, when you’re out on your own your back will be against the wall and you’ll think, “Damn, I need to make some money.”

Yeah, exactly. Then I’ll start to take more care of it.

Cool. So, for anyone who wants to check out your work or get in touch with you about some commission pieces, where can they do that?

A lot of people contact me on Instagram, then also Facebook and via Email.

Sounds perfect. Well thanks for doing this interview with us and I’m pumped to get these tee shirts out!

Yeah man, thanks!

Further Reading