An Interview with Scott Campbell

by Jason JaworskiPosted on

Scott Campbell is one of those artists whose work instantly feels familiar. A nostalgic vein runs through each piece and painting he creates, connecting each viewer directly to each color, shade and character. Proficient in a multitude of styles, Campbell has taken many from the multitude and adapted and formed an amalgam of many to create a style all his own, his most familiar works being his watercolor pieces.

His work is similar to that perfect pop song, the one you can’t stop listening to and singing; and at moments quiet, further and future depths come through in each melody, chord and key from every painting and piece he creates. He’s also an all-around stand-up guy with amazing BBQ recipes.I took a moment to sit down and talk with him about his upcoming Great Showdowns show at Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles on February 4th. Here is the result of our conversation. – Jason Jaworski

Jason Jaworski: Let’s start with the beginning- what was the genesis of the Great Showdowns Project, how did this all begin?

Scott Campbell: I painted the first 10 showdowns for an exhibit at Gallery 1988 in LA called Crazy 4 Cult in 2007. A cult movie themed show. When I researched the films that influenced me, I relived pivotal moments that stuck with me. So I wanted to just pull out certain scenes that had an awesome tension happening. To look at the characters involved and see them enjoying themselves in this situation. If they are all smiling, then perhaps we can see the situation as a character itself! I get excited when I think about those scenes so I feel like the characters involved must also get excited with me. Some might be obvious, like Johnny and Daniel in Karate Kid, but then some might not be as obvious like Cool Hand Luke versus a bunch of little hard boiled eggs with smiling faces on them. That was the memorable part of that movie for me. Paul Newman versus the eggs!

Jason: It seems that the great attraction to each piece lies in their nostalgia factor, and I was wondering if this was your attraction to making them- revisiting and reinterpreting those moments from movies that you love in your own style.

Scott: Oh, man. Going back and looking at these movies again is my favorite part. I am always reminded of the feelings I had when I first saw them, what was happening with me at the time. I used to watch movies over and over, hundreds of times when I was younger, so things were ingrained deep into my person. For me, doing these showdowns is like making the ultimate movie mix tape. And choosing the best moments is like creating the set-list. Some songs might be appropriate, but other would hit better. Perhaps.

Jason: How do you end up choosing which showdowns to do? Is there a great Great Showdowns list, or do you just sit down and start painting the first images from a film that come into your head?

Scott: I have a GREAT LIST of movies I would like to do and I keep adding to it all the time. I like talking to people about it because usually it becomes a fun activity to reminisce and come up with movies that should be done. There are many that I either need to watch again or that people suggest that I need to watch. I choose movies that I like and that have had some sort of cultural impact. And the moments I paint are usually just the most interesting seeming to me in some way. Like in Zoolander, the walk off would make a lot of sense, but the gas station scene is my favorite scene.

Jason: Do you keep a certain schedule in producing a Great Showdowns piece? How often are you working on them and what is the process you go through in creating each piece after choosing a scene to recreate?

Scott: I have this sweet conveyor belt technique that I have developed for myself. I like to see a bunch going at once at the same pace. So I usually gather reference for around 30 different movies and scenes. I am pretty addicted to the reference portion because I like to reacquaint myself with the movies. I print out all the reference and go to the café in the morning and doodle from each movie. Usually an hour or so, and then I return home and scan everything. The drawing part usually takes a few mornings for all 20 or 30. Then I compose everything in photoshop and print all of the showdown drawings out at once and trace them onto the watercolor paper. That usually takes a night or two. I paint them in a day or two, bringing them all up at the same pace. Lay in all the skin tones, then all the colors, then all the lines, and finishing with popping the values and signing my signatures on all of them. Conveyor belt. Or maybe it’s an assembly line. That might be a more accurate name? I don’t know. But that’s it! That’s the super interesting way it goes!

Jason: Is that the same process you use for your other paintings, or is it much more different?

Scott: That’s pretty much how it goes every time. If it’s a big detailed painting with a bunch of characters, I will scan a bunch of little sketches into photoshop and compose the big scene. It usually happens like this! Almost every single time. Super predictable.

Jason: The response to the showdowns seems incredible, everyone I’ve talked to about the project seems to love it and I was wondering what your reaction to the reception has been? Have any of the responses to certain showdowns surprised you at all? Which showdowns seem to be getting the most reaction out of your fans?

Scott: Yeah, I’ve been super happy about them making people happy! Nostalgia like this totally gets people pumped. The amazing thing that I have noticed is that there is always at least one person who says any given movie is their absolute favorite. And that is just so crazy to me. Every movie has someone who loves it so much. And when you see the movie that you love, you can get behind it and rally for it. Get everyone excited about it. “You haven’t seen that movie? Goddamn, you gotta see that movie. You’re so crazy for not seeing that movie.” But a few of the movies have huge followings and it is obvious from the responses to those. Like Office Space. That’s one of the few that I have done two showdowns for and both got huge amounts of love. People also love ones like The Princess Bride and Beetlejuice and Young Frankenstein. I didn’t realize some of them had such followings, but they do. I also get excited when people comment that they are going to go re-watch that movie right now! It’s fun to watch. I like seeing people get happy when they figure them out. It’s a thing I dig, of course. Happy everyone.-

You can find more work by Scott Campbell on his blog here –, and a growing collection of all of his Great Showdowns pieces here –

Interviewer Jason Jaworski’s found photos, spontaneous poetry and underwear antics can be found here –

Comments are closed.