Scott Listfield is known for his paintings featuring a lone exploratory astronaut lost in a landscape cluttered with pop culture icons, corporate logos, and tongue-in-cheek science fiction references. His astronauts from the past visiting the present are funny, smart, and beautifully painted… a perfect combination. Get to know him better in our interview below.
Hi Scott! To begin, please tell us about the work we are featuring in Papirmass.
This piece is part of an ongoing series wherein I paint astronauts wandering around looking at stuff. That might sound pretty boring, but it allows to spend a lot of time thinking about our ideas of the future, largely from science fiction of the 60’s and 70’s which often described the 21st century as either some kind of space age utopia, or an apocalyptic wasteland. I also spend a lot of time thinking about our relationship to technology and to nature, both of which seem to be at kind of a tipping point right now. You could say that’s what this particular painting is about.
What is your typical day like?
Oh my god it’s boring. I wake up and walk my dog. I paint. I eat lunch. I paint. I eat dinner. I paint some more. I watch a nature special and fall asleep. If you’re looking for someone to glamorize the life of an artist, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
What themes or issues do you address in your work?
Astronauts, mostly. Also sometimes dinosaurs. If I had to summarize it, I’d say that I spend a lot of time thinking about the science fiction I watched when I was young, and the future I thought I’d grow up into. And then I look around at the future we’re in.
Describe your studio space or where you work:
I have a dedicated studio space in my house. It’s a room with a fake floor and plastic on the walls so I don’t make too much of a mess. My wife calls it my ‘Dexter’ room. Just for the record, I don’t murder anybody there, I just make paintings.
What do you love about your studio/workspace?
It’s mine. Everything is where I want it to be. I don’t need much in the way of equipment to make my work, I don’t even require a ton of space. Just enough to hang a canvas and to step back a few feet from it. What makes it special is that it’s mine. I can walk in there and feel comfortable, I can make paintings without any friction. When you need to make a lot of paintings, as I occasionally do, that’s pretty important.
How has your practice changed over time?
This is going to sound super boring, but I’ve worked really hard to be more efficient in the studio. When I started, I’d fart around and redo things a bunch of times, and before I knew it, months would pass and I’d still be working on the same painting. For most of my art career, I also worked full time, so it was important to maximize the time I had to dedicate to painting. Once I started to get some shows and needed to paint more, it became even more important. Even now that I’m a full time painter, I still try to find any way I can to produce more work without cutting any corners.
What challenged you the most at the start of your career?
It took me a good five years to figure out how to balance working full time and painting. It was very slow going for a while, and I felt very much on my own. Now, though, I’ve met so many other artists and figured so many things out. But I’m not sure I could have done it if I hadn’t just slogged through it myself at the beginning of my art career.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
This sounds overly simplistic but there’s really 3 or 4 things you absolutely need to do as an artist.
1) Make work. That sounds stupid and obvious, but if you have fears or doubts about your work, or if you’re not making as much as you’d like – and let’s be real, nobody is ever making as much as they’d like – you need to push through that. Keep going. Set ridiculous goals, then meet them. You’ll need to work hard. Very hard. But that shouldn’t be something you’re worried about. Be excited by it.
2) Get your work out there! We live in amazing times. You can find an audience for your work through social media. Previous generations could never imagine something like that! If you make something interesting, people will find it online. Don’t worry about selling, or impressing galleries, or whatever. That will come. Just find people who like what you do.
3) Make friends. Some people will call this networking. And it is, but it’s also just making friends. In real life, online, whatever. Find other artists you admire. Follow them, friend them, like their posts, send them hearts or stars or emoji cats or whatever. Attend their openings when you can. Build a community. Be part of a community.
None of these things bring guaranteed success, and you’ll probably need to do them for a while. But you’re trying to build a career, aren’t you?
If you could change one aspect of our society through your work, what would it be?
I realize this sounds pretty much exactly like Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, but I think we’re often too busy looking to the future, rarely stopping to appreciate what is happening right now. I mean, I do it, too. But I’d like to think my work highlights the strange, interesting, stupid, and wonderful things that are going on all the time, which we too often look past, forget, or ignore.
What in the world do you find most mysterious?
Scott Listfield is our November 2016 artist.
See more at www.astronautdinosaur.com