Texas native Scott Wade produces his unique images formed in dust in a way that few could. With his love of art being linked to his father being a cartoonist, and his curiosity to create imagery from the dust of his hometown he has developed a style all his own.
What was it like growing up in Texas? What did you love most about that?
I’m an Air Force brat, and moved a few times when I was very young, but was lucky enough to be at the Air Force Academy from age 5 – 13. That was a real treat, living in the foothills of the rampart range of the Rockies, camping, backpacking, skiing, climbing. I moved to Texas at age 13 in June, and thought I’d moved to Hell. But it wasn’t long before I fell in love with the amazing Texas Hill Country, which I’ve called home ever since.
Do you think your father being a cartoonist himself encouraged you to pursue what you do? What would you say is the most important thing you learned from him?
My dad was definitely an influence, but despite our mutual love of cartooning, as an artist, I’m very different. My dad had this beautiful, flowing hand. His penmanship was a work of art, and his drawing was effortless. I’ve tried to develop that, but have never come close. I’ve had more training and been exposed to more fine art technique, but I still envy my dad his incredible gift.
Who are some of your influences?
I’ve had so many influences it’s hard to name. I’m continually influenced by everything I see. I love many of the impressionists, a lot of indigenous art, many Renaissance artists- Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Romantics, like Waterhouse. I’m a huge Andy Goldsworthy fan. I try to appreciate everything- I fail sometimes. Not generally a big fan of purely conceptual art; I want art to affect me viscerally, and while intellectual stimulation is fine, it’s just not enough for me. Art speaks in its own language, so if it can really be said in an essay, maybe it should just be said in an essay.
Is it easier to work with the dust of your native area than in other places? Which dust seems to work best?
I love the dust that comes from the dirt roads in the Hill Country. It is known as road base, or caliche, as the locals sometimes call it. Crushed limestone gravel and clay; it makes a fine dust that billows up behind vehicles on dry days that coat the rear windows with fine layers that make a wonderful “canvas.” I lived for 20 years on a mile and a half of the stuff, and the cars were always dirty. nowadays, I generally prep vehicles for events with a light coating of oil to make the dust stick, then blow a finely powdered mineral (usually a clay or other mineral purchased at a ceramic supply) with a blow dryer to simulate the “natural canvas.” One can’t always count on dry roads and dirty cars…
When did you first get the idea to start creating such complicated pieces of art?
I had often drawn funny faces with my fingers on our constantly dirty car windows. Over time, I became curious about trying to get some variation in the line and possible some shading. I began to use sticks I’d pick up off the ground, and brush lightly with the pads of my fingers for shading. The ah ha moment came when I had a chewed up popsicle stick in my mouth and pulled it out, looked at it, and tried using it like a brush. It was very cool. I went into my studio, grabbed my brushes, and started experimenting. This was about 2005. The first piece I did was “Mona Lisa/Starry night,” which proved to me that this was a medium with great possibility.
Did it take a while to get the hang of the brushes? What actually goes into creating one of your pieces?
It did take a lot of experimenting with the brushes and other tools to gain some mastery. You’re removing the light dust to reveal the dark shadow inside the car. It takes a very light touch to achieve some of the lighter values, and a lot of control for gradients. My process is usually to “pencil in” the basic layout with a sharpened stick. I typically work top to bottom, since the dust falls downward. I use a selection of fan brushes, but often start with a light, 2” – 3” brush for “blocking in” the basic darker areas. I sometimes use a big, soft stipple brush for skies, when there’s a landscape in the image. As the piece is nearing completion, I’m refining the shadows. Dust is filling in the previously worked areas as work is continuing, so that gives me a chance near the end to refine lines, deepen shadows, and basically achieve more value range, and more or less fine-tune the image.
Is there any particular way to preserve your work?
No. On the cars I prefer to keep the work impermanent and let the rain wash the image away. I have done a few pieces that are more permanent, a couple on glass with another piece of glass in front, inside a frame, and one on a car door we got from the junk yard, for a gallery piece to support the Texas Breastfeeding Coalition. But the transience of this art form has helped me to understand how to appreciate and let go, to see life as an ever-changing journey. And that the length of time an artwork exists, doesn’t have anything to do with it’s quality.
Do you enjoy seeing people’s reactions to what you do?
Oh yes very much! Of course, my wife, Robin, gets to see most of those, as I’m usually focused on the work. But It is very fun to talk with folks about the work whenever I’m creating the pieces in public, and the reactions are almost always very positive. With the exceptions of a handful of grumpy older folks, it is all smiles.
How does it feel to be doing something you love?
Personally, I hate it. Just kidding, who doesn’t like to do what turns you on? There are things about doing the work commercially or in public that can be stressful or just not fun, but mostly, it’s a blast.
Which pieces have been your favorites so far?
The next one. Always my answer to this question (thanks, Frank Lloyd Wright). But there are some I’ve done that I really like. Laurel and Hardy, Hylas and the Nymphs, The Marx Brothers, Desert Dust, Steven and Albert, Food…those are some of my favorites.
Do you have any dream projects you’d most like to create?
Yes; I want to do this on an office building, or some building with huge amounts of glass. Like a 40 stories tall dirt drawing. That would be very cool. And maybe a scene from a new movie on the limousine that’s dropping of the stars at the premiere?
Are there any little known things about you that your fans might be surprised to learn?
I know some folks think this is my main gig, and have seen many comments for years, to the effect that I must have too much time on my hands to be doing this. Actually, I have a full time job as the Senior GUI Designer at a company in San Antonio; I play a few times a month in various bands- been a bar band drummer for 40 years; and I design sets for my local community theatre. I have 2 cats, a dog, a wife, and a 21 year old daughter. So there (smiles).
What would say is key to a life well lived?
Love as much as you can. Do what you’re inspired to do. Have fun, but be aware of others. Do your best.
Is there anything you’d like to say before you go?
Thanks for your interest and support. All the best to you and your readers!
For more on the works of Scott Wade please see: Scott Wade’s Dirty Car Art: Dirt Is Beautiful.