Give us an idea of your upbringing and personal history. How was Chicago growing up? Were you always involved with art?
When I was growing up, my family moved around the South Side a lot — from 90th & Escanaba, to 86th & Drexel, to 81st & Kenwood and then finally to 80th & Dante. I only discovered the North Side when I was old enough to travel around the city on my own. Going up north opened up a new world for me. I’ve been involved with art for as long I can remember. For a while, I was painting, drawing and making music, but about 10 years ago my focus shifted exclusively to visual art.
Starting with your beginnings with art, how would you describe the evolution of your work?
I’ve always been a copycat. When I was around 10 years old, I found a folder of Marvel character drawings that my dad had done. I would trace over my favorites, and eventually I started drawing my own characters. As a pre-teen, my favorite characters to draw were Dragonball Z, and then the work of Frank Morrison. By my freshman year of high school, I had started to do my own thing creatively.
Where did LA enter the picture/what was the deciding factor for that move?
I was working as a studio assistant to Hebru Brantley in Chicago, and in 2018 he decided to relocate to LA. Hebru asked if I would join him, and I accepted — I’d already been toying with the idea of leaving Chicago. Making the move as part of the Hebru Brand team was a perfect way to experience the culture and inspiration of a new city while still having some familiar faces around me.
Much of your work revolves around the female form, but lately you’ve been getting into some pop culture references. Is this a way for you to work with new techniques or are you using this time to transition into something different?
The female form has always been a huge source of inspiration for me. Portraiture and nudes have been my artistic go-to for most of my career, but at this stage, I’m ready to challenge myself. Rather than thinking of my recent shift in subject matter as a transition, I’d frame it as an addition. I’m exploring new subjects and mediums as a way to add to my skill set and become more versatile. The pop-culture references in my newer work all hold personal resonance — whether they are musicians or films, they represent formative experiences or periods in my life. Stepping outside of what I’m used to and switching up the technique at the same time allows for a little fun to be added to the learning.
You use postal stickers as your canvas for some of your work. Describe the appeal of that base for you. Do you reserve that work for quicker ideas? How/when did you start using them?
I started using postal stickers in my junior year of high school — I went on a college tour to Manhattan and saw how the street artists in the city were using them. As soon as I got back to Chicago, I ordered about 500 blank stickers. The stickers started out as me wanting to create street art without having to sneak and do it. I never truly enjoyed having to make art under the pressures and anxieties of potentially being caught … At the time, there were a few other things that I preferred to sneak off and do. Using the postal stickers gave me a way to take however much time I needed to make street art. I still do stickers, except now I sell some and put others on the street.
You also tattoo from time to time. Does this medium provide another outlet for you or does it act as more of an extension of your regular work? How did you get started with it?
I started tattooing when I got booted from college in my sophomore year. I had to go back to Chicago and live with my parents while I figured things out. I obviously had to start working since I wasn’t in school anymore, and I figured tattooing wouldn’t be too hard to pick up since I was already a decent illustrator. I remember going on YouTube and searching “how to put together a tattoo gun”. Within a week, I had bought a cheap starter kit and was practicing tattooing on myself. I found that I was good at it, I enjoyed the process, and it brought in a decent amount of money. I worked in a shop in Chicago for a few years, but at the moment I only tattoo by request, for friends and family. Tattooing is certainly another outlet for me — I enjoy creating unique designs that marry my aesthetic with my clients’ visions. In the future, I’d love to open up a private tattoo studio.
What does your process look like from start to finish? Walk us through from the inception of an idea to when you know a piece is finished.
My process varies. I don’t always have an idea or a concept of what I’m going to do. I like to start with whatever resonates or is aesthetically pleasing to me and then conceptualize later.
Are you someone who pulls references or looks to outside sources for inspiration? Where do you find yourself looking for that kind of stuff?
I’ve always been strongly attracted to realism portraiture work, so I usually reference photographs. I wouldn’t say that I go looking for references so much as they find me. Visual inspiration is everywhere — Instagram, movies, magazines. When something catches my eye, I make a note of it — in my phone, a notebook, whatever — so I can come back later.
Outside of possible references, what else are you consuming?
Every so often, I put on a podcast or crack open an art reference book. Recently I’ve been reading The Renaissance Nude.
Do you have a dedicated space when you’re working? If so, describe that. If not, describe the space where the majority of your work is done. What are your “must-haves” for a productive day? (items, music, etc.)
I work from home right now. I always set up in my living room, right in front of the TV. I need background noise while I work, so I’ll throw on a show or movie that I’ve already seen, or occasionally, some music — it just depends on how I’m feeling.
What does the future look like for you, both short and long-term? Any plans/goals in particular?
Currently, my goal is to keep exploring new techniques. I want to push myself while still keeping things fun. I’d really like to paint more murals — LA has such a great street art tradition and I would love to contribute to that. Eventually, my goal is to own a space that functions as a hybrid art/tattoo studio.
Select pieces from Troy Scat are available now.