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Breaking the fourth wall

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Since early childhood, local concept artist and Fairport native Andrew Scott has nurtured an inescapable urge to create.

“I was the art kid in school,” he says, grinning. “I would run straight into my room [after coming home] and immediately start to draw.”

However, as he got older, Scott shifted his focus to more practical applications of art. In 2013, he graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) with a bachelor’s degree in advertising. He went on to hold various copywriting positions for local agencies. While Scott enjoyed these formative experiences and learned many lessons, he never lost sight of his primary passion: drawing.

One day, after a long absence from the craft, Scott decided to find a way to reintegrate drawing into his life. “It was like an itch I couldn’t scratch,” he says. “I thought to myself…how can I make this a career?”

Flash forward to 2022. Equipped with an iPad and a host of fresh ideas, Scott began exploring pencil art in new and innovative ways, beginning with pro bono projects. While his childhood drawings focused on detailed object representations, Scott the adult worked to facilitate deeper meanings by incorporating symbolism into each piece.

“I love ideas,” says Scott. “I draw inspiration from editorial illustrators and street artists. [They] excel at summarizing messages in an explicit, visual format without the distraction of extraneous details.”

Simplicity. Melancholy. Calm.

To evoke these qualities, Scott relies primarily on a palette of grayscale hues, sprinkling in a muted red tone on occasion. He doesn’t focus his drawings on textures or backgrounds, preferring to let his ideas take center stage.

And they do. Scott speaks fondly of a twenty-two-inch by twenty-eight-inch work titled “Resiliency.” In this image, an axe presses into the base of a chopped-down tree. Connected to the shaft of the axe is a group of spindly branches with red flowers blooming at their tips.

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There’s duality in this drawing, Scott explains. He describes how the axe cutting into the tree symbolizes finality and death, but the flowers signal rebirth and growth. When the concepts are merged, resilience is the outcome.

For another piece, The Grape Thief. Scott perused local antique shops until he found an ornate picture frame that captured his attention. The frame featured grapes dangling over its edge, and so Scott drew a child standing on a ladder with a bucket in hand, reaching for the fresh fruit.

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“I seek out frames with moldings or engravings,” says Scott. “Sometimes the ideas come from the object themselves.”

While Scott creates each drawing with a message in mind, he is well aware that not everyone will share the same takeaways after viewing his work (and that’s kind of the point). Often, Scott sees the drawings as reflective of the viewers themselves.

“Part of what I do is try to capture the side of people that isn’t always joyful,” he says. “The best compliment I get is when someone says I’ve helped them feel seen.”

For Scott, it’s all about the process.

“An idea will come to me at random throughout the day,” he says. “For instance, I was out for a walk and out of the corner of my eye I saw a man walking his dog [thereby] casting a long shadow. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to draw someone taking their own shadow for a walk? The concept took off from there.”

Detail-oriented Scott turns his broad ideas into sketches—at various angles—before collecting references and then refining the intricacies of his piece.

And sometimes parts of Scott’s drawings literally flee the frame.

Recently, Scott developed a series of images that directly address his audience, a concept known as “breaking the fourth wall” of art. The idea to create this series came to him after seeing a work where the subject was interacting with the character in an adjacent frame.

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In TikTok videos depicting these now viral works, Scott, who draws his subjects prior to filming, takes a hammer—or a two-by-four—to the picture and its frame, literally cracking the glass that shields his art.

“There’s tension when I’m holding the hammer,” says Scott. “The viewer wonders, ‘what is he going to do?’”

In one drawing, a young boy aims a slingshot into the middle distance, targeting a window that the viewer can’t see. The surrounding frame is cracked, implying that the slingshot caused the glass to shatter. In another piece, titled Foul Ball, a child holding a baseball bat stares at a broken window, looking apologetic, presumably because his pitch went awry.

In each breakthrough drawing, the interaction between the subject and the accompanying frame is apparent, inviting the viewer into the story.

After he posted a video of his breakthrough technique on TikTok for the first time earlier this year, Scott’s drawings rapidly gained popularity, amassing an impressive virtual following.

Up until this point, Scott’s art sales had been driven primarily by art shows (like one at Main Street Arts in Clifton Springs where he won the People’s Choice Award), so he was shocked by the unexpected social media attention.

What will Scott do next? Only time can answer that, he says, but he shares that he is open to eventually pursuing other media, including street art and even sculpture. He’d love to do a solo show one day.

When asked what advice he would give to a budding artist, Scott gets straight to his point. “Do something unique,” he says, noting the challenges of finding your niche within a crowded market. ”And make art because you want to make art,” he adds.

“Maybe becoming a professional artist isn’t a viable path for you right now and perhaps one day it will be. Or maybe not. If making art is fundamental to who you are—if it’s your passion—do it anyway.”

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