Artist Interview: Scott Massey

Born and raised in NY, Scott Massey moved west to enjoy the beach and experience life on another coast. A designer by trade, his days have been spent inside of studios helping companies influence and intrigue consumers. His nights are spent working on more personal and self-initiated projects outside of the studio, such as his zine RRR and is in the middle of trying to design a book like a movie, frame by frame, memory after memory— recreating & changing the past. Scott has recently taken the leap to higher educational and is an MFA Candidate in Graphic Design at CalArts and is continuing to learn new techniques and methods of design.

What is your background as an artist? What mediums of art do you work with the most?

I am like most people, I drew a lot as a kid and took a lot of art classes during high school but it was never an option to be an artist, always just a hobby or relaxing technique. I let that rule my life till after I graduated with a degree in business, then I pursued a graphic design degree and now a masters. I enjoy any type of work using paper. Its easy to work with, fast drying and easy to cut or reuse, plus you can make mistakes and not worry about how much of a mess you’re making or the resources you’re wasting. In a way, I guess its really just non committal and not a serious attempt at making art. Also I don’t have a permanent studio right now, so I like to work small and make books with all the process and leftovers from making.

How would you describe your artist style?

Brushy, textural, well composed but messy as well. I like to draw something and then rework it or cut it up and use it in other compositions, same with photos, taking old ones from my collection or magazines and changing their meanings by collaging with other elements. I think this also translates to prints, I enjoy the process of making silkscreens and woodcuts, using the byproducts in compositions to see where that will lead. This is probably a result of using paper and mixed media, trying to change things that I’ve already done and make it something else, something new.

You have worked with some major brands in and out of the surf industry. What are the keys to creating a strong identity for a brand?

Talented people with good ideas that know how to collaborate and take risks. Its exciting to be around a group of individuals that are constantly trying to push a brand forward, looking back at was successful in the past and deciding that there is still more room to grow and tell a deeper story. Another important factor is authenticity, the story and the products have to be for real, if its bs everyone will know and it won’t matter anyway.

You are an MFA Candidate at CalArts. There must be a vision behind becoming a Master in Fine Arts. What is your goal with having that higher education?

Tough question… one that I have been asked by several friends, family, taxi drivers and random strangers met in airports. Its also a question I have to ask myself and think about heavily before the next semester begins, during which time I will have to develop and design a thesis. My main reason for becoming an MFA is that I felt like there was more to learn about design, that I was too readily falling back on old ideas and answers to design problems. CalArts promotes a way of thinking that produces unexpected or defined results, it pushes the students to search for new ways of thinking & making, which is exactly what I wanted. It also put me in an environment where I could come into close contact with artists, writers and designers, to collaborate with and learn from. After school, I want to continue projects like RRR but on a bigger scale, working closely with friends, artists and companies in an effort to develop a true shared experience, one that’s honest, inclusive and interesting.

How did the idea for RRR come about? And what do you hope to accomplish with RRR? Or better yet, what is your intention with creating RRR?

RRR was started as a way to collaborate with like minded creative people from both inside and outside the surf industry, the idea that a group of people with different backgrounds, from different generations and geographic locations can come together to make something worthwhile was the main intention (or question). The idea that you can take the best from one individual and mix it with another person’s idea was also something I was interested in while making the book and it remains to be the biggest challenge. The other intention was to do something for the Surfrider Foundation without them really asking for it. The first RRR came out shortly after the battle over Trestles and this was a way to show our appreciation for all the work they done over the years. As a result they have been very supportive of the project.

Is RRR considered a magazine or a “zine”? What would you say is the difference between the two? And why do you think the zine, a traditionally independent, underground thing, has risen to more of the mainstream?

I would consider RRR more of a zine than a magazine, maybe more of a collective artists’ book than a zine. Traditionally, I think magazines have to cover a wide variety of issues and topics within a genre, for instance fashion or art, and that a big effort is put towards the idea of something being sold or bought. Where advertisers can not only buy ad space but also have room to sell or publicize product within stories, pr for companies can influence stories, sections and features of magazines.

However, I think true zines are created more in an effort to express a passion or appreciation for something and usually the entire book is dedicated or dictated by that subject of affection. For instance, RRR is dedicated to the how we live in the world and react to environmental issues, a product is not being sold and the artists are free to react to the theme however they like. Companies cannot influence or use content from the project, unless the artist decides to sell them the rights on their own. Zines are also created with the idea that they will be shared and distributed between friends and family, sold with the idea that production can hopefully be covered (not sure we’ve done that yet as a number are given away and traded). I don’t know anyone that has gone into making zines for the money, its more for the fun and joy of making something.

I think zines have risen to a mainstream level for a couple of reasons, but one of the biggest that I can see is digital technology. Design programs have made it relatively easy for people to compile work in a book format, printers (ranging from black and white copiers to offset press) are readily accessible and cheaper than before, and the internet creates channels for collaboration and distribution. On a deeper level, I also think that the advance of technology creates a need in people to make and share physical goods that tell a curated story in more inventive and creative ways than a typical blog. Make zine and move away from the screen!

How is RRR different from other zines?

The idea of mixing artists’ work and voices drives the design of the book, we take liberties with the work that is contributed, using pieces from one artist and essentially collaging it with others to make a new piece. Most zines will give an artist a page or spread which divides the piece into several smaller sections, we wanted a more cohesive book with a unified voice. An outcome similar to having all the artists in the same room at once collaging and making the piece together at one time (I’d actually prefer this method in the future). Most zines also specifically ask for content based on a defined theme, where I think RRR allows the artists to react to a loosely structured brief and take it where they want. Then we react while putting it together in a book format.

 

How does the curation process for RRR go? Is there a common thread between all of the contributors?

It’s a mixed bag actually and I think that’s what gives it a nice feeling. We look for artists, designers, photographers, and writers (however few have written in the last three books) that share a unique appreciation for life and the environment. A number of them are surfers, like Kassia Meador or legends like Art brewer but it was also important to get perspectives from the urban dwellers and country folk from not only the US but abroad. We try not to judge based on where or when you were born, we’re more interested in people that have a different way of seeing or thinking. In the past two issues, we’ve tried to be more inclusive, inviting artists that write to us, visit the show or buy the book to contribute to the next one. It tends to keep it fresh and move forward rather than just stay the same.

As far a surfing goes, what kinds of boards do you ride? What gets you the most stoked?

Depends on the day… I’m originally from NY, so I can have fun on most shapes ranging from heavy logs to tiny short boards. My favorites are the “bicycle” which is a 5’8″ blue batwing quad shaped by EC, it flies in all types of surf and can turn on a dime. The other one is a green twin shaped by my buddy Gavin, 5’10” fish, which I just got fixed and that thing feels like it skates over the water. Those two are definitely my prized possessions but I also like when the waves are good enough to take out my Al Merrick Whip and Pin tail, lately it doesn’t happen as often as I’d like.

For more of Scott’s work check out:

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