Bill Scott is a highly regarded Philadelphia artist who creates color-based abstract paintings and prints. His influences are both art historical and deeply personal ranging from Joan Mitchell, whom he met in France while on a student traveling grant, to the Impressionist paintings in the Barnes Foundation near his childhood home.
Scott was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania and initially wanted to be an art historian. He grew up in Haverford attending Quaker schools. His fifth grade teacher taught about a different painter each week by displaying reproductions but Bill wanted to see and study the originals. By the time he was fifteen Bill had begun to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation and had also been to Paris. In 1974 he enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts where he studied until 1979. Although he had a successful student career at the Academy, he feels that “the non-PAFA training was the most crucial part of my education”. This is a reference to the two artists who were enormously influential on his development; the Philadelphian Jane Piper (1916-1991) and Joan Mitchell (1926-1992). In 2004 Scott was the recipient of an Independence Foundation Fellowship in the Arts and the Adolph and Clara Obrig Prize from the National Academy Museum, New York.
For years Scott painted, first in oil and later in acrylics. In 1999 he started making etchings explaining, “the authority of the printed etched line, more than anything else, has impacted on my recent paintings”. He goes on to describe why printmaking has become so important to him:
When I first made etchings with master printer Cindi R. Ettinger in 1999, I worked exclusively with black and white imagery. After a few years, I started to experiment with color which I found nearly impossible. I have never really cared for the color I had seen in other artists’ color etchings so I was curious to see if I could figure out a way to make a color etching with color I would like. In a similar way, I’ve often felt black ink can too easily facilitate the success of a color etching so I have tried many times to make color etchings using no black.
Painting for me is an additive process, whereas the process of making a color print requires me to think and approach the image in a way that is the reverse of how I tend to think. I base my color etchings on existing paintings, reconstructing the image as a series of three or more overlapping planes of color ink. When I make the print and if it has four, five or six colors, I’ll try making several versions with different colors. None of them ever end up the way I think they will.
My grandfather and great-grandfather had been commercial lithographers in Philadelphia. That, of course, was long before I was born and it is only in the past few years that I’ve thought about what they did. I first made etchings, mostly portraits of people, when I was in high school at Saturday etching classes at the Philadelphia College of Art. My first year at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, I took etching classes with Morris Blackburn and also made two lithographs. My final year at the Academy my studio mate and I helped and sort of taught each other how to make silk-screens. I did not make any prints thereafter and never thought I ever would until 1999 when I lost the lease on my studio and thought I’d make a print or two during the time I had no permanent place of my own in which to work. Since then I am in love with printmaking. Currently I am trying to learn how to make spit bites and incorporate it with other etching and drypoint techniques.
The presentation print, The Gray-Green Bottle is modeled after a 2005 oil painting, The Green Bottle. The drypoint and roulette is printed in three colors. Scott likes working with color values that are very close and he was very happy with the outcome.
Selected Print Exhibitions
- Hollis Taggart Galleries, New York, Bill Scott: Recent Work
The Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Intaglio a Go-Go: Etching Moves Forward
Friends Select School, Philadelphia, Art at the Center
- McCabe Library, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Bill Scott: Etchings
The Print Center, Philadelphia, Bill Scott: Etchings, 2005-2008
Delaware County Community College, Media, PA., Abstract Invitational
Sande Webster Gallery, Philadelphia, Yesterday & Today: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Alumni Invitational 2007
Hopkins House Gallery of Contemporary Art, Haddon Township, NJ, Garden in Winter
- The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, CR Ettinger Studio Recent Editions
- The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, PA, What’s Black, White and New? Recent acquisitions of Contemporary Art
By Margaret Dobbins
THE GRAY-GREEN BOTTLE, The Print Club of Cleveland Publication No. 90, 2012. Drypoint and roulette on Tiepolo paper. Printed at C. R. Ettinger Studio, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2009.