To my shame, I’ve never been all that much of an art geek. Now, that isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate artwork because I do. I’ve been reading comic books and graphic novels for well over four decades, so I can look at some forms of drawing and painting and coloring, and I can certainly get jazzed about what it takes to put something like that down on paper for others to see, much less evaluate. But art museums and the like? I just never caught that ‘bug.’ I couldn’t say why. It could be that I just never understood the ‘inspiration’ behind the successful artist; thankfully, Scott C’s artwork in THE GREAT SHOWDOWNS isn’t lost on me.
Clearly, Scott C is a film nerd, much like so, so many of us today. His particular obsession – even highlighted in his brief ‘intro’ in this small coffee-table-style book – is conflict as depicted in film … because, after all, what would the art of storytelling be without conflict? There’s no film to be had without it, and Scott C – in all his grace – has latched on to some wonderful metaphors in his watercolor illustrations here. Quite a bit of his inspiration is drawn from truly great motion pictures – THE SHINING, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, DR. STRANGELOVE to name but a few – but one can see by perusing his illustrations here that he genuinely loves good film. And who doesn’t?
It’s his style that’s immediately accessible that makes THE GREAT SHOWDOWNS such a winner as a collection. There’s absolutely nothing highbrow about any of it. In fact, it’s refreshing uncomplicated – almost crude scrawling, in some cases – given life through basic watercolors. And even though he’s given new life and examination to moments of conflict, everyone – even inanimate objects – are brought to life with a slim smile. These are kid drawings, but they’re done in such a way that they unquestionably bring out the kid in each of us.
And I think that’s because movies – at their core – can be so universal. As Scott C reminds us in his intro, we experience them together – collectively – in their dark. We laugh at them together. We cry at them together. We cringe at them together. It’s arguably the single-greatest collective experience left to the highly independent experience we call “life,” and, with his clever illustrations, we’re kind of reminded of those subtle moments, those memorable characters, that we all first experienced as a group in the dark. He’s a truly remarkable artist – there’s not a lot of flash and sizzle here, just some basic scribbling, colors, and those inescapable skinny smiles everywhere – and I’d encourage you to pick up and, seriously, enjoy this brief accounting of his work.
THE GREAT SHOWDOWNS is published by Titan Books. It includes a clever and brief – much like the artist’s approach to his work here – foreword by Neil Patrick Harris, as well as an introduction to the work by the painter himself. For the record, the only thing that’s missing here is a key – something that could identify precisely what film or program inspired the work – and I throw that out only as a suggestion should there ever be a second draft; for folks like me who, perhaps, haven’t seen every flick rendered so winningly here, it would’ve been nice – even a bonus for using the neat li’l book for trivia contests – but it certainly isn’t absolutely necessary. Without much effort, I think I recognized well over 90% of what’s depicted here, and that’s without even having seen some of the motion pictures.
HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION. It’s a rare opportunity to peek inside the mind of a creative artist, but THE GREAT SHOWDOWNS – even with its brevity – shows the utter genius of Scott Campbell at work. His simple yet elegant watercolor illustrations cut immediately to the heart of conflict as seen in film – be it the Alien Queen facing off against a heavily-mechanized Ellen Ripley in ALIENS or the likes of John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson threatening the smiling young punk from PULP FICTION. Who knows? If you look close enough, these paintings might even make you think about the film (the artist’s original inspiration from his work) in a whole new light, and THAT is nothing short of an amazing accomplishment when measured up against the painter’s preferred plainness. It’s brilliant, and I’d encourage art fans, film nerds, and just plain good old-fashioned geeks to run out and pick up a copy today.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the good folks at Titan Books provided me with a review copy of THE GREAT SHOWDOWNS for the expressed purpose of completing this review.
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About the reviewer
What? You don't know enough about me from the picture? Get a clue! I'm a graduate from the School of Hard Knocks! You can find me around the web as "Trekscribbler" or "Manchops". … more