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Q&A with Scott Balmer

Freelance illustrator from UK

I go by the handle Scott Balmer who is a freelance illustrator currently based in the UK. I make imagery for all sorts of things by solving problems in a visual manner.

How did you get started in illustration, what is your background?

Drawing is one of those things that I’ve been doing pretty much all of my life though I didn’t really take it that seriously until doing a foundation course at a local college.

Back then I was just finishing high school and experienced the deterioration of my interest in Art & Design due to the collapse of my old school’s art department. It was getting really bad in the last year with a few key teachers leaving but also with the morale with fellow students falling by the wayside.

When it came to applying for college/university I opted to give art one last chance to see if I really want to go down such a path and so applied for a portfolio building course not realising that this course was developed as a more serious means to establish a high quality portfolio to gain entry into an Art School of their choice. Ultimately I failed the interview though if it wasn’t for the person who interviewed me suggesting to put me on the foundation course then I probably wouldn’t be here doing any form of art or design today.

I stayed at that college for a couple of years doing a few more courses before going to Duncan of Jordanstone which Helped cement my desire to enter the field of illustration as a career.

Where did you study? Looking back, could you recommend your path for beginners in design/illustration?

Being based in Scotland and growing up in Dundee, I went with Duncan of Jordanstone School of Art & Design which is one of the top three in Scotland along side Edinburgh and Aberdeen’s Greys.

Looking back would I recommend going to Art School, well it really depends on the person to some extent though the way I see it is that Art School offers access to a fair few facilities at your disposal that may not be available if going it alone.

Not only that but you have the time to develop your own voice further without the hassle of general every day life getting in the way, taking up time and resources chiseling away from your own creative development.

What is a turning point in your professional career?

I wouldn’t say that there has been any big turning points however I see it more as small points which have shaped my career.

It has had its ups and downs over the years with how things are going, what I find interesting is that I am doing more exhibitions than I was in the past with most of them being in America. It’s good to create something without any creative limits though it does follow a different structure than producing work for clients.

I’ve also had some of work featured in certain books such as Juxtapoz Psychedelic which really came from out of nowhere and did mark that of reaching another level in my career.

What is your ideal work environment? Do you prefer to work in your studio all day long or mix a few activities?

Currently I work from home, I wouldn’t mind sharing a studio space as it is great to see what other people are working on plus it may add a bit of healthy competition in personal work as you spur each other on.

It would be nice however that may be something to think about in the future as for now, my work environment isn’t that exciting though it has changed over the years in the form of what I use in the day to day process of creating my work. Most of what I do is mostly digital now simply because its easier to chop and change things quickly if needed.

I’ve gone from a 24” Mac to a more portable mac laptop and from working with an extra 20” display which I paired up with a wacom intous graphics tablet to a Wacom Cintiq Companion Hybrid giving me more flexibility in where I can set up shop and continue to work if there is a power outage.

With this flexibility in mind, this gives me the option to work anywhere if needed which is great since my key devices are now more independent than being tethered to a certain spot.

All in all, my workspace isn’t that fancy or interesting really. Maybe if I had a bit more space I would furnish it with curios but for now the space functions as it should.

Where are your favorite places in your city or outside?

Aside from the odd trip to local Libraries, museums and galleries, there are a few areas around where I live, one being the Lemmings sculpture that is across the road from my old art school.

It was put in fairly recently and is quite small (well they are Lemmings after all) as they are climbing up a small wall beside a nice looking small plot of greenery. The reason that this sculpture exists near here is because DMA Design (which later on became Rockstar North) were based just along the road where they developed Lemmings in an nice vibrant old building painted in pink.

Another place would be the law hill which gives you a nice 360 view of Dundee and it’s countryside.

Who are the designers and illustrators, colleagues in UK or outside you admire most?

This is one of those questions which can be difficult to answer since there are many, many great pieces of work being produced today.

However most of the time I generally look at older work from the past decades such as those which featured on old Sci Fi novels of the 70s, you know the ones with the airbrushed space crafts and interesting retrograde sci fi tech like the imagery that was featured in the old OMNI magazines.

Mostly it is strange and interesting imagery plus other things really, however to name a few that I admire would be Roger Dean, Owen Davey, Charlie Harper, Toru Fukuda and many more.