Scotty Gillespie on unusual requests, ghostly ceramics and the joy of using humour in art
An illustrator based in South West England, Scotty Gillespie creates work that is bright and optimistic, celebrating inclusivity, playfulness and tenderness and spanning digital illustration, ceramics, animation, and design.
It wasn't until a "second attempt" at finishing university in 2019 that Scotty's career began. During his final degree show, a local shop in Plymouth spotted his work and offered him the chance to showcase and sell his work on-site. "I said yes and ended up with my first little exhibition," Scotty tells us. "It was so exciting for me, and the profits from the exhibition, the money I accumulated from selling at art fairs and working at my part-time job enabled me to buy my own kiln and start making ceramic pieces in my home studio." The rest, as they say, is history.
That small but significant initial step also meant Scotty started attracting customers from all over the UK while sharing his creations online grabbed the attention of freelance illustration clients like Microsoft, Kiehls and Costa. Today, he is moving into doing larger scale murals and community-based work. "The core of my practice is always the same, digital illustration, ceramics and animation. These three main practices give me the freedom to play and experiment, which is super important to me," he says.
Social media has almost certainly played a part in helping Scotty further raise his profile, and he continues to exhibit his work whenever he can. "Because I work in ceramics, their pictures never give them justice. People like to pick up the pieces, feel the grooves where my fingers have made marks, feel the weight and look at the glossy shine. You can only really experience that in person, so DIY markets are apt for that part of my work," Scotty explains. "I'm also a very chatty person, so I love doing real in-person art fairs. It's a real social event for me. On the flip side, social media plays a very crucial role in making a name for myself and is a great platform for me to showcase my digital illustrations and animations."
Scotty's ongoing popularity could easily be attributed to the recurring theme in his work: optimism, happiness and hope – something we're all craving, particularly during these challenging times. "It is a collection of images, colours and shapes that appeal to me and bring me joy," he continues. "I am quite a nostalgic person, so I take great inspiration from toys or computer games from my childhood. I also take a lot of inspiration from my immediate environment, so you tend to see a lot of flowers and landscape type drawings inspired by the landscape or my back garden here in Devon. Lastly, humour plays a big part in my style, and I love to inject my humour as much as possible. Mix all this up with optimistic, bold and colourful mark-making. That's my work in a nutshell."
Scotty recently visited Stonehenge for the first time for his birthday, which has sparked a new body of work that he's currently focused on. "I was in awe of the history, the stones and the culture surrounding the area. So I am in the process of doing work in response to my time there, most likely in ceramic form."
Elsewhere, Scotty is making his first comic for the independent ShortBox Comics Fair. For those who are interested, it will be debuting this October. "I wanted to make something that I haven't made before, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to explore more narrative-based work."
Aside from his freelance illustration work and ceramic artworks, Scotty is also part of Physical Spaces, a local collective of friends that loves to make, collaborate and share zines. "We all have some sort of affiliation with art but wanted to carve some space to make stuff for fun, experiment, and exchange ideas," he says. "Sometimes monetising your artwork can take the joy and fun out of it, so we're just making things for art's sake. It's been fun!"
Looking through Scotty's illustration portfolio, we're immediately drawn to his Stay At Home piece, perhaps a homage to those of us who enjoy being at home. "I'm a homestayer myself and feel lucky to have my own little studio at my home in Devon. It has everything I need to do my work, plus it's next to the kitchen, so I am never short of a cuppa tea. I work part-time in an art centre at the weekends, which is good for my mental health. Otherwise, I would rarely interact with anyone apart from my dog and my partner. Also, making your own routine can be especially hard sometimes, so it's nice to have something that I go to outside of my home."
On Scotty's ceramic pieces, each one is unique and sculpted by hand, many of which are sold in his shop. His most popular product thus far is his series of ghosts that he makes for Halloween every year. "Each one is handmade and comes with an edition risograph adoption certificate where you can name your new little ghost," he explains. "I think they are so popular because of the little certificate. People notice when you go that extra little mile. Last year I made accessories for them, and they went down a treat. I can not wait to show you what I have planned for them this year!"
Of course, Scotty confesses that he often gets special requests from his customers – some more curious than others. "The most unusual request I have had is from my own mum. We are in the process of making an urn for her ashes when she passes away, not that she anticipates it. She just likes being organised. As morbid as it might sound, there is something extremely connecting, making something so personal for someone that means so much to me. I didn't think I could be any closer to my mum until we started talking about it, and the stigma around death that would usually be present around that sort of subject has eased and lifted," he says.