Jaime Scott: Fighting the Familiar

Written by Jaime Scott and Emily Wheatley.

Jaime Scott is a creative with a passion for character and costume design, illustration, painting and film. She loves to explore pre-vis and concept design with its extensive research and depth of story-telling from initial sketches through to the final result. 

At the recent 2020 Indie Arts Hui, Jaime represented Watermark Creative on a panel of artists where she discussed cross-disciplinary learning, reflection and future planning. Here she shares the highlights of her talk, her own personal influences and the advice that has helped support and develop her creative practice.

Jaime Scott presenting at the Indie Arts Hui #1.

Given the chance to talk about my creative experience at the Indie Arts Hui, I was reminded of some of the best advice I’d ever been given regarding creativity; When creating artwork, find something that is truly authentic to you.

This idea is a major driver in my current creative practice as an illustrator and concept artist at Watermark Creative. However, when I look back at my creative journey to date, I can see it has been a lesson I’ve learnt over and over again as I’ve sought out authenticity and originality in my work.

I can trace it right back to my time as a fledgling art student, where we were encouraged to pick a theme or idea to explore across a number of paintings before pitching the idea to the class. Several times I would pitch topics that were met with only a knowing smile and a polite rejection in the form of: I’m not sure, it all feels very…familiar.

It took a few more of these polite rejections before I realised that “familiar” was just another off-hand way of saying: Darling, it’s been done before and by artist’s far more accomplished than yourself – so unless you’ve got a fabulous new angle, leave it be and go find something that is truly authentic to you. In shaming my natural inclination towards painting pretty skulls and roses, I began to understand that while it’s all well and good to paint something familiar, art quickly loses meaning amongst the millions of others painting exactly the same thing.

From left to right: ‘Lipstick Stains’ and ‘Cut and Paste’.

Not only does this pit you against your contemporaries, but your work will be weighed against every depiction of skulls and roses ever recorded in the history of art. It is far more exciting – and interesting – to come up with something new. 

So, I set myself the challenge of creating work that was not ‘familiar’ – and therefore, not forgettable. This ongoing challenge has become one of my biggest motivators and is a consistent source of inspiration – it can be seen in every work I have produced since – but back in my school days, it was also the key to unlocking a second critical lesson: the role of technology and interdisciplinarity in creative practice.

I quickly found that counteracting a subjects forgettable qualities through new modes of display helped to take my ideas further, or in a completely new direction. I became fascinated with how the display of my artwork affected its outcome. 

Pixelated Portraits. Culture Clash. Oil Series.

When a final project of mine was open to be submitted digitally, and in a portfolio type never before explored because of a required animation component, my interest was piqued. The standard for displaying these projects was usually three A1 boards and for most, animation simply didn’t seem relevant to the topic they had chosen; the idea of trying something new felt too risky. But I found in it an opportunity to meld modern and traditional material, reimagining my all too familiar interests in the visual spectacle of Baroque and Rococo aesthetics into a wholly new digital landscape. Animating the subjects to move within their frames was another way to engage with technology and play with visual mediums –  it was also where I felt like I had found a point of difference. 

Not only was it an idea that would set my work apart from my peers, but the methods of display helped to push my ideas further, where it achieved a more memorable outcome. 

From left to right: ‘The Girl on the Wrecking Ball’ and ‘The Holy Family’.

Stepping forward to university, I enrolled in a Bachelor of Digital Design and quickly found myself in a similar position – poised between doing what had already been done or taking a creative risk in the name of authenticity. I’d specifically chosen to study a Bachelor of Digital Design, because it offered a diverse range of creative avenues but focused towards animation and visual effects. However, when I encountered the annual graduate exhibition, I was concerned. 

We have all seen the digital displays for final year projects; twenty or so monitors crammed into one joyless classroom – all in sleep mode. The work on display represented a full spectrum of creative expression from the graduating cohort, however the anonymity of the blank screens and the complete lack of creativity channelled into the presentations felt damaging to the reception of the work itself. There was no context, no bookwork, no student portfolios. Nothing to make the work stand out from the hundreds of student animations and films produced every year; nothing to entice the industry representatives viewing these displays.

I wondered, what would these students be doing to stand out against the graduates they’d soon be competing against for internships and job positions? And then again, when they are tasked with producing work for clients in the highly competitive commercial landscape?

Madeline book.

Because of this, I decided early on that I wanted to display my work in one of the university’s art galleries as an installation. I had put so much time, love and passion into my project, its research, physical sets, props and digital elements – that giving it a proper display wasn’t even a question. I did away with blank screens and monitors to have viewers interact with subject and space by turning to my side interests for inspiration: creative writing, costume and character design. 

Instead of turning my project into a finished film or animation like the others studying in my course, I let the pre-production stand alone as an art form in and of itself. 

Even with these tools and tasks at my disposal, I was heavily discouraged from taking this route initially. But just as before, and in every instance since, avoiding the familiar and exploring new technologies within my work sent the outcome of my art further than it had ever gone and beyond what I could have anticipated. I believe that the individuality I strove for helped my work to stand out, appealing to audiences interested in doing something similar.

In 2019, my university work gave me the chance to intern as a costume illustrator for James Cameron’s Avatar sequels, and it was the same work that attracted the attention of studios such as Watermark Creative.

There’s a satisfaction in being able to look back and know that it was specifically because of taking risks that I received a scholarship into my university degree, secured sought after work placements and was offered a place on the Watermark team alongside some of the best creative minds in the industry.  

These experiences have led me to believe that creativity is driven by difference, and that creatives are innately drawn to what is unique. 

Even now, the skills and interests I have explored alongside my artistic practice are contributing to my professional development. As a fresh-faced art student, I could never have anticipated that my experience as a hiphop dancer or my curiosity-driven interest in Victorian photography and porcelain dolls would be relevant in getting me onboard with some of Watermark Creative’s latest projects – and yet here we are. Not by accident, and not exactly by design, but by finding my own path through authentic creative practice.

I would like to extend my gratitude to Diane McKissock Davis, the art teacher who inspired much of my creative outlook, the foundation of my Arts Hui talk, and for being the first person to tell me that my skulls and roses weren’t original.