Painter Scott Kilgour On Staying Sunny In 2020 And His Resulting Work

Painter Scott Kilgour had just accepted a large-scale commission in the spring of 2020 when COVID-19 hit the United States, and the world changed. We sat down with Scott to discuss adapting to the circumstances, staying inspired during a pandemic, and the work that came out of it: The Heartland.

“The Heartland”. 5’X10; Sennelier/Golden acrylic paint, Montana spray paint, Uni-Posca markers on canvas.

ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME: I think a good place to start is: why sunflowers?
Scott Kilgour: It started in the summer of 2019 at a Guild Hall, East Hampton, screening of Julian Schnabel’s Van Gogh Film – “At Eternity’s Gate.” After seeing the film, which takes place in Arles, France, sunflowers were an inspiration.

I find drawing sunflowers an incredible experience because they have an animated expression. I refer to this as Bio-Dynamic realism, representing the intrinsic energy of nature all around us. This painting – The Heartland – showcases more than 20 individual sunflowers – each with its own personality and expression. They almost look like “sunflower people” in that they’re like caricatures – they have a human quality.

And, no better place to paint sunflowers than the East End of Long Island. If you haven’t been to the Peconic sunflower field in the North Fork it’s epic!

“The Heartland” sketch.

ASPIRE: How do you find the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 and quarantine have influenced your work? Has quarantine at all changed how you work?
Scott: I’d received this large-scale commission in early spring right on the brink of COVID. After quarantining for several months upstate it became clear I wouldn’t be returning to my Tribeca studio. My dear sculptress friend, Marisa Holzer, was also on the brink of launching her new studio in Tribeca, and given the pandemic, she headed out east to Watermill. When we both realized working in Tribeca was unlikely – she offered me an artist’s space above her studio in Water Mill with an outside balcony. It was a great co-creation summer 2020 collaboration.

And yes, COVID has changed the way I work. As the space in Watermill had an outside deck ideal for COVID safety measures – the bio-dynamism of the piece became even more real. I left the four walls of my Tribeca studio behind to paint “ En plain air ” – experiencing and drawing energy from the natural landscape.

Kilgour working in Water Mill, NY.

ASPIRE: Could you explain the circumstances around how this piece started and how you ended up showcasing it?
Scott: Just as I’d started working through the sunflower exploratory last summer, I connected with a collector from Kansas – the sunflower state – who also has a home in Wainscott. He had a vision for a full scale 5 x 10-foot canvas that would fill a wall at his Wainscott property. Showcasing the painting in Watermill – 15 minutes away from the painting’s ultimate Wainscott home – was the perfect place to share the completed work.

ASPIRE: What’s inspiring you right now?
Scott: I’m now starting a commission for a collector who’s passionate about blue art. I’m taking The Heartland color code to the next level – doing a blue-based large-scale sunflower composition.

Simultaneously, I’ve returned to the city and am working from a Bushwick studio. I’ve always been inspired by street graphics – a different human form of biodynamic realism. Urban momentum and sensibility is changing my work again.

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