Multiple Master

Passport Magazine, Litchfield County, CT
By Kathryn Boughton, September 18, 2009

Link to PDF- Bricher_Passport_0918_2009.pdf

Genre hopping in Kent, CT.

To paraphrase the Rogers and Hammerstein song from "Oklahoma," artist Scott Bricher is a guy "who can't say no."

"I say 'yes' to whatever comes along," said the Kent, Conn., artist who, for a quarter of a century, has produced a flood of fine art, private commissions, illustrations and design work, as well as working for major corporations, magazines, book publishers and point-of-purchase advertising designers. Along the way, he has taught himself how to work in digital media, including illustration, 3D modeling, Flash animation, Web presentation and graphic design, for clients such as Mad Magazine, PBS, Pitney Bowes, Taunton Press and Crew Design in Kent.

The multi-talented artist, who also enjoys a turn in the classroom from time to time, does whatever comes to hand to make a living, while at the same time nurturing his own art in the hours he can carve out for himself. "I have to put in crazy hours doing the commercial work," he said. "Sometimes I get up super-early in the morning so I can put in a couple of hours on my own work. "Versatility is what it meant to me to be an artist," he continued, "and that has been what I've had in 25 years as a professional artist-it may not always have been what I would have done, but it's all been art, and I work in a lot of different styles. I'm still doing what I want to do."

Mr. Bricher was born in Columbus, Ohio, the son of a mother who was a teacher and a father who was a barber. While art was not obvious in his gene pool, he said his mother always had an interest in the arts and his father was creative and an inveterate tinkerer. Mr. Bricher was more interested in his garage band as a youth, and never took an art class until his junior year in high school.

As a teen, Mr. Bricher attended a jazz camp and he said that the experience was revelatory. "I realized that wasn't where it was at. Not that one [form of expression] is better than the other-there is no right answer-but I realized I liked to work on my own."

Today, music plays second fiddle to his art, but he is still involved in the local music scene, playing with a group called Muddy Paws. "It was a decision I had to make, between music and art," he said, "but my music is good now."

His parents were supportive of his decision to pursue art, and after high school he enrolled in the Parsons School of Design in New York City. "I went to Parsons because they teach you to draw and paint," he said. Later, he continued his painting studies with Nelson Shanks at the Art Students League, also in New York.

While at Parsons, he met fellow student Mary Terrizzi, a graphic designer who would become his wife. Following graduation, the two found their way into the world of commercial art, but Ms. Terrizzi's career has evolved into work as a personal healer and guide. Her studies have taken her from the Peruvian Andes to Hawaii and the Mississippi Delta. She is trained in a variety of traditions, including shamanism, tarot, astrology, dream work, Reiki and Shamballa multidimensional healing.

Mr. Bricher's early work focused on ad agencies and illustration and kept the couple in the Greater New York City area. "We lived in Hoboken, Jersey City-it was all very urban," Mr. Bricher said. "In all, we spent a dozen years around New York City." But the Ohio boy, who used to "go crazy over rolling hills," was ready for a more rural experience and, with Ms. Terrizzi accepting a job at Taunton Press in Connecticut, the couple began to look for a home in the country. "It was important for what I do because I am kind of a solitary person," the artist observed.

Their attention focused on a handyman's special in Roxbury, but a chance exposure to a house for sale in Kent quickly changed their course. "We have been here 15 years now," Mr. Bricher said as he led a tour of their light-filled home, whose walls are hung floor to ceiling with examples of his art "We couldn't be happier. Kent is such an arty town; it was more than we could have hoped for."

The couple had just become parents at the time of their move to Connecticut. "Mary was working and I was painting and was a stay-at-home dad with Naya," Mr. Bricher said. "It was great to be able to be home with her." He recounted wryly that his realization he could mix parenthood and art came when he did a portrait of a friend's girlfriend. "I did a three-quarter portrait of her and during the course of painting it, we became good friends. She would bring her dogs with her and they would run around the easel. I thought if I could work with that going on, I could have a kid."

Mr. Bricher said the move to the country coincided with the explosion in technology. "In this day and age, with all the computers, being connected to a big studio in the city doesn't matter, so it was a natural point to move to the country," he observed.

He recognized early on the potential of digital media. "I'm a curious guy," he said, "and I taught myself because I saw where [the commercial art world] was going. I used to freelance doing illustrations for book companies and when computers came in, much of that work went away overnight. I try to keep a vision of what technology is going to do-right now I am working into animation because that is where it is going. I still draw and paint because that is what I like to do-but this is drawing, too. There is a lot of art to be made."

Sitting at his computer he flips the screen through a wide variety of projects he has developed, from a point-of-purchase sculpture of Captain Morgan for a Captain Morgan Rum display, to wacky illustrations he has created for Mad magazine, to storyboards for television commercials.

His association with Mad magazine extends over 10 years and has allowed the artist to express his sense of humor as well as practice his art.

"I was a Mad guy," he said. "I always read the magazine as a kid."

As an adult, he had a friend who was art director at the magazine. The friend asked Mr. Bricher to submit some samples of his work. "It went nowhere," he reported, but he was later welcomed into the small fold of Mad artists.

"I am proud to be part of that group of artists," he said. "Mad is a very demanding client and they work with some awesome artists-it is a small group, but very loyal."

He opened file after file of covers and interior spreads that he has illustrated for the magazine. Here is Charlton Heston, seated before a fire in his den, feet up on a hassock and Christmas tree behind him, wiping down an automatic rifle. Mounted on the wall over the fireplace is the stuffed head of Rudolph the Reindeer, nose still glowing and with the words "Seasons Greetings from the NRA" emblazoned beside him.

A flip of the screen and there is a movie poster heroically depicting George W. Bush and Condoleeza Rice, flanked by smaller figures of George H. W. Bush, Saddam Hussein, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld. "Coming Soon!" the poster declares, "Gulf Wars Episode II, Clone of the Attack."

And in one other spread, which he describes as "pretty tasteless," Daffy Duck ladles out purple Kool-Aid to other cartoon characters in "The Ducktown Massacre."

Mad, now 57 years old, is struggling in the current economy, which has seen many print publications fold in recent months and others shrink in size. "Many changes are being made," Mr. Bricher said. "It's the result of the print thing in general. To counter it, the magazine has gotten edgier and edgier and done some things I thought were pretty tasteless. But I still think we need that kind of subversive humor, and we always try to poke fun at all sides."

He said he finds it "sad to be at the end of an era."

With all his commercial outlets, it is hard to imagine where the artist finds time for his own fine art. He says he enjoys working with people, whether drawing from the model at the local sketch class he leads in Kent, or working on a portrait. As he explores a relationship with the sitter, he finds that a story emerges and is revealed in the artwork. "I work with symbols that emerge from the subconscious," he said in an artist's statement. "This personal, alchemical journey results in paintings that suggest universal themes and experiences.

"I seek to bridge the gap between the physical things I see and the imagery I want to see. The Venetian masters were experts at this and I take a lot of inspiration from the freedom they had in manipulating pictorial reality."

The artist often uses multiple images on one canvas, maintaining their separate identities but allowing their juxtaposition to suggest a complete story. Viewers often impose their own life experiences on these images, coming up with wildly different interpretations.

"The stories unfold for me like an author who gets drawn into his characters," Mr. Bricher said. "I will see a combination of images and eventually I learn what they mean to me. I am not trying to illustrate a point-they are more about feeling. It's like a dream symbol that seems to mean one thing, but if you step back you will find another, more subtle meaning."

These paintings are often figurative, employing neighbors and friends as models but with other landscape or still life elements interjected. In one, entitled "Slant Six," the top of the large canvas is dedicated to a finely crafted painting of a young woman, sitting in the passenger seat of a 1970s-era Dodge Dart. One arm lies along the edge of the lowered window, her fingers lightly curled around the side view mirror. Behind her, a sleeping child is slumped in a car seat, while the driver's seat is empty.

The bottom third of the canvas is devoted to two smaller images, a swirling eddy of cold water, and a scrubby tree in melting snow.

Mr. Bricher did not reveal his own story behind the painting, but said he has seen many different responses to it, including one viewer who feared the woman was going to drive the car into the water and drown herself and the child.

Even the peaceful painting Mr. Bricher created of his young wife, stretched on a living room couch and playing with their infant daughter, provokes different interpretations. Called "Estate Sale" because of the map Mary has spread over the coffee table while plotting where the couple will go that weekend in search of tag sale treasures, the picture appears to be one of blissful domesticity, and yet another viewer projected a tale of tragic single motherhood on it.

Looking at the painting of his wife and child, Mr. Bricher revealed another aspect of his painting process-he frequently revisits a painting and changes it. He said he first painted his wife on the couch before she became pregnant. He later painted out that image and added her pregnant form, only to remove that after the birth of their daughter. The final image of mother and child became the completed painting.

"There are no short cuts," he said. "Paintings are about making changes. My life kept changing and I wanted the picture to reflect that. For me, painting is ultimately regenerative."

Mr. Bricher teaches workshops around the country at places such as the New York Academy, the Art Students League, the Pennsylvania Academy, the Armory Arts Center in West Palm Beach, Fla., and the Columbia University Senior Executive Education program. This past winter he was a visiting artist at Miss Porter's School in Farmington, where his daughter was in the Class of '09. Mr. Bricher told the students how curiosity and a love of learning has shaped and transformed his own work over the past 25 years and offered them some advice that seems to sum up his own career. "Follow your passion," he said, "be excellent and be persistent."

Scott Bricher - painting, illustration & design     860-927-1667      26 Stone Fences Lane, South Kent CT, 06785