It’s not hard to understand why Scotty Briggs’ paintings are in such high demand. With subject matter as diverse as neon dive-bar brands, Hindu deities and Catholic saints, run-on catch phrase sentences, pop culture portraits, and under-water vignettes, Briggs has created a niche for himself that defies all definitions of the word ‘niche’. His style extends beyond the reach of any singular mode of painting because he is continually experimenting with his craft, and has become quite comfortable in the all-encompassing art land of what next?
Over the past three years, Briggs has made his presence known more so as a curator than a painter while he has busied himself organizing exhibitions as the artist-in-residence for an area of Downtown that locals refer to as “The Elbow”. He can often be found promoting up-and-coming artists as he adds their work to the traveling group show he has established as an ongoing mixed media initiative, “Arts on Deck.” Behind the scenes, however, Briggs is a full-time working artist; from sun-up to sun-down, he is seated at his easel, listening to informative podcasts, knocking out original drawings and paintings of his own.
So, who exactly is this guy? What is his title? A painter? A curator? An organizer? Street artist? Advocate? Well … all of the above, really… (What’s in a name, amiright!) Scotty Briggs is a native Floridian who has been working, creating and aesthetically improving the Jacksonville area for over ten years. After a near death experience at the age of 19, Briggs had an epiphany about what really matters to him during this lifetime. He realized that to best serve himself, his family, friends, and future generations, his purpose on this planet is to create art. Art with a meaning. LOTS of it. And to strengthen and expand the local arts communities while doing so.
Scotty Briggs began his artistic career in the early 2000’s, spray painting in back alleys around the beaches and in Riverside under the tutelage of one of the southeast’s most legendary graffiti writers (whose name will unfortunately remain unprinted but for those in the know … ya know). In prior decades, graffiti received a negative reputation, but if you do your research, you will find that this entire subculture is built upon ideals of support, mentorship, and even education. Artists like Briggs, who learned to paint on the streets with spray cans share a collective (unspoken) understanding of loyalty, protection, and encouragement with one another. These artists have strong backbones, they take great creative risks, and they know what it is to uplift and look out for the other members of their tribe. Too often, the art scene teeters a fine line between community and competition (and not to say graffiti crews don’t harbor their own versions of rivalry, they most certainly do!), but … Knowing the die-hard comradery that street artists are brought up with sheds more light on why Scotty Briggs devotes so much of his time and talent to helping other creatives stay connected and supportive in the Jacksonville arts community.
For Briggs, during that early chapter of his life, a sense of identity and belonging was discovered through spray paint and the practice of creating art from a unified front, and he has not stopped creating ever since. His path has led him through music festival tours across the country, from Tennessee to Michigan to Montana, Washington, and Oregon, always leaving a painting at every stop. He has orchestrated social media scavenger hunts for his work closer to home at festivals in the Suwannee Music Park, and he is now the annual resident artist at the Swamp Town Get Down music festival in Georgia.
Briggs’ mural work can be seen publicly on several Duval buildings, restaurants, storefronts, and interior business office walls. He just closed a solo exhibition of his most recent body of work, “Neon Nights”, at Spliff’s Gastropub downtown where you might also recognize his frequently photographed murals in the rear courtyard (how many of y’all have a selfie in front of that Ganesha?!). He curates a monthly rotating exhibition for other local artists to hang their work and passionately promotes each one through every avenue available. He is an active member of the “Urban Revitalization Project” in Gainesville which is a team of artists who continually beautify the city through public art, and lately covered an entire parking garage in spray paint murals. Briggs does live demos and classroom visits at public schools, and he is currently painting an exterior mural at San Pablo Elementary. On Thursday, February 13th during their art appreciation night, “San Pablo Hearts the Arts” he mentored members of the school’s fifth grade art club. The man hustles, y’all, and he hustles for a creative cause.
Chuck Close once said that “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up and get to work.” Similar to authors, musicians, and playwrights, visual artists also go through creative ‘blocks’ when they might wait for inspiration to find them. One thing that can never be said about Scotty Briggs, however, is that he waits for inspiration. Briggs shows up for his artwork every single day. This is an artist dedicated and committed to their craft. His inspiration is derived from the countless hours he devotes to exploring different methods and processes of artmaking, and not giving up after the first, or second, or third try don’t go as planned. His work is raw and honest, it is an ongoing practice. Scotty Briggs doesn’t need a niche because as an artist, a curator, an event organizer, an arts advocate, and a huge hearted human, he lives in a state of perpetual evolution with no necessary end goal in sight. The goal is to show up, to create, and savor the whole human experience along the way. So, the next time you’re in a gallery where he is showing, or at a music festival where he is painting, or at an event he is organizing, make sure to walk up and ask him ‘what’s next?’.
For more information, www.scottybriggsart.com @sbrgs_art