We had the pleasure of having Scott Bakal over to the studio for lunch this week. These lunches are a perfect way for us to get to know the illustration community one-on-one. Events are wonderful but it's difficult to really get to know someone in that venue.
And it's interesting to get the backstory on a successful illustrator's career. Scott grew up in Connecticut and Long Island and recently moved to the Greater Boston area to take a tenure-track teaching position at MassArt. Scott has taught illustration for a number of years including a stint at FIT and has been active in the Society of Illustrator's student programs, he is also currently on the Society's Board of Directors.
His parents—his father was a intrastate bus driver and his mother worked in data processing—were not overjoyed by Scott's choices to be an illustrator but they didn't offer any obstacles either. Even with all of Scott's successes his mother hasn't really thought he had a real job until Scott's current teaching gig. He now has health insurance so now he has a real job.
Scott always drew and it came easy to him. Assembling a portfolio he went on his first college review at the University of Hartford, seated in the lobby he witnessed the first prospective student leaving the interview in tears after just ten minutes—Scott didn't know what to expect. His interview lasted almost two hours. And while he was accepted at U of H he set his sights on the School of Visual Arts.
They were tough years at SVA, he had to work an outside job to make ends meet especially after his mother moved back to Connecticut he was on his own. Fortunately he'd always had a part time job starting with working in the produce section at a local supermarket at age 16, which not only provided cash but also a ready food supply as well. There weren't too many other SVA students enjoying steak dinners. And with tenure he was making a pretty good salary with benefits—a job he kept until the illustration work started pouring in.
You get a sense that Scott has pretty well thought out the rest of his life. He has a plan while others of us just live day to day. You can hear the passion in his voice about illustration and especially about the next generation of illustrators. You almost sense his involvement with these young kids is a replacement for the classmates he didn't have time to enjoy in his college experience.
I first started noticing Scott's work in around 2007 and since then he's exploded, I see him everywhere, in every show and at every event. He's hot right now and has more work than he can handle. Between the Society, teaching and assignments he's having to weigh how to balance it all and ultimately what he has to give up to stay sane. One things for sure, Scott will always land on his feet no matter what.
Asked about his summer plans, maybe ICON6 but for sure a road trip from Washington DC up to Toronto, two places he's never been before and along the way he'll stop in and see a few of his artist friends. We're happy he could drop by for lunch.