A Daily Painting Project Explores the Links Between Art and Life
Every day in 2014, New Hampshire-based artist Scott Patt created a 3-inch-by-4-inch painting as part of a consuming year-long project in pursuit of art grounded in everyday life. “I desired a vehicle that was less perfect and with less pretense in order to allow the work to become an extension of my natural self, work that would connect more broadly and deeply to others because of its honesty about the way we live and our experiences on any given day,” he explains in a book published alongside the exhibition. Throughout the year, the works amassed a following on social media, where Patt would post his daily output. Seven brimming sketchbooks and 369 paintings later, the project culminates in “Bigger. Smaller. Funnier.” an exhibition at Winston Wächter Fine Art in New York comprised of a selection of 166 paintings, curated according to the pieces that garnered the most social media likes and purchases from the artist’s website. The top 14 works were transformed into large canvas paintings and some were translated into small sculptures.
The project’s title is also a reference to the project’s beginning: a photograph of a mural on a factory wall in Taiwan taken by the artist during a business trip. “The message’s profound simplicity resonated with my new quest: do more of the good stuff, less of the shitty stuff and the joy will follow,” he explains. From there, Patt culled material from his collected experiences to feed the project’s fast-paced, daily churn. Days began to revolve around the production process—Patt adopted a practice of free-writing in the morning, jotting down overheard conversations throughout the day, and sketching for two to three hours each afternoon. At some point, the work took on a life of its own and began to be a manifestation of larger ideas. “On piece #144 I had a revelation,” he recalls in his book. “Through the velocity and pressure of the project, my work was being directly informed in real-time by everyday life… I realized that art is not a passive companion—art is in the living.”
The sustained effort necessary for Patt’s painting-a-day structure made considered restrictions an important element of getting the work done. The signature, vivid color palette—composed solely of flat, saturated hues of yellow, orange, pink, red, green, blue, black, and white—is a result of the spontaneous purchase of a six-color pen, which he used when sketching. The palette was adopted in the paintings as well because Patt found the color limitation allowed him “to be more inventive, less prescriptive, and more resolute.”
Another vital force feeding the work was the added social element. The community emerging around the project through social media extended the work’s reach from one man’s singular experience into a documentation of universal ideas. In painting after painting, the simple yet expressive italic font he created gives voice to joys and frustrations we can all relate to. “I always liked the idea of some random guy in an office scrolling through their Instagram and making them laugh or inspiring them to think a little differently about what it was they were doing,” he notes. Yet the nature of such a disciplined project is such that the ultimate reconnection was that of the artist with his own self: “There were times when posts would not resonate, newsletters were seemingly sent into a digital abyss, and print orders were non-existent. These were the times that repeatedly reinforced that I had created ‘Bigger. Smaller. Funnier.’ for myself and nobody else. I was doing it because I loved it.”