The moment came, as Les explained in a 2017 interview, when he was looking up at a beautiful moon against a very black sky. He knew of scratchboard, of course, and knew that in his hands the feel of the scratching stylus on a clay board would be like the familiar feel of pen on paper. But now he could see creative potential far beyond anything he would do with pen and ink. He could think of no better way to capture the beauty of the lunar shadow shapes against a bold black background of empty space.
Leslie “Les” Scott grew up observing the natural world. To make a living he had studied and became a graphic artist in the commercial world, but has now returned to those memories. Here he shares them using the little-known medium of Scratchboard. We certainly see Les’ artistic insights, but more than that he wants us to sense the creative potential of the medium. Scratching black ink from the surface of a white clay board may seem as simply the reverse of penning black ink on white paper, but in Les’ hands that has yielded nuanced expression and opened doors for an artistic journey far beyond graphic arts.
In his early teens, Les recalls, he was “observant, just storing everything in my mind.” That started in earnest when he would accompany his truck driver uncle Walter and Walter’s dog Sport hauling furniture in an 18-wheeler from Chicago to Albuquerque and other areas of the country.
Les went west again to attend Idaho State University. “I liked the idea of the West, the open spaces, the mountains and the Indian cultures.” He went east to graduate school at Howard University, an historically Black college in Washington DC as he worked part time as an artist. Les ending up working as a graphic artist in Detroit, Chicago and finally Waukegan in advertising, publishing and finally doing pen and ink illustrations for Baxter Healthcare. Along the way he produced a cartoon strip for his college newspaper, and editorial cartoons for “The Chicago People’s Voice” urban newspaper.
Waukegan is also where Les met and married Deborah, a schoolteacher, and he became a self-employed artist. Deborah introduced him to substitute teaching, so with that and other non-art jobs he was reasonably free to explore art beyond the confinement of graphics work. It was then that he discovered the medium of scratchboard, through which, says Les, “I learned what art is.”
He also credits his artistic growth to the Lake County Art League, which has given him a broader art education and “a chance to see how other minds work.” Forever a graphics artist, however, Les gave us a new logo in 2015.
Now Les is also a member of the Glenview Art League, and is showing his work in commercial galleries as well as art league shows. Most of Les' works are in private homes in Lake, Cook, and Kenosha counties, but also as far away as Missouri and Seattle, Washington. He has won numerous awards.