Gallery owner, Douglas Duncan, left a meticulous inventory of Scottie’s work. It provides a chronological list of 260 of the 600 or so drawings that Scottie made in Canada. The detailed descriptions of Scottie’s work reveal his artistic development, dimensions, dates, when he changed his signature (1942) and, as I understand, has proven to be a plausible benchmark for dating his work.
Scottie’s first drawings with his “bulldog pen” are sometimes described as organic doodles, flowing from a centre point on the page. Some resemble a human face; others are like vegetation, abstract patterns, architecture, and animals, and have less of his trademark cross-hatching style.
Scottie’s later work depicted characters, which Scottie described as “evils and greedies” (malignant figures). They existed alongside symbols of goodness and truth. I am reminded of other outsider artists, like Renaldo Kuhler (see earlier blogs), who created a world of good and evil actors. In Renaldo’s case they sprung from his personal encounters in life and were subject to his will in Rocaterrania.
Later drawings are more symmetrical, coloured pencil and wax crayon were added to his tool kit, and the cross-hatching became more complex. One curator has indentified 7 styles of cross-hatching: angles; double shark’s fin; rope; overlapping shoals, wavy forms; saw teeth, and scales. It was a hypnotic activity. In his own words:
When I’m working I can see what’s happening, and I can imagine what’s going to happen. I can see best when I’m finishing my pictures with a pen. When I’m making strokes; hundreds and thousands of strokes, I can see very clearly. But when I’m designing a picture, that’s different. I can’t see then. I’m too absorbed in creation.
Scottie’s drawings were from his own imagination; they were not an attempt to document events in the outside world as in folk or naive art. Scottie avoided questions about his work and the source of his imagery. He once said: “If you asked William Blake where he got his images from – what do you think he’d say? Ha Ha! He’d laugh at you.”