Scott Burdick

Scott Burdick was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1967 where his mother and father early on encouraged his interest in Art. "I spent a lot of time in hospitals as a child and remember my mother showing me how to transform simple shapes like circles, triangles, and squares into objects like planes, helicopters, and fish. It seemed such a magical thing and made spending so much time in casts and on crutches much more bearable."

In high school, Scott began taking life-drawing classes at the American Academy of Art under the legendary Bill Parks. "Though I'd always loved drawing, it was Mr. Parks who filled me with the enthusiasm and discipline necessary to improve my skills. His love of painting and creative expression infected us all." After finishing the Academy, Scott continued his study at the Palette and Chisel Art club, where he met his wife, painter Susan Lyon. "It's a wonderful thing being able to paint together all the time and grow as artists together," Scott says.

His ideas for paintings come from everywhere. "What makes a subject attractive to me are the same things that attract us all. The beauty of a young girl, the character of a weathered face, the solitude of a farm at sunset, or even the story itself behind someone or something that makes it interesting." Scott believes it is the job of the artist to recognize this when it happens, analyze why, and use his technical skills to convey the feeling to someone else. He notes that some paintings are as simple as stopping at the sight of something interesting, while others may take more time to research than to actually paint.

Today, Scott and Susan live in a rural area of North Carolina. Surrounded by forests and the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, their house is a perfect resting place after the many trips they take throughout the world in search of subject matter to paint.<

"I see painting as both a way of exploring the world and then as the vehicle of sharing those discoveries with others. I travel to find subjects to paint as much as paint so I can travel and expand my horizons. Through this unique language, one can say things that are impossible with words."


1988 Top 100 - Arts for the Parks.
1992 Senator Martin J. Butler Award - Oil Painters of America.
1993 Charles Vickery Award - Oil Painters of America.
1994 Grumbacher Art Award - Oil Painters of America
Top 200 - Arts for the Parks
Gilcrease Rendezvous Show - Demo Artist
1996 Silver Medal of Honor - Second Place American Watercolor Society
Award of Excelence - Oil Painters of America
First Place - Irving Shapiro Memorial Show, Palette and Chisel
1999 Signature Member and Artist Merit Award – Northwest Rendezvous Show
Artist's Choice Award – Laguna Plein-air-Painters exhibit at Laguna Museum
2001 Best of Show and Award of Merit – Western Rendezvous of Art (NWR)
2002 Best of Show and Award of Merit – Western Rendezvous of Art (NWR)
Award of Merit – Laguna Plein-air-Painters exhibit at Laguna Museum
Grand Prize – International Artist Magazine's Painting People Competition
2003 Grand Prize – International Artist Magazine – “Yellow Marigold”
Artist’s Choice Award – Laguna Plein-air-Painters exhibit at Laguna Museum
Merit – Western Rendezvous of Art (NWR)


The Palette and Chisel (Chicago, IL)
Northwest Rendezvous Show - Helena, Montana
Plein Air Painters of America
California Art Club


Betsy Schein Goldman, “Paintings that tell a Story”, American Artist, v.57, January 1993
Featured Artist - Scott Burdick, Art of the West, Jan/Feb 1994
Featured Artist - Scott Burdick, InformArt, November 1994
Scott Burdick, Watercolor Magic, Spring 1997 - Feature and Cover
Featured Artist - Scott Burdick, The Artist’s Magazine, Fall1997- Feature and Cover
Scott Burdick, Art Talk, November1997 - Feature and Cover
Featured Artist – Scott Burdick, Art of the West, July/August 1998
Margaret Brown, et al. “Shared Wisdom”, Southwest Art, v.28, June 1998
Feature Article, International Artists, 2000
Gussie Fauntleroy, “Painting the Figure”, Southwest Art v.30, Nov 2000
Plein Air Painting, International Artist 2001– part of group article on Plein Air Painting
Portfolio Alternatives, The Artist's Magazine 2001– part of article on Portfolio Alternatives
Feature & Cover Artist – Scott Burdick, The Artist’s Magazine, October 2001
Artist Couples, U.S. Art, January 2002
Artist Couples, Art Talk, June/July 2002
Scott Burdick in Nepal, Artist’s Sketchbook, September 2002
Stephen M. Doherty, “Scott Burdick and the Value of Drawing” American Artist, Sept 2002
Gussie Fauntleroy, “Painting the World”, Southwest Art, January 2003
The Creative Process, Artist’s Sketchbook, January 2003
Watercolor Magic, February 2003 – part of a group article
Artist's Sketchbook, July 2003 – part of a group article
Vicki Stavig, “Magnificent Seven” Art of the West, Jan/Feb 2004
“Quick Sketches”, American Artist, May 2004
“Composition”, American Artist, August 200

Because he is adept at drawing, this North Carolina artist is able to establish accurate proportions, proper alignment, or crisp edges; and he can more easily compose shapes, lines, and values. "If you spend a lot of time drawing, those mechanical aspects of creating a picture become less of a struggle," he explains.

"Drawing is an undervalued enterprise these days, and the work I see in galleries reflects the fact that artists just don't spend enough time drawing from life," says Scott Burdick. His words are not meant to condemn other artists. On the contrary, this cheerful, enthusiastic young artist believes that those who don't spend time drawing are simply missing one of the most pleasurable aspects of art.

"Making drawings can benefit artists in so many ways, but the best part is that it's a joyous experience," says Burdick. "Sometimes I make drawings to remain in touch with nature and the human form; sometimes I use them to define a picture emanating from my imagination; and sometimes I just make notes about what I'm seeing. It's always enjoyable and beneficial."

Burdick considers himself fortunate to have studied at a time when art schools expected their students to draw all the time. "I began taking life-drawing classes at the American Academy of Art in Chicago while I was still in high school, and I continued taking figure-drawing courses when I enrolled as a full-time student," says the 35-year-old artist. "After graduation, several friends and I joined the Palette & Chisel club, where we could draw and paint the figure on a regular schedule."

Although Burdick laments the shift away from drawing classes in most art schools, he points out that an artist doesn't have to enroll in a formal course to study drawing. "Any amount of drawing will be helpful, whether it's done in a weekly session with other artists, an intense five-day workshop with an instructor, or a daily basis at the kitchen table," he advises. "I frequently receive E-mail messages from artists asking me how they can learn to paint well, and I suggest they spend six hours a day drawing and then ask a professional to critique their drawings periodically. They don't need to be enrolled in a degree-granting program, and they don't need an expensively outfitted studio. With a few pencils and a sketch pad, they can improve their ability."

Following his own good advice, Burdick carries those basic drawing supplies with him as he and his wife, artist Susan Lyon, travel the United States and abroad. "One way I use drawings is to record observations quickly when I travel," he notes. "I fill a spiral sketchbook with studies of figures, landscapes, buildings, boats--anything that catches my attention. I prefer to make a lot of quick sketches rather than a few detailed drawings."

Some of these sketches, supplemented by photographs taken at the same time, become source material for his paintings. "I'm not thinking about a finished work of art when I'm sketching," he explains. "I'm just studying what I see, working out concepts, or trying out compositional ideas. I will usually sit in one spot and as people walk by, I pick out one interesting person to draw, then another, and another. I don't have a complete image in my mind. I just drift with the drawing to see what happens, and occasionally, I'll turn it into a finished drawing."

Burdick's paintings are seldom linked to specific sketches. "I may find a use for a single figure or building," he continues, "but most of the time, the painting concepts are much broader and require me to use a large group of photographs and hired models. Then I work out the composition in sketches and color studies."

The artist also makes large charcoal drawings from models and photographs, and these are also independent of his oil paintings. In many cases, first he applies a broad wash of tone made from combining ground charcoal powder with water and applying it to watercolor boards, charcoal paper, or a panel sealed with gesso or lightly toned with a wash of burnt sienna acrylic paint. "I have a clear idea of how the final drawing should appear before I even apply the first wash, and every subsequent layer of tone is layered to help bring that image to life," he explains. "These drawings are more like monochromatic watercolors, because I begin with painted washes of tone. When the washes are dry, I lift off charcoal with an eraser to establish highlights, and I overlay strokes of vine charcoal to add definition and deeper values to the drawing. The entire process can be done in a relatively short period of time."

If Burdick finds that one of his large charcoal drawings has the potential to be developed in color, he uses it as the basis of an oil painting. "In most cases, I don't think color would add anything to the image, but occasionally, there will be a figure or landscape that could work as a painting," he comments.

In addition to making on-site sketches and large charcoal drawings, Burdick uses his drawing skills to evaluate compositional ideas for his oil paintings. These are necessary because he applies the oil color wet-in-wet, moving from one section of the canvas to the next without going back over previously painted areas. The only way to be sure each new section will be consistent with those already painted is to have sketches and color studies guiding him through the process. "If I'm working on a relatively small canvas and can complete the picture before the paint dries, then I don't need all the studies," he explains. "But on a large canvas, or with a complicated subject, I have to know in advance how to modulate the colors and values."

The artist usually paints his color studies on 6?-x-8? or 9?-x-12? pieces of museum board sealed with shellac or gesso. "I have pieces of colored mat board and white museum board around the studio and stored with my travel equipment so I can sketch out an idea in graphite or charcoal, or I can paint a color study in oil," he explains, pointing out that he uses only acid-free or neutral pH boards for the studies. "I'm currently working on a 30?-x-40? painting of a scene in Nepal, and I've made lots of sketches and studies to help me pull that together."

Using techniques he learned from Bill Parks at the American Academy, Burdick mixes large amounts oil paint on his palette so he can complete the entire painting without having to remix colors. "I prepare three or four large piles of paint on the palette and then modify those as I work on individual sections of the painting," he explains. "There may be a basic flesh tone, for example, that I can make warmer, cooler, lighter, or darker as I capture the figure in the changing light. Working off that one mixture of paint helps to harmonize the colors and simplify the painting process." Those mixtures are made from an arrangement of tube colors that includes titanium white, cadmium yellow, cadmium orange, cadmium red, permanent rose, alizarin crimson, transparent oxide red, viridian, cobalt blue, ultramarine blue, and ivory black.

Burdick's procedure is to work from large shapes to progressively smaller shapes, always applying paint wet-in-wet. He may touch his brush into a container of turpentine before mixing paint, but he never uses painting medium. "If I finish a section and it doesn't seem to work well, I will scrape off the paint and start over," he says. "I don't try to make radical changes in what has already been painted, because that invariably causes the colors to get muddy and the edges to lose their definition. For the same reason, I seldom work on top of an area that has dried completely. The only time I might do that is when the change is very minor."

Because Burdick prefers the look of thick paint on his canvas, he does not work with thin glazes of color. "If a subject is best presented with thin layers of transparent color, I paint it with watercolors rather than oils," he says, pointing out that he frequently paints in watercolor.

Burdick has won a number of important awards for his oils and watercolors, including the Silver Medal of Honor from the American Watercolor Society, the Award of Excellence from the Oil Painters of America, First Place in the Irving Shapiro Memorial Show at the Palette & Chisel Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago, and Best of Show in 2001 at the Western Rendezvous of Art show in Helena, Montana. He is represented by Total Arts Gallery in Taos, New Mexico; Anne Hughes Fine Art in Dallas; Mountain Trails Gallery in Jackson, Wyoming; and Germanton Gallery in Germanton, North Carolina.