Artist to Watch: O’Neil Scott

Realistic Portrait Paintings > There is a lot of superb contemporary realism being made these days; this article by Allison Malafronte shines light on a gifted individual.

contemporary realism portrait paintings - O'Neil Scott (b. 1982), "Ummi," 2019, oil on panel, 36 x 24 in., private collection
O’Neil Scott (b. 1982), “Ummi,” 2019, oil on panel, 36 x 24 in., private collection

O’Neil Scott makes paintings that are hard to ignore. They pose pointed questions and challenge accepted societal norms relating to marginalized communities, either in the past or the present. With a touch of ambiguity and occasional irony, his works force us to fill in the blanks or consider the inconsistencies presented. For instance, what message do we get when we see a black man in a business suit with a U.S. flag covering his mouth and the title reads Second Citizen? Or how about a woman with pink hair holding a teddy bear, wearing a gas mask, sitting between two U.S. flags, titled “Toxic Environment”?

Part of what makes Scott’s work so piercing is the high level of skill with which he paints and the clear conviction he has about the statements he makes. While addressing a broad range of topical subjects, he also paints classic portraits, using his talents to shed light on someone who has in some way remained in the shadows. “Ummi,” for instance — a finalist in the 14th International ARC Salon in 2019 — features a woman near and dear to his heart.

“There is a surreal feeling when a portrait of someone you have known since childhood starts to come together,” Scott shares. “You begin to see him or her in a different light, with an increased degree of vulnerability and humanity. ‘Ummi’ is a painting of my best friend’s mother, an American Muslim woman who watched over and cared for me as a child. My hope is that this painting evokes thoughts of empathy toward a race and religion under-represented within portraiture.”

Originally hailing from Spanish Town, Jamaica, Scott moved to the U.S. at age 5 and went on to earn a B.S. in information systems and technology at Syracuse University, followed by an M.B.A. from the University of Delaware. Pivoting toward a career in art soon after, he taught himself to draw and paint through studying the Old Masters and taking workshops. Today Scott makes his home and studio in West Chester, Pennsylvania, not far from the vibrantly creative community of Philadelphia.

This article was originally published in Fine Art Connoisseur magazine.

Related article about O’Neil Scott:
How My Oil Painting Provided Healthcare for 250 Children

Connect with the artist and see more of his portrait paintings:
Website | Instagram

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