Modern Artist Scott Lance: Painter & Photographer Inspired By Da Vinci, Auguste Rodin

Often we hear that artists are cut from a different mold. Not so with Scott Lance, who for 20 years was entrenched in corporate Silicon Valley and today is a fledgling, self-employed painter/photographer/art instructor. Lance doesn’t speak in guarded tones, nor does he balk at explaining the intricacies of his work. He leaves his ego on the canvas, his soapbox on a shelf and talks passionately about his lifelong devotion.

“I believe art is a very important part of our lives,” Lance says. “Not just because it’s my life’s work. The (students) who come here to learn tell me that this (class) is the most fulfilling part of their week, and they so look forward to it.”

Art is in all of us

Lance takes pride in doing his part to manifest that enthusiasm, not only in his pupils but also in prospective clients. He contends there is an artist or art lover in all of us, stemming from an early childhood fascination for making things come to life with crayons, paper and a vivid imagination.

“If you go into a kindergarten class and ask ‘How many of you are artists?’ every hand goes up,” Lance says. “It is part of our beings. The ability to make a mark of some kind is fundamental to art, whether it’s watercolor, oil, crayon … graffiti, if I dare say. Making a mark is so human.”

Lance, 53, would love nothing more than to help rekindle a flame that, for some, hasn’t burned in decades. For this reason, the door to his humble gallery/studio in Gilroy, Calif. – the gateway to his life’s work, if you will – remains open, as does his approach to his work.

“With me, there’s no distinction between forms,” says Lance, who one moment could be working with oils and canvas and the next with a digital camera and printer. “Part of that comes from being a graphic designer for 20 years.

“Take a look around, and you’ll see right away, like da Vinci, there’s a lack of divisions,” he continued. “Many people don’t realize that Leonardo did very few paintings. He was also a sculptor, a biologist, an architect. … And I think like him in some ways.”

Family business

Lance was exposed early in life to art and music. His father was an art teacher, and some of Lance’s fondest memories are of the visits to Dad’s classrooms, exploring the works in progress or running his fingers across a blank canvas or gripping a brush as he imagined a “real artist” would.

When his father moved on to teach other subjects, Lance’s mother “carried the torch” with her musical savvy as an accomplished pianist and organist. She always made art a regular part of the home décor, Lance recalls. “She’s still my muse,” he says.

After graduating from Brigham Young University in 1980, Lance evolved as a digital artist in Silicon Valley’s rapidly growing corporate structure. The victim of a layoff in 2001, he decided it was time to devote himself to his dream of becoming an independent artist.

Reconnecting, making a mark

When he’s not painting or teaching, Lance breaks out his photography gear and “reconnects” with his surroundings. Some days he’ll take as many as 300 pictures.

His many travels include a regular trek to San Francisco to visit the Legion of Honor museum, where he has “conversations” with the many notable artists on display such as Rembrandt, Monet and Picasso.

“I’ve always felt that I don’t deserve to call myself an artist unless I do something that makes some kind of tangible mark,” says Lance, who has twice won the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival poster contest. “Sometimes that may be just a matter of revisiting the art that’s all around us.”

In the evenings, Lance is in his studio teaching. He usually paints late at night, sometimes until midnight, he says.

While photography is the bread and butter of his business, painting is Lance’s true passion. He recognizes the economics of today’s art world and makes a conscious effort to produce “affordable” pieces. For a standard 16×20 portrait oil painting – one that others might price in the tens of thousands – Lance charges about $950. He also offers reasonable rates to retouch old photos using the latest in digital technology.

“I want to take down, as much as I possibly can, all the barriers to learning about and purchasing art,” he says.

When the subject turns to art’s role in society, Lance refers to an assertion from one of his early influences, 19th-century sculptor Auguste Rodin, who professed, “The only obligation of art is to touch the emotions.”

Lance concurs in earnest. “When I heard that, it was like a thunderclap. I said ‘Oh my gosh, that is right.’ It doesn’t matter how much it costs, who painted it, who the subject is. It doesn’t matter the style the artist used. If it touches you, then that is the essence of art.”