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Interview with Scott Teplin, Second Story Artist

Here's an interview with artist Scott Teplin digging into his fantastic artwork Second Story (partly shown above), which was our 2024 Pairs speed puzzling contest and is now available to everyone as a...

Here's an interview with artist Scott Teplin digging into his fantastic artwork Second Story (partly shown above), which was our 2024 Pairs speed puzzling contest and is now available to everyone as a 383 piece puzzle

Artifact: What inspired Second Story? 

Teplin: I’ve been drawing isometric architectural art for more than 20 years, but felt newly inspired by the impossible illusions of visual space pioneered by Oscar Reutersvärd, Roger Penrose and, most notably, M.C. Escher. Those ideas led to my new body of work for a solo show I had last October.

Second Story was the largest piece in that show. It took 4 months to draw and measures 4 feet by 3 feet.

Artifact: What's your favorite space in Second Story and why?

Teplin: I like the art studio because….art studio. Second to that would be the game room [shown above] because I fantasize of having a room filled with old game cabinets like Tron Deadly Disc, Sinistar, Boot Hill, and pinball games.


Artifact: My favorite part of Second Story is the massive carpeted pit in the living room, it reminds me of those 1960's mid-century modern houses with a sunken living room, except this pit seems to go down endlessly, and the sheer horror of that is brought home by the vacuum cleaner at the top, as if taunting us to keep all those steps clean. But why does this dream house have what appears to be an endless pit of despair?

Teplin: I like the juxtaposition of cheerful bright colors that suggest potential sinister situations behind what we are able to see. I draw because of how enjoyable it is to manipulate our sense of imagined space with simple lines.  It allows the viewer to fill in the story with their individual visual vocabulary that they uniquely have bouncing around in their own heads, making the experience unique for each person.


Artifact: Why does this guy have a Camel cigarettes billboard on his rooftop deck [shown above]? 

Teplin: I recently moved my studio to Brooklyn after having one in the Times Square neighborhood for 22 years and I was feeling nostalgic. 


Artifact: The only living creatures in Second Story are the octopi. Why is that? 

Teplin: I like it better when people pretend they are traveling around the area alone. Octopi are other-worldly, amazing, super smart and only live about two years. They’re just graceful, mysterious and beautiful.

When you depict people in this type of drawing the viewer is fed information about who lives or exists in this world. By seeing that, it restricts the experience of exploring the spaces as if they were there themselves instead imagining what this character I’ve drawn is doing. 

Artifact: Your fall show was full of intriguing Escher-esque interiors, like this other artwork shown above. Are there any common themes you like to include in your artwork that we should appreciate in Second Story?

Teplin: Flowing liquid is a great compositional element that carries the viewer's eye around a drawing.

Slides too.

This series actually started because I used to obsess over lone objects that consist of minimal lines but are easily recognizable (beds, chairs, pink frosted donuts, butter, shrubbery, gross dripping goo, 80’s video game cabinets) and I wanted to draw environments around them to put them into some kind of context. 

Artifact: Was Second Story all done by hand?

Teplin: Yes, pen and ink and then watercolor. It’s harder to draw in pen and ink than on an iPad (I do draw digitally sometimes for preliminary sketches).

I use old fashioned steel nib dip pens and India ink because it’s a slower process and takes more time with which thinking can occur. 

I also like that there’s no safety net in pen and ink, nor with watercolor.

Imperfections in line and color are important.

But I do it because it always looks better to me; more unique to my hand and it becomes something that only I can do exactly in that way. It allows me to own a body of work.

I love the feel of making something from nothing, with no modern technology involved.


Artifact: In college you spent a year abroad in Florence, arguably the Disneyland for artists. How did Florence influence you artistically?

Teplin: I learned to (love to) use watercolor in Florence. I’m pretty sure the arched doorways I’ve been drawing for decades stem from my time sketching in Tuscany.


Artifact: We love the Escher-esque flow of the rooms of the house, and your 7 Waterfalls (shown above) is a masterpiece of Escher art. Any tips on how you go Escher

Teplin: First learn to draw spaces sensically, then experiment and play around until what you’re already working with can get distorted just the right amount to make sense while also subtly not making sense.


Artifact: Who else has influenced you artistically? Who are some of your art heroes and why?

Teplin: Artists whose work I love to look at include Renee French, Amy Cutler, Dan Clowes, Robert Gober, Walton Ford, Albrecch Durer, Arturo Herrera, Vincent Van Gogh, George Grosz, MC Escher, Vija Clemins, Da Vinci, Inka Essenhigh, Agnes Martin, Paul Noble, Tom Sachs, Mark Wagner, and many many more.


Artifact: Second Story was the name of your solo show last fall with this artwork at the gallery Plant 486 in Brooklyn. What's it like having a solo show? Is any of the artwork from that show still available?

Teplin: Solo shows are a roller coaster of emotions.

Here’s my experience of having a solo show:

  1. Anxiety of trying to land a solo show at a great gallery

  2. Excitement of scheduling a solo show gallery

  3. Anxiety of having to make new work for the show

  4. Excitement of getting to make new work for a show

  5. Anxiety of worrying the work might suck

  6. Excitement of realizing the work doesn’t suck and is pretty damn good

  7. Anxiety of a deadline fast approaching, preparing promotional info, installing the show

  8. Excitement of the opening 

  9. Anxiety of wondering if people would love it

  10. Excitement of selling my artwork and getting new fans

  11. Anxiety of storing unsold, framed work

  12. Excitement of selling from past shows and finally making rooms in the studio for the cycle to begin again

And yes - some of the Second Story show's artwork is still available - buyers can contact me for details.


Artifact: What new projects are you thinking about or working on now?

Teplin:  Wallflowers [shown above] and a series of isometric 3 ft x 3 ft drawings like the 7 Waterfalls you mentioned (including this and this).


Artifact: Thanks Scott! Folks, to see more intriguing Scott Teplin art, you can check out more of Teplin's art on his website, sign-up for his emails, his instagram is @steplin, and he has a great YouTube channel!


1 comment on Interview with Scott Teplin, Second Story Artist
  • Hronir Jones
    Hronir JonesJune 02, 2024

    Great interview, thanks! Would like to see more in-depth content like this on your blog.

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