Living In Colour: The Art of Scott Hutchison
Ahead of Living In Colour: The Art of Scott Hutchison's arrival this month, we catch up with his brother and Frightened Rabbit bandmate Grant as well as long-time artistic collaborator Dave Thomas
When I found out Scott had died in May 2018, I ran out of the office and cried in a toilet cubicle. I didn’t know Scott that well, but our paths had crossed on multiple occasions over the better part of a decade. I always felt moved by his music and in particular his ability to stitch humour so beautifully throughout his poetic lyricism, his undeniably powerful and funny stage presence, and his willingness to make time for everyone. I never went to that 2012 Cab Vol show, because I knew it was going to be a logistical nightmare, but I wasn’t surprised to learn that Scott had gone outside and played to the queue of folks who couldn’t get in. Of course he did. A true legend and kind soul.
Personally, it took me a long time to be able to listen to a Frightened Rabbit record after his passing, but for Scott’s family something had to carry on. To help young minds feel better, in 2019 they launched the charity Tiny Changes in Scott’s honour. At the end of 2021, The Work was published, celebrating Scott’s lyrics. It’s a beautiful book filled with detailed handwritten lyrics, ponderings, notes to Scott's self so he wouldn’t forget things, and lots of Scott’s illustrations. It prompted me to look out an old DIY, handmade, radio promo copy of Sing the Greys I knew I had somewhere in the house. I’ve since gotten three of Scott’s illustrations from that promo tattooed on the back of my left forearm – a wee hat, a severed hand, and an exclamation point. It felt weirdly healing.
To further celebrate Scott’s art, a new book arrives this month. Worked on by Scott’s family and long-time artistic collaborator Dave Thomas, Living In Colour documents Scott’s talents across nine different sections, each playfully named after Frabbit lyrics, featuring works from his childhood through his time at the Glasgow School of Art, his tireless work for Frightened Rabbit and more. In the foreword of The Work, the band said that “acknowledging the years in this form without him wasn’t an easy task”, one that “brought deep waves of emotion and meant laugh-crying in the kitchen wasn’t out of the ordinary.”
Of the process for Living in Colour, his brother and bandmate Grant confesses that “[it] was similarly difficult in that it was another reminder of exactly what we’ve lost. Scott’s talent when it came to his art was incomparable really and for that to have been cut short is absolutely heartbreaking. In some ways a lot of the work in this book is even more personal as a lot of it wasn’t produced specifically for the public to see. Because of that there’s a very real insight into Scott's mind and how he thought, that I wasn’t sure would be there like it was in The Work.”
Dave found the process similarly hard. “There are of course a lot of emotions that come up during a process like this, it always reminds you of a friend who is no longer with us, but also of the jaw-dropping talent he had. I knew so much of the artwork Scott had done for the albums I'd collaborated on with him over the years, but this was the first time I saw a lot of his artwork going right back to childhood, through to art school and some of his personal sketchbooks too.
“As we looked through everything it was amazing to see his artwork develop, and exciting to spot little details appear in earlier pieces of work that were so recognisable to me from the things we worked on years later. So much of what you see in his artwork is a direct reflection of Scott's personality and especially his humour. That was the thing I enjoyed the most, going through everything, turning a page and at once being blown away by the brilliance of the imagery, but also the fact that so much of it made us immediately laugh out loud.”
'Fuelman' illustration from Living in Colour: The Art of Scott Hutchison. Photo courtesy of Faber Music
Honoured to have now worked on two books of Scott’s work, Dave tells us that the pair had long shared a dream to create a book together. “We often talked about ideas for things outside of artwork for albums or singles, and a shared love of illustrated books was something that came up a lot. Scott had already started working on illustrations to accompany each track on The Midnight Organ Fight that was intended to be made into a book. Some of the pages he had already completed featured in The Work and some are also featured in [Living In Colour].”
In Living in Colour’s foreword, of Scott, Dave says: “It was really exciting to meet someone who thought as thoroughly about how he wanted his music to look as he did about how it should sound.” He tells us: “That was what I loved about Scott. His creativity extended in so many different directions, it was infectious to be around. He was a supremely talented artist and illustrator and his visual style is as instantly recognisable as his lyrics and music. Through the music of Frightened Rabbit and the artwork and imagery he created, he has created a legacy which continues to be a rich source of positive inspiration for so many fans around the world.”
Going full circle, Living In Colour also features a number of artworks submitted by fans, as well as friends and family. Over the course of a couple of days, Dave tells us that everything they had gathered they photographed and scanned in a studio at the Glasgow School of Art, attempting to capture it as real to life as possible. At the back of the book, they admit to not being able to fit everything in, so we ask Grant if he thinks anything will be done with the additional works. “I have always thought that some kind of exhibition of Scott’s artwork would be a great way to share it and it’s something we’re still keen to explore.
“Committing time to projects like this is very emotionally exhausting," Grant admits, "so it’s definitely a case of doing one thing at a time, but to see these pieces in real life is so special and I’d love to see that happen. It’s also something I think Scott would have loved to have seen happen too. We’ll never know exactly how he would’ve presented everything and that’s why he was so unique. I know he’d have been proud to see his work out there to be shared with the people who supported Frightened Rabbit for all those years and hopefully people beyond that community too.”
Grant further adds: "Scott was so much more than Frightened Rabbit and this is our way of showing that. In my opinion he was one of the best songwriters to have lived, but he was also an illustrator and a creator of other beautiful pieces of art. We also wanted to showcase his humour which was present in his songwriting too but maybe even more obvious here with his scribbles and sketches on drumheads, and his fascination with facial hair! I think art is all about inspiring other people and my hope is that on seeing this book, people find that inspiration to start drawing or expressing themselves in a way that maybe they haven’t before. His creativity was endless and so powerful and if this work remained in a box in my house it would feel like a terrible waste."
Living In Colour: The Art of Scott Hutchison comes out on 14 Jul, published by Faber Music; to win a copy of the book and a tote bag, check our competitions page