In Conversation with Carla Scotto

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Sometimes we get  bit stressed about, you know, the world - the oceans are filling up with plastic, social equality feels like a long way off, and is the sun getting HOTTER RIGHT NOW?! Carla Scotto is a woman who knows this fear well - and as a designer, illustrator, improviser and all round delightful person, she is doing her part to ease that fear and fix the world. We had a chat with her about art, fear, and crappy takeaway cups. 

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Tell us a bit about yourself - who are you and what are you passionate about?

My name is Carla and I’m a Melbourne based designer, illustrator, improvisor, and some days I feel like a low key philosopher - but that may just be my overthinking brain constantly at work. I’m passionate about other people’s ignorance and apathy, typography, wondering where it all went wrong, and pink.

Much of your work has an environmentalist tone - did you always want to combine your love of design and conservation?

Not entirely, love of conservation really stemmed from fear. I was depressed for a while and I knew my immediate environment had a lot to do with it, but even more so did my big-picture view of environmental damage. For a really long time I struggled to reconcile my place in a world that wouldn’t prioritise safeguarding the planet for future generations. So from that harrowing thought, and the realisation that I’m not a doctor but a bloody graphic designer, I felt like whatever I did had to mean something.

Do you feel like design and visual art is able to impact people in a way other mediums can’t?

People say it’s really important, but those people are usually artists. It’s hard to gauge. My art reaches three kinds of people, eco-minded people who care and who are scared, fellow artists who like my style, and people who followed me when I drew a really shit drawing of the harry potter meme “yer a wizard harry.” I might not be making effective change, I am kinda fearful that I’m not educating, rather I’m just circle-jerking to people who know what I know. 

That being said, recently something I created circulated in India after Greenpeace India shared it on their socials. It was a comic about bioplastic, and I felt that one could actually create a ripple of change because of the locations it was being viewed in.

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Like a lot of artists today, you have built an online following. Do you feel like there are any drawbacks to sharing your art online? Does it help you develop your style further, or can it sometimes hinder you?

If you want to feel simultaneously ignored and involved, create an instagram for your art. I struggle to keep up with the ever changing algorithms, and actually reaching those who follow me. Here are some positives though: you can see your progress, it is an excellent mini folio and can help establish your brand and tone, you connect with people that aren’t friends of friends and from all these different countries, (5% of my followers live in Krakow, the more you know). That being said the negatives are felt on a very regular basis: there is a pressure to be posting regularly so that you appear in people’s feeds, it can be hard to try new things if people just want some funny slogan about how SHIT takeaway coffee cups are. I’m more than my disdain for single use waste, y’know?

The freelance/gig economy can be difficult and often exploitative. How do you navigate a work-life balance?

I don’t, I’m a medium-rare workaholic. I’m really trying because I’m going away next week for a WORK-FREE holiday. It’ll be the first time since I started freelancing and you better believe I’m a bit nervous. Being the type of designer that responds to emails at ungodly hours means clients dO NOT respect my boundaries, because neither do I. That all had to change when I started dating a fellow designer and illustrator @ink.boy because he didn’t want to do work together on the weekends! The nerve. As for the freelance life being exploitative, yeah it is, but so were the in house design jobs I found myself stuck in. It’s very hard to find a good job, and even harder to find a good job for a company that doesn’t make the world a worse place. Also the public transport system in Melbourne has the power to ruin your day, I don’t need that negativity in my life right now, for now I’ll continue to work for myself.

You’re also an improviser - what appeals to you about the medium of improv? Do you find any overlap with your visual art?

I come up with ideas pretty quickly for clients, and doing Improv has resulted in some work for me. My first mural is actually at The Improv Conspiracy, so you can say they overlap from time to time.

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And finally, a few questions we ask everyone at her words!

Who are your heroes?

All the actresses from the Good Fight, Claire Danes, Gene Wilder, Hayao Miyazaki, Christian Van Minnen, my mum, partner, and dog also save me on a very regular basis.

What advice would you give your younger self?

If you’re going to get so hung up on how nothing really matters then try caring less, and if his name isn’t Inkboy, don’t bother.

What is one thing everyone could do to create greater equality in Australia and beyond?

As a feminist and an environmentalist I’ve had people ask me which one I prioritise more and I think it’s weird to not consider how the environment impacts everything we do and create. I’ve had people tell me that if climate change is happening already, then why not work on gender equality and make whatever time humanity has left the best it can be (NO). Inequality breeds from environmental instability, along with war, drought, famine, disease - all of these perpetuate inequality. Easier said than done but if we want to achieve greater equality in Australia and around the word, we can start by caring about the home that houses us all.

What are you looking forward to right now?

Japan. I also have a customised resuable cup in the works with JOCO, probably one of the best jobs I’ve landed to date.

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Thank you so much for your time Carla! And if you want to find more of Carla's work, you can head to her website and instagram. Go on.

Domini Marshall