|House of Flies|
Around that time, the Seattle Opera was looking for a new artist to illustrate elements of Wagner's Ring Cycle for August 2013. Karin Kough visited the Art of RPG, and impressed with the quality of the artwork, asked me to send a Call for Artists to the group. Several illustrators responded enthusiastically (including myself): Wagner's opera cycle (a five day marathon of over-the-top opera) often makes superstars of it's artists, as it's the Creme du la Creme of the opera world. Samuel also answered the call.
Sam was picked out of 1200 applicants to be the face of Seattle's Ring Cycle. He beat out many illustrators with weighty resumes, and when I saw his pieces (which we will be making print sets of in the near future), I immediately understood why he got the job.
|Die Walkure, one of five illustrations for The Ring|
|Inconnu, hand painted giclee on archival paper|
Since then, he's been accepted into this year's Spectrum annual. He's been swamped with book covers and commissions, and has built a vast following of fans from all over. Seeing as it's extremely expensive to ship artwork to and from Paraguay, we worked out a deal to represent Sam here at Krab Jab Studio.
I asked Sam if he would answer our 10 questions, and he did, albeit just 9, but with much thought. Enjoy!
1. What is your educational background with art?
I studied graphic design for two years, which I would say it was a complete waste of time, but I got to admit that it helped me to gather my resolve to be an artist or die trying, instead of compromising the journey and confine it to something to do the weekends, whilst keeping a day job in order to buy shit I don't need and be happy only during vacations. So I decided to teach myself how to draw and how to take photographs via books, internet tutorials and almost everything I could find, which was an interesting experience.
Later on I was blessed with a scholarship at the now defunct “The Art Department”, I had the chance to see some of my personal heroes working, like Rick Berry, George Pratt and Jon Foster, I also meet so
many talented students and instructors whose work I currently admire, particularly Vanessa & Ron Lemen, Anita Kunz, Sterling Hundley and I will stop the name dropping now, but seriously it was an experience
like no other. The most important lesson I learned was ironically to shut down all outside influences and concentrate on building a personal voice.
2. what type of art or artist has been an inspiration for you? You can name more than one.
Christopher Shy was the artists that originally got me interested in art. I have a funny story, through highschool I convinced myself I could never ever learn to draw, and when I saw that Christopher was
using photographs I thought “Man, that would be easier than actually painting someone”. Only to find that such folklore was pure bollocks and now I will need to learn how to paint and take good photographs as
well if I wanted to work with that combination. Christopher's work is simply wonderful, he is such a great designer, doing haunting images of primal beauty.
|To Stephen Kasner, hand painted giclee on archival paper|
There many other artists, like Gary Kelley, Mark English, Jon W. Waterhouse, Beksinski, Enki Bilal, Giger, Junji Ito, Phil Hale, Kow Yokoyama, Stephen Kasner, Denis Forkas Kostromitin, Austin Osman Spare
and the list will go on, but I gotta say that the work of Nicola Samori was a turning point. His art taught me that there is only one act more sacred than the one of creation, and that its destruction. It made me break down the barriers of the ego, if you wish to get esoteric. No longer I was held by the idea of my work being precious or immaculate, by incorporating the of tearing down a piece to the very foundation as a means to find something which speaks more intimately about the nature of beauty and memory.
3. What kind of literature or game do you see yourself illustrating for in the future? Do you like one kind of illustration over another?
I look forward to do more book covers for novels in the horror/fantasy genre. So far the response to my forays into that field has been tremendous. I love books that deal with fiction… truth to be told I would love to illustrate something like “Blood Meridian” by Cormac McCarthy as well. I favor illustration that have no clear narrative and doesn’t limits itself to describe the text, but adds a counterchange and starts a mental dialogue between the image and what you are reading.
|Alice Walks, digital painting for book cover of same name|
my path leads elsewhere.
You can guess I'm not much into doing concept art or all that stuff, working with style guides as well, but again its a question about how much the themes of the property resonate with me. I'm fine with almost
every kind of illustration job as long as there is that emotional connection, but I have not interested in being a “wrist” that serves to articulate someone else's ideas without question nor space for re-interpretation.
4. Do you plan to stay in Paraguay or consider moving up north?
I would love to move up north, I fell in love with Seattle, you already know that! Seeing so many people committed to their art was something new for me. Besides any city with more crows than pigeons
gets my vote any time of the day. I don't like the idea of “belonging”, but the Emerald City won me over by the time I stepped out of the plane. Besides I love traveling, I just need to figure out how to make my
studio set-up mobile! Logistically it will be also an interesting move, since being in Paraguay limits a number of important choices that range from the materials I can access to the people I can reach with my work. Yes, I'm considering, if not completely decided.
5. You have a very dark vision and touch to your work. Does this reflect your view of life, or does it reflect a specific ideology?
To quote Nick Cave: "Nothing happened in my childhood — no trauma or anything, I just had a genetic disposition toward things that were horrible."
|Samael, hand painted giclee on archival paper|
do, for my only concern is that people may view my work as an attempt to exorcise personal demons or such nonsense, when the final intend it's quite the opposite.
6. Is there a repetitive element that you subconsciously or consciously add to your work?
Yes, a lot of them actually. I have a very specific plan when I start, everything that serves for the structure of the image, the collage or the underpainting, its carefully researched and set, the most common elements are traditional magic or religious symbols and of course, my favorite subject, the female figure. This is the framework where the element of destruction its incorporated, through layers and layers of paint being worked, then swiped, then rebuild, and so on. This stage it's more reactive, or subconscious if you wish. For example, lately I have been doing some small ink pieces, where I decided to apply automatic writing and sigil making. After a certain point of careful rendering has been completed, common patterns began to emerge in these, like the spiral and the devil's tail; their meaning is a bit too personal to talk about in public but always in the right direction into developing of a my own symbolic language.
|Ring the Deathbell, digital painting|
Lastly, I use water based media again because of that synergy of what's associated with the element, mutable and irrational. I must confess, however, that finding low odour or odorless turpentine in Paraguay is impossible, so that contributed to seal the deal regarding water based mediums; all of this, of course, must be just a coincidence...
7. Do you have other interests or activities you enjoy other than art?
I used to enjoy singing, but I been quite out of practice, I'm currently working on that. I love tabletop wargaming, but found that miniatures are taking much of my time and priorities lie elsewhere. As a side effect, I'm into model kit building as well, but it has been years since I finished or painted anything, I just cant help it, Japanese mecha are things of beauty, but again, time is the essence that I must devote to other things.
|Pisces (Rusalka), mixed media|
or motivational crap.
8. What are your thoughts on the future of illustration in the publication industry?
I think that there will be always a need for a creator of good images. I don't think I can anticipate anything else. I do like the model that Sterling Hundley proposes, of the illustrator as an entrepreneur
rather than the classic business model, I think it's the next logical step for the field. If you are not familiar with it, I recommend you urgently Google interviews with the man and carefully listen to what he has to say, anything I would write to describe it wouldn't do justice to his vision, and while we are at it, check out his Legendeer workshop: http://legendeer.org/
9. If you could show again in the States, what kind of theme or body of work would you consider doing? What medium would you use?
At the moment Im working on a series of mixed media pieces based around “The king in yellow”, the book by Robert W. Chambers, it occurred me that the figure of the king relates to Citrinitas, the yellowing stage of the alchemical magnum opus. Cassilda's song its obviously Nigredo, the dark night of the soul, the blackening and Christ at the garden contemplating martyrdom, the unmasking at the ball, obviously the Cauda Pavonis, the turning point in the play and for the alchemist. At the moment I'm a bit swamped to clearly see the future, but another show on the States certainly will explore a similar roadmap, revolving around the relationship between visual art, literature, religion and the occult. Another theme that I been working on was the relationship of art and memory, however, I'm still in the writing stages and it will be a while before I can explain it coherently.
|Plutonian Shore, mixed media on paper|
from the blackening, the whiteness of Albedo emerges. I enjoy seeing these connections, all lovely accidents, of course...