Samantha French was one of the first young painters we thought of to feature when starting Design Tonic. She is extremely talented and fresh. Visiting artist "studios" around the country I wasn't surprised by the long subway trip followed by a walk through run down garages, and storage units. As I got closer to Ms. French's residence it became ..."am I even in New York still" kind of moment. As she answered the buzzer of a lone stucco home on a hill in an outer borough, I wondered where she got her inspiration for her series of swimmers. SF: My paintings first came out of my own reflections and memories of my childhood summers spent in the lakes of Northern Minnesota. We spent nine months of the year dealing with the winter .When the lakes finally thawed it felt like you had been waiting a lifetime to dive in. When I was in college I did a painting from a photograph of my mother and aunt at the lake when I was a baby. With this element of nostalgia and these beautiful abstracted qualities of green reflections in the water I knew I had found something that deeply resonated with me. That was where this ongoing series began. The paintings themselves are figurative and representational in nature but the reflections and refracted light add an abstract quality to the work. Having the figure as a reference point allows me to focus on those abstractions that the reflections in the water provide. Along with the contrasts they bring to the work, discovering how the two things react with one another, such as how the light bouncing off the skin mimics the ripples in the water.
As I listened to this up and coming "creative," I couldn't help but notice how far she has taken herself away from her Northern Minnesota inspiration. Her walls are covered by her work and her boyfriend, Aaron Hauck. There studios are at opposite sides of their apartment but close enough to hear each other throw a brush. Samantha cups her coffee while she explains her huge giclee printers and Etsy point of view.
I think Etsy is an excellent way to connect with a whole other audience I might not get if my work was only in galleries. It has a great community base and an easy infrastructure to work within. You can kind of step back and almost let others market your work for you, it’s really almost remarkable. It’s a different version of word of mouth via treasuries, circles, likes, etc. Buying handmade and local is important to me.
Etsy early on was better known for knitted hats and craft projects. Not long after its initial launch "fine" artists struggling with the cliche term of "starving artist," took over. Work was available for purchase and the chance at exposer and profit was completely in the artist grasp. Ms. French provides high end quality prints of her paintings in her online shop.
SF: I have been able to control my own business and for now that suits me perfectly. Although my paintings are not at the 50K mark — yet, they are still in price bracket that isn’t affordable for a lot of people. Making my work accessible via prints is important to me and the growth of my name. So many of my clients and buyers have reached out to me and when I hear why they bought a certain piece it can be really moving. It keeps me in my work.
Her small dog leaps and hides while we walk and talk about her work. Most the pieces shown in this article were packaged up for an up coming show in see though plastic sleeves. The pleasure of going to an artist studio is seeing the tossed aside pieces the ones that are struggles or painted over. Ms. French had a few on the wall still wet and a favorite of mine behind a door. As she stood in her studio guarding her efforts it was clear she plans to join a long line of laboring, "Creatives."
There are so many painters that I admire. Euan Uglow was a remarkable figure painter. His tight measuring and almost surreal color and temperature shifts are just mesmerizing. Ann Gale is another very process oriented figure painter that I have been watching since I was in college. There are so many contemporary artists that I have been looking at, with the internet and all of the new art blogs and resources it seems like there is no end to the supply of talented people, I discover new ones every day. But I am definitely influenced by interior designers as well. I have tried not to pay too much attention to the trends in painting/art; I’ve found that if I just keep working and making paintings that I want to see, that challenge me or that move me in some way I’ll be just fine.
As the natural light fades in the hall way our time together draws to a close. She walks me to the door not sure if she mentioned everything, and maybe even wondering if the article will mount to much. I asked her if she thinks art is relevant in our contemporary world? She answered assuredly....
Art is everywhere. It is in everything we do and see. Art is an amazing communication tool and has been used for centuries just for that purpose. I may be bias but I think it is one of the most important things in our culture.
I walked down the steep stair crowded by Etsy packages on there way out and thought, "Art IS everywhere." Passing her landlord I asked about the couple she rented to, she stated, "They are good." I would have to agree.