Today, we’re speaking with artist Sam Saint (she/her) about why the initial lockdown in 2020 prompted her to pick up a Sharpie and recreate cherished social scenes from years gone by. We also discuss Sam’s thoughts on body positivity and the reasons why her nude art is proving powerful in a non-sexual way!
Britain Uncovered: Hi Sam! First of all, congratulations on the launch of your new website, samsaintart.com – it’s fantastic seeing all your work in one place and we’ve really enjoyed looking through your galleries and seeing all the original artwork you have for sale!
We understand that your desire to draw 'humans experiencing something together' stems from the social deprivation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Could you tell us a little more about your initial intent and aspirations, along with how your renowned black and white style came about?
Sam: So when I first started creating art again (after a 12-year hiatus), it was in the middle of the first lockdown and I was on furlough, so I had a lot of time on my hands! I felt the need to express myself and channel my creativity into something that felt very natural – which was putting Sharpie to paper.
I started by drawing a few ‘party scenes’ and felt great comfort in reminiscing about the great times that filled my life before Covid. It made me feel excited about having these experiences again. Then people started asking me if they could pay me to could draw something for them... so I did!
My black and white marker pen style came about because I literally didn’t have any other materials to hand. I came to love the high contrast/monochrome aesthetic and have continued to develop it over the past year, moving from a lot of ‘block black’ to including more textures and fine line pen techniques to bring each scene to life.
Britain Uncovered: Do the unique social scenes you create help make up for our lack of social interaction during this seemingly never-ending lockdown period, and do you think they’re providing comfort to the viewer and helping them to feel more connected during these tricky times?
Sam: I don’t think they will ever make up for the lack of social lives we have had over the past year... but I do think they can serve as a warming reminder of what came before, and what we have to look forward to as we come out the other side of this pandemic. Some commissions have been deeply personal to my clients and they have expressed to me that the process felt cathartic and helped them connect to their lives before Covid.
Britain Uncovered: Like several of our previous interviewees, you’re also a regular attendee of Rosy & Ruby’s Body Love Sketch Club events (which have been held online via Zoom since May 2020). How important to you is the concept of body positivity, and what is it you particularly enjoy about these events? Do they help influence your artistic outlook and help you on a personal level too?
Sam: Body positivity is hugely important to me. I’ve spent the majority of my life feeling that I was not enough, feeling that I had to constantly work on changing and bettering myself – physically and mentally. It’s only over the past few years in my late twenties/early thirties that I have started to love my mind and my body, and attending events like Body Love Sketch Club has been a great way to remind myself of the progress I have made and continue to make.
I love how these events take me out of my own head and artistic style; they are freeing and can really help reset my creative mind if I have been experiencing any creative block. I also love experiencing such a wholesome event with so many like-minded people – it is awesome!
Britain Uncovered: Nudity features quite prominently throughout your work – with scenes such as ‘Naked Disco’ and ‘Nude York Dinner Party’ among your most popular pieces – and it’s a common request in your commissioned work too. Do you think these types of pieces can help people to feel more body positive, and potentially even encourage or normalise social nudity?
Sam: For all of the nude scenes I have made so far, the focus has been on taking a public situation where we are typically clothed, and making everyone naked as the day they were born. Some scenes are more provocative/saucy than others, but to me there is something really powerful about naked bodies being viewed in non-sexual ways – just doing everyday things, like carrying out a plate of food or enjoying a cup of coffee.
Britain Uncovered: Commissions are an integral part of your work and the requests have been extremely varied, resulting in some really intriguing artwork. How does the creative process unfold once you’ve been given the initial brief, and what have been some of your favourite commissions to date?
Sam: My process typically goes something like this:
1. BRIEFING: Have a video call with my client to talk through their idea and gauge the ‘vibe’ they want the drawing to have. I also ask them to think about how they’d like to feel when they see it... do they want to feel excited? Sentimental? Disgusted? Aroused? Amused? Confused? And so on...
2. RESEARCH: I then spend a while researching and going through any references they may have given me. Sometimes I will think about the scenario at length, and ask various people about similar experiences they have had to help inspire the scene. I think it is important to expand beyond your own point of view.
3. COMPOSITION: Then I play around with how the scene will look and fit together – I sketch out ideas and move things around a lot, and this is probably the phase that takes the longest.
4. COMMIT: Once I have it all planned out, I commit by drawing the outline in pen.
5. BRING TO LIFE: The day after drawing the outline, I fill in with various textures to give the scene depth and character. I think it’s important to leave a bit of time before doing this so I can live with the outline for a bit and fantasise about how best to finish the scene. I often leave the eyes towards the very end, because where someone is looking can completely change the tone of the scene – I love seeing the impact this can make on a scene.
I always get something out of each commission, whether it’s an insight into someone’s’ life, a new perspective or a reminder of the things that I love! I particularly loved creating my recent Pride commission – the research phase was so fun and it was particularly lovely to look back and think about my own experiences of Pride and what it means to me.
Britain Uncovered: Back in December you revealed that you’d found a ‘new canvas’, and unveiled a customised pair of Nike Air Force 1’s that you’d been working on for a client. They looked incredible, and your art style seemed the perfect fit for this type of project. How much did you enjoy working on these, and does coming up with new concepts like this help to keep things fresh?
Sam: I ADORED creating these. It was so refreshing and I loved the process. It made me feel excited about the potential stretch for my style and helped me see my work in a new light... that it could exist beyond a piece of paper in a frame. It was an invaluable experience.
Britain Uncovered: With your website now live and the commissions continuing to roll in, what do you have in store for the remainder of 2021? Will your new erotica series be an important focus going forwards, perhaps, or are there other ideas you'd also like to try out?
Sam: This year, I will be taking on fewer commissions so I can make room for other projects that are in the pipeline. I shall be releasing more prints of original work as well as creating new series of work that continue to focus on social experiences and erotica is firmly on the menu!
My erotica will be focused on challenging the heteronormative lens on love, sex and relationships.
Britain Uncovered: Finally, can you tell our readers a little bit about ‘Greg’, who has rather impressively made a surprise cameo in many of your creations – including popping up on the side of a tube train in your piece titled 'The Central Line'. It’s a fascinating story!
Sam: So this was something that genuinely terrified me! I was clearing out old photos on my phone because of course my storage was getting full... I got quite far back – I think around 2015 – and I came across a picture of a graffiti tag ‘Greg’ that I had taken to show my colleague Greg.
I instantly recognised the tag and thought... I think I have drawn this recently. I looked back through my work and spotted it on the side of a tube in a drawing I did last summer! My mind was blown and just made me think about how much we take in, remember and regurgitate without realising!