This past weekend we visited artist Sam Kardos in her studio at Lovebomb. Sam is a Richmond, VA native who recently got her BFA in Sculpture & Extended Media from Virginia Commonwealth University. In addition, three of her paintings are on display in our current exhibition, Collocate. Read on to learn more about her painting processes and life after art school.
MG - What have you been up to since graduating from VCU?
SK - I graduated May 2013 and I wasn’t really painting much that whole summer up until November. I did a couple of paintings in our apartment, and I realized I needed to get a studio space and needed to be surrounded by other people. So I got a studio at Mayo Island, which helped me decide that I should go to grad school. I eventually want to teach at the university level, and grad school is where you make a lot of those connections. I want to start a space similar to this (LoveBomb) wherever I go, and I feel like the only way to do that is to go to grad school and put yourself out there. This past year, I’ve just been working in my studio. I have fifteen paintings right now and I gave myself this deadline to be finished with sixteen paintings by then end of October. So now I’m just working on applications, artist statements and such.
MG - Has it been difficult to stay on track with making work consistently without a professor present to give deadlines?
SK - Yes, especially for me since I was a sculpture major and I only took a few painting classes – and also there was major change in my work after VCU. After graduating, my work just got a lot better, so being on your own and giving yourself your own projects was a huge part of that growth. But I gave myself deadlines like trying to make two paintings a month. So originally, I should’ve been done in September, but I sort of lost track of that, which is okay because the deadline for applications aren’t until January so I gave myself a lot of room.
MG - Do you usually sit down with your subjects and have a photo-shoot first before starting a painting?
SK - I’ve never painted from a live model just standing there - I feel like it’s really intimidating and way too traditional. I don’t think that it’s really necessary for the time we live in now. I understand why there are classes that deal with painting or drawing from live models because that foundation is there, though I feel like for me, I do just fine studying the details of a photograph. I photograph them for about 30 minutes, which I think is really nice, because the conversation is still there while I’m photographing them, and they’re probably a little more comfortable as well.
MG - And I’m sure the photographs help you deal with the doubling of images in Photoshop that you wouldn’t be able to do as easily if working with a live model.
SK - There is definitely that flatness that is still there with the doubling of photographs and since there is layering, you lose that sense of depth, but I like that flatness.
MG - Your colors are always striking. Is there any kind of pre-planning that goes into it or do you feel like you mix your colors as you go ?
SK - I definitely mix as I go, and though I am painting from photographs, a lot of the colors I use aren’t in the photograph. All the black that you see is just super deep purple or navy, which you might not notice unless you’re looking at the actual painting in real life. I’m just kind of creating these colors. Obviously, in Caroline’s leg (Thursday Night) there are no blue-grays or pinks and purples. I just experiment with different colors, and making a color and feeling ‘oh I really like this color. How can I use this in the skin and make it look realistic?. Basically, I mix them as I go.
MG - It’s clear in the way you paint that you are mainly interested in skin tones and representing human flesh.
SK - I want the skin tones to pop, which is why in Thursday Night the bra is painted in a very flat and illustrated way. I don’t want to take away from the skin tones, so the bra fits in as a second thought to the skin.
MG - So you mostly paint portraits at the moment, but do you have any interest in moving away from that in the future?
SK - I have that in the back of my mind- I really want to explore different forms of painting and bring in different materials. Being that my background is sculpture, I want that to influence some of my paintings. Whether it’s some kind of collage or 3D object, I want to figure out how to bring them together. As far as painting in other styles, I feel like I’m not good at it. So painting the couch and that kind of stuff is as far as it’s gotten for me to explore past portraiture. I would like to start to add in more backgrounds in my portraits and see where it goes from there.
MG - Has majoring in sculpture helped influence the way you paint at all?
SK - The thing I got out of sculpture is that it makes you consider everything that you put in a painting. All these objects that were placed in this painting (Thursday Night) are there for a reason - like the distance between our fingers is purposeful, our poses, and the objects on the table are all there for a reason. Also, in Sculpture, they’re really into your concept, so I think creating some kind of narrative is important in my work is as well
MG - Do you do any kind of sketches before you decide who you want to photograph? Is there an idea that you’re working from, or does the idea form during the photo-shoot?
SK - I don’t sketch anything but I definitely have the layout my mind. When I get the photographs and work with them in Photoshop, I believe that’s more of my version of sketching and it continues from there. I typically project the image onto my canvas because I’m not going to stress myself out trying to get the accurate distance between their eyes. And that’s part of the reason I photograph people, if I have all these tools available to me , I’m going to take advantage of it.
Thanks for welcoming us to your amazing space, Sam! Be sure to check out her pieces here.