Sam Shuter is a young and notable artist who’s work has been described as “figurative pop art.” Focusing on men’s form and fashionable garments her paintings have been featured in Maxim, Esquire, Elite Daily, A&H mag, and Notable (just to name a few) her large canvases and poppy colours are quickly becoming the definition of a “power suit.” Wall Hop Interviews Sam for her upcoming show May 8th-10th.
Your art draws heavily on men’s fashion – can you tell us about where that interest came from?
I have always been intrigued by garments, and their origins. My family has always been in the textile industry, so my childhood was filled with pattern swatches and rolls of fabric. I am attracted to the architecture and line work in the design of a suit, but I also find that it is a complex and interesting place from which to explore different artistic modes (colour, form, pattern etc) and themes (power and societal pressure etc).
How would you describe your style & how have others described it?
To be honest- this was a hobby that turned into a career, and not having attended art school, I used to find it very difficult to identify and express to people the technical description of my artwork. After various conversations, I’ve been told that my work is “contemporary, abstract and figurative pop art”. I take my inspiration from a wide range of sources: fine art, graphic design, fashion, street art etc. My work has been likened to that of Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol, Kaws, POSE and Jim Dine to name a few. All are a great honour.
How did you develop this style & how has it evolved over time?
I used to doodle neckties and bowties and funnily enough, men with ponytails as a young child. Years later, during my time working in film production I had been painting large abstract pieces to chill out over the weekend. Soon after, my other half had purchased a new snowboarding jacket and I really loved the colour palette on the tag. I started a piece with those colours in mind, and only days later did I discover some old sketches in a memory box. Then, I applied my old doodle from grade school as an illustration over top of my abstract work, the rest is history. If you go back to my very first piece from “The Introduction” series, you will be able to see what I’m talking about. I have been experimenting ever since. Composition is important to me, I like the precision that the suit allows and the endless ways in which a body can be manipulated within the space of the canvas. Many of the paintings in my new series place a heightened emphasis on motion of the human form. I would say that my work is becoming larger, more detailed and I am using a lot more paint!
Speaking of evolution – let’s talk about the way your career has grown since you began painting. Where did all of this start for you? You’ve been featured in Esquire, EliteDaily, A&H mag, Notable – How has this notoriety been for you and your art career?
I’ve always made “stuff”, and for the last 4 years… I have been selling it. I first entered into the Toronto Art Expo in 2012 after being encouraged by family and friends to possibly take my hobby to the next level. After selling out my very first show, I’d love to say that I had an “Aha” moment, but instead it freaked me out and I got quiet for a few weeks until dipping my feet back into the pool.
Other than being misquoted a few times, I am very grateful for the attention my work has received. It’s great when people come across my artwork and let me know they recognized it right away from having previously read something about me online or in the paper. It’s cool, and it reminds you how effective that coverage can be. But ultimately, most sales, especially when you reach a certain price point take place in person during exhibitions or studio visits. Luckily, with the select few prints that I do offer, those have been fun to ship to other cities after big articles like Esquire or Maxim etc. came out. Every push counts, and no doubt it has fuelled me to pursue expanding my presence internationally.
How do you select your suits? Do you have any favourite designers or style blogs / magazines that you frequent for inspiration?
I draw inspiration from so many places. I used to doodle on napkins after seeing someone walk by, or noticing a look on television. I then started to flip through magazines… and now I shoot my own stuff. We stage photo-shoots every couple of months.
Is there an idea, or philosophy behind your artwork? What is it?
I really love the idea of creating something from nothing, and making something that matters or inspires others. I really love to work. I couldn’t ever imagine being bored. There is always something to do, even if it’s helping someone else. My work is getting larger by the day and and I’d even say bolder and more detailed; it reflects the intensity of trying to create an identity and navigating one’s own path. The suit allows me to explore issues like male dominance, societal pressure and the fight against female stereotypes. There are themes of control, power, passion and fantasy in my work. And soon, you will see pieces that reflect topics such as life and death as I explore other layers of myself in new work later this year.
What have been some big hurdles for you as an artist – and how have you overcome those challenges?
Honestly, it has been difficult to wear every hat at the moment. I knew when I decided to go “all-in”, that I never wanted to become part of the “starving artist” status-quo. I also knew that in order to do so, I would have to dedicate time, aside from painting, to look at the big picture and explore ways to take my work to an international level. I’d say I’ve been very lucky, but that is me being grateful for the result of extremely hard work, which includes everything from painting, to sending countless emails, and having thick skin when necessary. Artists, both naturally and in their careers are very vulnerable, and there are far too many people aware of this and willing to take advantage of it. Part of this theme I’m drawn to, about “navigating” oneself, really has a lot to do with deciding which bed you want to make.
I’ve been approached with many opportunities, and I’ve also sought out so many, and in the end they weren’t the right fit for me. Sometimes you have to take great risks, even financially, in order to get your work in front of someone who may live across the country- just to create opportunities for yourself. I can promise you that no one is going to come’a-knockin’ and looking to hand you the world. There’s always a catch and deals need to be leveraged. And because what artists do is so public, everyone has an opinion, but that’s cool. There are nice and supportive opinions, and then there are just the “suck it up” type. How do I overcome the tough opinions? I don’t have time for crying, about them! Haha.
When I first saw your work I thought “wow this girl has talent.” Then when we met I realized “wow, this woman has drive, and she hustles!” For those that don’t know you – What do you think is more important for success, talent or hustle?
People think even talent is subjective, because if they don’t relate to what you’re creating then they judge you, it’s unfortunate, but common. This doesn’t make someone untalented… so my vote is to hustle regardless. You’re not alone, and you will find your audience… if you keep on trucking. Get a small business loan, buy what you need, sign up for what you can, and just start!
You’ve been able to see the fruits of your labour, and you’ve also been spreading the wealth. Can you tell us a bit about the philanthropic organizations that you’ve been involved with past & current?
I’ve always figured that if I’m already generating a crowd for my work, and putting efforts into organizing an event for my art shows, then why wouldn’t I share the attention with a wonderful cause? I’m very big on supporting children’s charities. Anything that helps inspire confidence and promotes their well-being!
The Remix Project, SKETCH, Sick Kids, Weizmann Canada, Heart & Stroke, Peel Children’s Aid Foundation, The Bronx Museum of Arts, and I am happy to say the list goes on and that my upcoming Solo Show will be benefiting the Mark Daniels and Andrea Weissman-Daniels Foundation “Ignite the Spark Fund”, in support of The Children’s Aid Foundation. So I’m pumped about that.
What’s next for you and for your work?
You’ll have to see! More than suits… to say the least.
Any parting words?
Please join me on May 8-10th at Andrew Richard Designs for what I know will be a fun evening of art and socializing.
See more of Sam’s work on her Artist Website , Instagram, Twitter or better yet, go check out her upcoming show.
or for inquiries about her work email STUDIO@SAMSHUTER.COM
Interviewer: Rob Green