Artist Sam Wolfe Connelly has a solo show, “Nocturne,” opening this Friday, February 8th at Roq La Rue Gallery in Seattle, Washington. Sam lives and works in New York City where he moved to recently after graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. He grew up in Virginia. I sat down with him to ask a few questions which you can check out below as well as get an exclusive sneak peak of some of the pieces in the show:
Your show next week at Roq La Rue, how many pieces are you showing and how long did you work on them?
Nocturne will feature 13 new pieces I made over the past eight months, with 8 drawings and 5 paintings.
Where do you think the dark side of your art comes from?
Well particularly for Nocturne, I based all the pieces off of my sleeplessness the past few years. It’s something that’s had a large effect on my life, and in fact all 13 pieces were made after dark. My brain gets so wired at night and it’s pretty hellish to be laying in your bed for hours gazing at the ceiling just wishing you could shut off or be somewhere else. I really wanted to capture that kind of agony in my work for the show. In general I’m much more drawn to sadder emotions because they always seem to be the ones that resonate the most and reveal a much deeper relation between what I’m feeling and what the viewer might be feeling. But that’s not to say that all my art has the intention of being something terrible. I think that the interpretation “joy” always seem so simple and static, but with a scene that might seem “dark” there are so many more levels of interpretation that other people can walk away with. I’m not here to tell people what to feel, only to build some sort of emotional bond with an image based on what I know in my life.
Describe your use of colors and why you choose the tones that you do.
I always find my eye to be attracted to warmer palettes when it comes to coloring my images. It seems like my pieces aren’t whole unless they have a warm tone in them. I really love the look of paper or canvas yellowed from age, so I think a lot of my pieces are trying to capture that fermenting quality of the medium. No matter what though, black and white is probably my favorite to work in. It just feels more right than anything else in the world and there are plenty of days I just wish color didn’t even exist.
Do you use photographs for reference?
Most of my drawings are a mix of photo reference and improvisation. Pretty much all of the photos I take are from my crappy camera phone, which helps to keep me from getting too obsessed with how close the fine details are to the actual thing. A lot of the time I’ll shoot reference of a subject I need for a drawing without planning out the lighting and then do the illumination of it from my head as I go. Taking liberty with the shading helps keep things a little more interesting.
Do you consider yourself an illustrator completely or would you argue that illustration is just as high brow as fine art?
I usually think of the “brows” of art, that they should be used when classifying the market side of things rather than labeling the art itself. To me whenever you begin to categorize art like that, it feels like it totally limits what the piece actually is and what it’s expected to be. So first and foremost I usually just see myself as an artist rather than an illustrator or fine artist. I really like elements of both illustration and fine art, but have always seen my art ending up in the gallery world. I’ve been told a bunch to never say that publicly if I want to continue getting illustration gigs with art directors, but fuck it. Whatever art director isn’t willing to hire someone based on the fact that they want the best of both worlds isn’t worth working with.
Should there be any walls between the different art genres now that the Internet is making art so accessible?
I think when walls are publicly built between art genres, whether it be in the gallery scene or publishing, creativity just falls flat on it’s face. There are endless examples of where you can see artistic segregation in the community and how it negatively effects its reach of audience because people in charge of what’s deemed appropriate for that category of art are too damn stubborn to look at something new for once. I don’t necessarily think that all art, especially with the internets extreme fascination with pop culture, could or even should exist on the same level. I do however think that when it comes to personal taste, individuals are the ones who have the right to think what they want. The only damaging issue arises once they begin to voice that opinion as fact, which is true with nearly anything.
What the hardest part of illustration and what is the easiest? Is there any middle ground?
Hardest part would probably be dealing with clients who don’t know what they want and give you a run around when it comes to deciding what the final image is supposed to look like. Illustration seems to be only as hard as the person you’re trying to work with. Some gigs you and the art director are on the same level and it just flows into something great. On the other hand, I’d say the easiest part of illustration is the fact that you do have a set goal to accomplish. Someone tells you what they need for a job and you do just that. Whenever I do personal work, the goal seems so much more indistinct and blurred, like I never really know what I’m trying to say until I’ve actually said it with my finished work. Illustration gives me a break from that pressure and lets me focus on problem solving when there is a definite solution.
Do you plan on doing any really large pieces? I’d love to see your work up as a mural somewhere.
I’m working my way into oil painting and slowly I’m beginning to see the sizes of my pieces get larger. I definitely plan on working bigger for any future shows, but it does become a little taxing to live in an environment that hinders what I can produce. My room in my Brooklyn apartment (which currently doubles as my studio) is only 10 square feet, with no windows on the walls. Needless to say the space, or lack there of, really keeps me from being able to work much bigger than I do currently. But you gotta work with what you have and build from there.
What are some websites you love and some of your favorite artists?
I gotta say that Tumblr is where I pretty much find all my internet inspiration. Being able to filter my own feed of photos from my favorite blogs has been so, so useful when I’m looking for ideas and making mini mood-boards for new drawings. I’ve got a giant folder on my desktop filled with my favorite photos/images that I dig through whenever I’m starting a project. Other than that I really dont keep too close of an eye on any art sites or blogs. Well, other than supersonic that is! *WINK* Some of my favorite artists currently are Lu Cong, Jenny Morgan, Sophie Jodoin, and Oliver De Sagazan.
The first time we talked you had two pet rats, do you still have them? Still into Pokemon?
No, they’ve actually both died since then Zach, so thanks for bringing that up. BUT, back in October I actually got a new rat who’s name is Coffin and he’s the absolute best. I’d safely say he’s the subject of the majority of my instagram photos. And sadly I haven’t had much time for videogames lately. There will always be a place in my heart for pokemon though. I’m still holding out on my dream of illustrating a card.
What’s your favorite food?
I’d definitely have to go with Udon.
Sam Wolfe Connelly: Tumblr | Website | Twitter | Facebook
Roq La Rue Gallery