TheeBlog Q&A Sessions: Sam Green

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It’s Friday! And man do I have a sweet treat for you. You might remember a previous post featuring the exquisite work of the incredibly talented, London based Illustrator Sam Green (HERE) Well, I recently had the pleasure of cyber-meeting Sam and talk about his work and recent projects. Being the big fan I am, I invited him to chat and answer a few questions about his work, inspiration, work process and recent post-earthquake trip to Japan which inspired his latest project, on sale now, benefiting the victims of this natural disaster. I am sure you’re going to enjoy his work and this interview as much as I did, and to sweeten the deal even more, I have a surprise! Sam donated a beautiful signed print to be auctioned, and one of you lucky readers is going to take it home and give it the love it deserves!

Sam is a talented London based freelance Illustrator. He earned his Masters from Central St Martins College and his admirable combination of talent, technique and attention to detail has earned him an impressive list of clients including ESPN, Esquire, Wallpaper Magazine, Red Bull, Nokia and a few moreā€¦

But not only is Sam an amazingly talented illustrator, he’s also a super cool chap who kindly accepted my invitation and agreed to donate a stunning signed “Treading Water II” Giclee fine art print (Canson Aquarelle Rag, 310gsm.) to be awarded to one lucky randomly chosen reader. Rules are simple, make sure you are following THEE BLOG on Facebook and Twitter, ask nicely via email, and show your support via posts and friend suggestions! We will gather all (best) emails, out them in a cup… you know how it works… and select one lucky winner!

Here’s a preview of this amazing print! – I tried to capture its delicious texture and details as much as I could.

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Now, without further ado, here’s Sam Green’s interview…

Welcome Sam and thank you for accepting my invitation. I am a big fan of your work and I am truly excited to have you as a guest today. Let’s begin… Could you please describe your work?
My work is a mixed bag really, I never felt it was important to settle into one signature style although you can see a few different visual strains developing in my folio. Essentially I draw detailed, realistic imagery that has a surreal, abstract twist to it. A lot of the work is quite playful and abstract, I think the work tends to be quite enigmatic in most cases.

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How and when did you get started as an Illustrator?
It was during my foundation course that I realized I could be an illustrator, although I was always had concerns about making any money. I had never considered any other job so just followed it through, it was a very natural process. I then went on to do a Bachelors in Illustration and then a Masters at Central St martins in London in 2005. We had a final show in the center of London which attracted many people, I was fortunate enough to be contacted by a few well known companies. I also joined an agency fairly soon after. Gradually my work became more exposed through various blogs and exhibitions so jobs became more frequent.

When did you realize you were good at it and that you could do it professionally?
I knew from a very early age that I had abilities and a natural confidence when drawing but I never had any confidence or ambitions to do it for a living. I had a very simplistic attitude towards drawing which was, I like it, it makes me feel good and everyone else enjoys it so I’ll keep doing it, nothing has change really. Even right up until my Masters I didn’t feel very confident about going out into the real world but it all clicked when I got my first commission that I could do it and make a living from it, I was very happy when I got that first pay check, it gave me my first real sense of validation about my work and I was excited about where it would go.

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Who was your first client?
My first client was Random House publishers, they called me as soon as my final MA show finished and asked me to do a book cover.

Is there a ‘technique’ or process that characterizes your work?
I am fairly dependant on photographic reference for my images, I like to take elements from photographs and mix them together and then draw them, or create abstract imagery over the top. I work with a light-box in order to achieve accurate detail or just to refine a sketch. I work mainly with pencil and Photoshop.

What inspires your illustrations?
It really could be anything, a mood, an idea, a brief, music etc I find my own work feeds itself a lot. I would say that humour and surrealism often inspires me to create work, I have always been drawn to surrealism, the old idea of putting two random objects together in order to make something new, it’s all very instinctive really. I often look back to the past for inspiration, I like finding really old obscure design/illustration. I collect imagery online from various sources and have a slide show on my desktop to keep me stimulated.

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I’ve always believed that working on personal projects that allow you to express your talent and creativity are crucial for professional artists, designers, illustrators, etc. Do you work on personal illustrations or projects often?
At the beginning of my career I would work obsessively on my own stuff all the time, of course I had the time because work was scarce. My personal work is the most important thing to me, it’s what has got me the attention in the first place. Companies want to see that you have had commercial experience also but the personal work has a more powerful effect on the viewer usually because it’s freer and more inspired I would say, it displays your own artistic vision and people are drawn to that.

Your impressive portfolio features many big league clients and commercial work. How does this type of work differ from personal work? Do you feel it constrains you (considering timelines, requisites, etc) or do you feel it pushes you to work harder and try new things?
Sometimes it pushes you to try other things and you get nice surprises and sometimes it ties you up in knots and it can feel restricting. For the most part it has benefited my work greatly, I have got to a point where I am actually fairly dependant on someone else planting a seed in my head so that I can do the rest, it’s quite strange really. A lot of the work I do, I would never even think of making myself but it does produce unexpected outcomes sometimes which is great.

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You recently visited Japan -after the terrible earthquake that destroyed many cities and villages- How powerful was this visit and how did it impact you on a personal and artistic level?
The earthquake hit Japan 2 weeks before my flight, me and my girlfriend thought it would be best to postpone it for another month, even though it still felt risky because of the worrying nuclear developments but my heart had been set on going there for so long, so off we went. We didn’t go anywhere near the effected zones and didn’t witness the devastation or meet any of the victims. The rest of the country was very normal and there were no signs of panic. The strange thing was that we felt like the only tourists in Japan, there were no westerners there at all so we had it all to ourselves and it was probably the best trip I have ever been on. For art and beauty there is nothing like it, the Japanese were such innovators when it came to image making, composition, and printing techniques. The Edo period block prints with all their attention to detail had a huge influence on western artists and it’s no wonder because it’s so advanced and so stunning to look at. We went into antique stores that were selling these tiny, delicate illustrated books which were 300 year old. We were aloud to flick through them and they contained the most incredible ornate illustrations. I was also taken back by their striking sense of colour in their artwork, it’s no surprise when you witness the natural beauty that surrounds them and the way they harmonize this with the architecture, it’s quite breathtaking. I think the Japanese people are very sensitive and have an amazing sense of fantasy which imbues everything around them. I think my eye’s were being educated all the time whilst I was there.

This trip also inspired you to create an amazing new poster, which you recently released and is available for sale, benefiting the victims of this natural disaster. Tell us about it!
I was grappling with an idea for quite a while, and wanted to create a unique and powerful image. I was looking at the work of Shigeo Fukuda who is a legendary poster designer from Japan so his work had a direct influence. I wanted to incorporate the destruction and debris from the aftermath of the quake and take it out of context and make it look beautiful somehow. The Sumo represents the strength and defiance that the Japanese people usually display in these national disasters, the debris cuts through him yet he still remains uneffected by it. The type used was designed by London based design duo, Sawdust. The last part of the text on the poster says, ‘7 Fall, 8 Rise’ this is the literal translation of the Japanese Kanji symbols that come from an old Japanese Buddhist proverb meaning that you will fall down 7 times during your life but you must get back up 8 times. I thought this was a perfect message to accompany the poster.

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Here’s the Project’s Official Description:
The piece features a a large sumo wrestler in a defiant position. I chose him as a symbol of Japan’s unique strength when facing the difficult situations that they have encountered over the years. I chose this dynamic pose because as well as being defiant in his stance, his body language also communicates an acceptance and is seemingly surrendering to natures unforgiving forces. The red wooden debris which cuts into his body like butter is a chilling reminder of the incredibly devastating images that were watched all over the world of the villages being torn apart by the tsunami waves, with all the wooden structures mangling and crashed their way through the Japanese landscape. The Sumo Wrestler seems invincible as these wooden objects pass thorough his body, again reflecting the strength of the Japanese people.

The typography used here was designed by the very talented design team Sawdust whom I have worked with before on various projects.
The last part of the text on the poster says ‘7 fall, 8 Rise’ which comes from an old Japanese Buddhist proverb meaning that; through life you will fall down 7 times but you must get back 8 times. I felt this was a perfect message to accompany the poster as it accurately describes the impressive spirit and drive of the Japanese people.

Lastly I would like to add that this illustration is partly a direct tribute to one of Japan’s greatest designers, Shigeo Fukuda. You can see his influence in the piece if you refer to a poster of his called ‘Graphic design today’ 1990 which shows the back man standing while various coloured squares cut into his body.

The final poster can be bought HERE. The prints will be signed Gyclee fine art print on 310 gsm photographic paper and proceeds will go directly to the Red Cross’s Japan Tsunami appeal fund.

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Any other illustrators, past or current, that you admire or follow?
I don’t tend to look at contemporary Illustration too much any more, I’m much more interested in fine art and design right now. I do really love a blog called ‘50 watts’ which is great because they seek old illustrated books or prints from places like Romania and find these wonderful gems that you would have never seen otherwise.

Any advice you would like to share with other illustrators, students or artists reading this interview?
Get chummy with the graphic designers on your courses because one day they’ll want to commission you for work.

Any interesting projects you are currently working on now?
I have just completed a second front cover for a political magazine in Sweden called Neo. Both covers are totally different in terms of style and tackle meaty subjects. One is about Sex crime and the latest one was about human rights. I have also just finished work for a Pizza Express campaign which is due for release at the end of this month all over the UK.

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Thank you again Sam for accepting my invitation and for agreeing to donate a beautiful signed Treading Water II print to be awarded to one lucky reader. This marks the beginning of a new chapter in this blog’s short history and I am delighted to have your work as the official inaugural piece.





2 comments
  1. Love, love, love his work. Thank you an interesting interview. I am a bigger fan now :P

  2. Impressive work

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