Lowercase with...Samara Shuter
How did you get your start?
I’ve painted my whole life. Later on into my 20’s, when I used to work in film production, I’d spend the weekend/off hours painting to wind down and enjoy it as a hobby.
One day, my sister encouraged me to share some photos on Facebook, and from there I created my first website (a Tumblr page at the time that served as a journal), and shortly after, I received my first inquiry. It wasn’t long after my first sale that I learned there was an Art Fair taking place in downtown Toronto called the “Toronto Art Expo”. I submitted my work. After being accepted, exhibiting and then selling out my first public art show, I was hooked!
What made you decide to be an artist? Was there one moment or was it a general idea?
It wasn’t a conscious decision as much as I had always been into the arts. Since pre-K, I was drawing and doodling. I used to get caught doodling instead of taking notes in class all the time. It was when I was a little babe that I realized, in grade 1, that two triangles and a circle block resembled a bowtie—and so began my fascination with “menswear”…
What prompted your move to Toronto from Montreal?
When I was 11 years old, my father took an opportunity in Toronto that had him going back and forth from Toronto to Montreal during the week, and he was home to spend time with us on weekends. One year later, our parents sat us down and explained that we were all moving to Toronto so my Dad could pursue this position at a fabric manufacturing company, and that they believed it would be best for all of us especially since we were in the midst of another referendum in Quebec, and that we’d have more opportunities in English speaking schools and the quality of the universities etc. (Little did they know that University was the last thing on my mind…lol)
What differentiates the art scene between the two cities?
I wish I were more familiar with the Montreal art scene, in terms of its business practices. From here, it almost seems more laissez-faire. I also admire Montreal’s culture (with it’s European flair), and how it’s left many of if its historical buildings in place. It also hosts Mural Festival every June which is incredible.
Toronto on the other hand, still feels very new, and we seem to be focused globally in a different way, because of our economy right now (real estate, tech, sports, music etc.) we’re attracting so much international attention and really big names come in from auction houses and gallery branches. All that said, there is a lot of crossover and both scenes are super progressive and thriving right now.
Did the type of stuff you produce change when you moved? Do you think the environment played a part in that?
I think most artists’ work is a by-product of their environment, but not only that, it’s where I’m at in my own life. The project ideas I have now almost entirely relate to what “matters” to me after many life-lessons lived. My focus has shifted, and so I think my art has become far more detailed, and for a lot of reasons I am looking to dial it back (to a simpler time, haha). Art imitates life? In terms of inspiration, due to my exposure to the art, fashion and music scene here, it’s 10 fold as I’ve gotten older… it’s almost too much to handle. It can be paralyzing. However, I am circling back to some older subjects and themes I’ve wanted to explore for years now, I’ve just been weeding them out…
For the last few years you’ve produced these really cool pieces that juxtapose men in snappy suits against colourful active backgrounds. It’s almost like there’s no background, the whole picture is engaging. What is the idea behind these pieces? Where do you get your inspiration?
I’m so glad you feel that way. In truth, I’m still trying to figure out if I’m using the suit as the template for the patterns and colours that are worked into the rest of the piece, or if it’s the other way around! I used to think the suit was my main focus, it would appear that it’s not. I am more enticed by the message of the “working class” the “entrepreneur” the kid looking to “make it” and this rat race/wheel we run. I’m also attracted to the themes of portraying prosperity, excitement, “to love one’s work”, as well as expressing hints of character and style! There’s so much in there that I feel (beneath the surface). Whatever it becomes is up to the viewer. Maybe it’s not a man; perhaps it’s a woman! Haha I know it’s certainly a part of me.
My inspiration, from what I was able to categorize and express when I was much younger is from my family. My father, grandfather, aunt, uncle, great-aunt, great-uncle all worked in the textile/fashion industry—all with great style, all working their butts off as entrepreneurs. My mother was a nurse and a businesswoman in her own right…It all sort of made its mark. Being surrounded by fun patterns and fabric and the whole notion of “bringing home the bacon” while keeping it classy. I always loved the idea of “business”, and still do! I’ve always needed something to work at, an idea or project to keep me going and give me a sense of hope and something to look forward to. I really like to work, and more so I find my greatest pleasure in helping people. When I knew school wasn’t exactly my thing, I dove into my lowest hanging fruit that brought me the most joy and have done my best at building something no one can ever take away from me… and as the story goes, there is never really one source of reason or inspiration. Trying my best to summarize this, I’m inspired everyday by great people doing great things.
How do you use the online space to connect with people who enjoy your work?
I used to be a lot more concerned with social media at the beginning, until it took it’s toll on my mental health.
I could not do what I do without the magic of a computer and the amazing tools and opportunities of the internet (such as this interview), but there are many days I wish I didn’t need any of it. Any of it to complete a transaction, to list and showcase work, to send invitations etc. My taxes! Any business owner (all, if not most, artists today are attached!). I’m saying this because of the issue with volume. I feel very lucky to get the feedback I do via Facebook, Instagram and email (Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, HOUZZ, LinkedIn++--- but someone needs to reply. When I’m unable to, my studio manager does her best to get back to everyone. For every 10 inquiries regarding dimensions, prices or framing, I’d be lucky to close half of them. The cost of one of my original paintings is often too high for most people to afford (including myself), but everyone must be treated, and responded to as my next best collector. I truly believe that. And so, I am constantly online in today’s marketplace, and truly wish I was painting more—but that is what happens when you still have to wear many of the hats in your business. I can’t live with it, and I can’t live without it I suppose. I’m still trying to set boundaries, because there isn’t a whole lot to discuss or share if I’m out of inventory, haha.
I used to think I HAD to post x-amount of times/times of day. Now, I’ll share what I want when I feel like it (its ready to be viewed, even a progress shot). It’s a healthier way to be and keeps the fat out of my feed. I’m not looking for ghost followers from 1000 hashtags. If you’re into it, you’ll stick around.
Who are some emerging artists that you really admire or draw inspiration from?
I’m really into Erin Loree’s work. I’m also a big fan of Andrew Salgado, who’s work reminds me of some of my pieces when I first began… I used to go pastel crazy! He’s inspired me to bring it back, though I still use a lot of pastel in each piece. I often forget until it has smudged all over the place. I’m a fan of Erik Jones, Hebru Brantley etc. As for careers that span a decade or so longer, I love Jose Parla, JR, FAILE, TenderJ… the list is never ending. Just mentioning their names makes me want to paint!!
What are you working on next and when can we expect it?
This passed June, I attended a menswear conference in Florence, Italy called PITTI UOMO. When I was there I shot so much new work to be used as inspiration and turned into paintings. I’m super excited to bring those pieces from imagination to life.
As well, I’m working with an incredible professional cowboy photographer in Denver. We’re pairing up and preparing material for some really fun and exciting Western-themed pieces.
On top of this, I have a whole birthday cake and balloon series of works in mind and I hope to try out my first one this winter. I am so drawn to subjects that question our lives and motives (and character) so this has always felt like a natural fit, and is quite nostalgic for me.
Last but not least, I’d love to dive into some abstract works when I have the time. I’m looking forward to steering away from the figurative elements for a little bit in between larger projects, and will use this, in-turn as its own sub-project to give me a mental brake but still be creating without consciously composing. Know what I mean?
Samples of my latest work will be popping up all over social media this winter, and I’m aiming for a huge solo exhibition this spring… but for the first time ever, I’m trying not to put the cart before the horse, and will have all of my pieces complete before I begin planning for my show. I promised myself no painting on the day-of this time. Stay tuned!!