Eight With Artly: Lynn Samis

Eight questions with painter Lynn Samis.

Lynn's style is a fusion of impressionism and abstraction grounded in realism. Much of her work pays homage to the historical characters captured in photographs taken by her grandfather during a world tour in 1923-24. Find out about the powerful themes behind Lynn's art and take a closer look into her artistic practice and process, inspirations and influences.
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Lynn Samis painting in studio.

1. What has been the greatest influence on your work?

The greatest influence on my work has been my grandfather's photographs he captured in 1923 on a world tour. He took hundreds of photos that I was fortunate to discover tacked in a small closet in my parent's home. Not only did he photograph each location he visited, he was intentional about including the local people in his photos. The people in his images have inspired and motivated me for many years.

2. Do you have a favorite medium or tool?

My go-to medium is oil paint, but I've also done a lot of work in pastel. My pastel paintings tend to be more detailed and tight, while my oil paintings are usually large and loose, with bold and expressive strokes. The past year I've also been working with acrylics and mixed media, but I almost always add oil paint at some point. Without a doubt, a palette knife is my favorite tool.

3. Do you experience any aspects of being a painter that you find either frustrating or rewarding?

The most frustrating aspect for me is being too critical of myself and comparing my art to that of other painters. I have to constantly remind myself it's a process - a journey - and my path looks differently than others. The most rewarding part is seeing the joy my art brings to others and the ability to spend hours most days doing what I love to do.

4. What does your creative process look like?

If I'm working with pastels, I always have an idea of what I'm going to paint since pastels aren't as forgiving as oil paint. I usually lightly sketch the general idea of what I'm going to paint and then begin with darker values. My oil paintings are much more intuitive and less planned. I always begin with a wash of burnt sienna on my panels as a base, then I just start painting. I may have a reference photo from my grandfather's collection or an image from other 1920's photographs. I rarely paint from a colored photo because I love to create the color as I progress in the painting. Usually the painting begins to "talk" to me and lead me as I go along. Often, my original idea gets buried under new ideas as I create texture and colors begin to peek through the layers. I do a lot of scraping with my palette knife and sometimes I sand portions to reveal an earlier "voice". It is very much a give-and-take dance with my process.

Lynn Samis studio image.

5. How has your process and approach evolved through your career?

I started out trying to be very precise, accurate, and detailed in my work. I'd make grids on the panel and the photo I was working with so I could ensure everything was in the correct place. As time went on, I realized I wanted to "bring it" more and make my own image out of a photo. I now use a photo or even a live model as a reference or starting point and let the painting decide where it's going.

6. What piece of advice from another painter was the most helpful to you?

Have fun and don't get down on myself! When I catch myself getting frustrated and "working" on a painting too much (whether I'm spending so much time trying to get an eye or mouth perfect) walk away. Another piece of helpful advice I received is to try to work on multiple paintings at a time to take necessary breaks on the pieces I need to walk away from.

Lynn Samis color palette.

7. Do you have any advice for other painters beginning their creative journey?

I would give the same piece of advice I was told - have fun! I would add don't compare yourself to other artists, try to do something with art daily whether it's looking at art or sketching, and be patient with the process.

8. How do you hope viewers will connect with your work?

I want them to discover their own story in my paintings. I may generate ideas from an old photograph, but I allow the person, the face, and the setting to tell me where to go. I want others to view my work and create their own story, too.

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(All images courtesy of the artist.)

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