Meet the Artist - Sam Gare
by Peter Geraerts
They aren’t quite the mountains that Sam is used to but instead we walked across the much more modest inclines of the Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire on a lovely sunny afternoon .
It seemed fitting that we spent time talking and walking out on the landscape especially as one of the supporting pillars behind the Wilderness Art Collective is both connecting ourselves with the surrounding landscape and each other.
Sam arrived in her converted transit van which doubles up as a mobile art studio. It’s cavernous. Everything she needs seems to be within arms reach - a couple of old wooden wine crates are now judiciously being used as cabinets. It’s definitely fit for purpose.
For me it was lovely to meet Sam again. One of the driving forces, along with Luke M Walker and Catalina Christensen, behind the set up of The Wilderness Art Collective. It’s always refreshing to hear her excitement and positivity when discussing her art and forthcoming projects.
It is also interesting to see how the Wilderness Art Collective is developing. In addition to her art Sam acts as a facilitator and connector bringing people together and Introducing them to see what ideas spark. There are currently twenty artists in the collective, in the future she is looking for it to engage further with scientists and others that may not have see art necessarily as their primary focus or interest. With The Collective it is a case of seeing how things develop rather than just defining the parameters and possibly restricting it to certain outcomes. A consistent theme I have come across has been the natural focus on a positive message. It’s encouraging and these are definitely exciting times.
Sam has always had a love of drawing, but studied film as she wanted to pursue documentary film making. as in so many cases, a career in another direction then followed. It has included working at the Natural History Museum, the Royal Horticultural Society and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. She was also the show manager at The Chelsea Flower Show for three years, fair director for The Affordable Art Fair for two years and is currently an Ambassador for The Wilderness Foundation UK.
However there was always the call to spend more time on her art which seemed to fit into the way of life she wanted to live perhaps more so than the corporate lifestyle did. In the last year, since becoming a full time artist, things have started to slot into place. She stresses that along with her partner they want to live the lifestyle they value.
With a love of nature, the countryside and open spaces she identifies along with many others how we increasingly seem, in our urban, online lifestyles, to be disconnected from it.
It’s quickly noticeable that you can see the connection between this and the art that Sam produces. Initially Sam talks about how she starting off painting wild and harsh landscapes showing the power of nature. There was never any traces of humans or human involvement in them. This has evolved, moving away more from the isolation and starting to show how we as humans have a relationship with these places and how it’s increasingly difficult to separate them.
Much of her work is on a large scale - that’s very deliberate in representing the size and scale of the landscape. The drawings are mainly worked from memory so are not always representative. Sam kindly brought along a few pieces with her - they were the first pieces of her work I’d seen first hand. All of them monochromatic. In that way, Sam sees there isn’t the distraction of colour. To me there is a 3D quality, a real depth and beauty to them. The detail too is incredible.
Her work is produced using pen, paint markers and pastel.
Naturally, as you would expect the work isn’t started and finished in one sitting. There are times where there may be a block on a piece of work where progress stalls. However as Sam tends to work on more than one project at once it’s likely that she can continue on something else instead until she can go back to her other piece.
It’s interesting, for me, that of the artists I have spoken to so far don’t seem to want to restrict their art to one form of output. In this case drawing and paint. With future projects she is keen to explore other forms. The most important thing is getting her message and that of The Collective across.
I’m always to curious to ask what work artists are most proud of. I think that the response provides more of an insight into how the artist views themselves and their art. There was no hesitation from Sam when I asked the question.
The curious Duke Gallery was where Sam sold her first piece of work. It was actually bought even before it went up on the wall. It wasn’t necessarily the fact that it was sold but it was important for Sam in that this was one of the first pieces where she did it because she liked it rather than doing it because she hoped other people would like it. She was proud that she had taken the plunge. She gave herself a chance. That should be an inspiration for other artists out there.
‘Landlines’ is the first exhibition of The Wilderness Art Collective in September this year. The Royal Geographical Society is a great location - even more impressive for a first event. As you’d expect there has been a lot of work done so far and still to be done all of which Sam is naturally excited about.
Additionally she is working with The National Trust for an exhibition at the National Trust Morden Hall Park in October. She will be drawing the different topographies of the National Trust including urban, parkland, cliffs and woodland.
It is a work in progress but she is looking at other ways to interact with the viewer as she is looking at, amongst other things audio and film - Sam at one stage wanted to be a wildlife documentary film maker. This will include the elements of wilderness, conservation and human landscapes. She’d also like to record conversations with people on the walks and to add a human interest element with stories that revolve around the landscape.
In line with the views of The Collective Sam wants to make art more accessible. More recently she has produced a series of drawings on snowboards which have proved extremely popular. It’s an interesting step towards trying to bridge the link between people that may not be interested in art but like the outdoors. This maybe then becomes more functional. Right now that link maybe through snowboards but may develop elsewhere in the future. It could be any direction that may touch - either physically or metaphorically - the landscape.
Perhaps cheekily, I finally asked Sam why it was that she doesn’t seem to like having her image in the landscape. Wherever I’ve looked I just seem to see either the back of Sam’s head or a long shot with her in the distance. She very modestly said that she felt that having her face in it distracted from the image as it will have displayed some emotion. It’s the landscape she wants us to focus on.
However for those of you that don’t know what Sam looks like we have a before and after shot.
We had a lovely walk and interesting chat but the cats, fish and ducks at home were calling to Sam. They needed feeding. How times change from Sam’s past - the menagerie now seems to determine what the time of day is. A nice way to be.