FriYAY Friends

FriYAY Friends: Samantha Russo

One of the first pieces of Samantha's that I ever saw. I fell in love!

One of the first pieces of Samantha's that I ever saw. I fell in love!

Happy Friday, Makers!

Do you have a favorite way to celebrate the start of the weekend? Every Friday night, we have an easy dinner and Hubster and I crack open some good, dark beers after the kids go to bed. I usually take mine upstairs, along with some dark chocolate covered raisins, and nurse it while I quilt a couple hours. It's always a deep sigh of relief, Friday night, because the weekend brings more family and quilty time and the comfort of not being the only grownup home with my two little rascals! 

My new Friday tradition is bringing you interviews with some of my favorite makers. Last week we talked with Pam and Lynn of The Stitch TV Show who are both Modern Traditionalist Quilters. This week, we're meeting Samantha Russo, mixed-media artist and instagrammer extraordinaire! If memory serves me correctly, I first found Sam's work through the Carve Out Time for Art Instagram Challenge a couple of months ago. I first knew her only by her handle, @blossomrising, and by the stunning spreads she creates in her sketchbook (that I'm dying for someone to turn into fabric, HINTHINT!). I was instantly in love. Her use of color and texture amaze me every time (and I'm going to be sad when her Hundred Day Challenge ends if her posting becomes less frequent!). So, without further ado...

Samantha and her daughter

Samantha and her daughter

1) Tell us a little about yourself-- your family, other hobbies, when you started creating, and your favorite mediums. Did you draw a lot as a child? Do you have any formal art education?

I am a stay-at-home to two little ones, ages 5 and 7 and we live right outside of Madison, WI. I was originally born in the Philippines and I traveled throughout my twenties before meeting my now husband in New York City and then eventually settling in the Midwest. I never imagined that I would live here as a little girl growing up in the Philippines, but my husband's from here and now I love it and couldn't imagine raising my two children anywhere else. 

Growing up, my mother was an oil painter.  I have a lot of memories of sitting on her studio floor and her letting me use her "good pastels" to draw in a little sketchbook. Beyond that, I wasn't an avid drawer. I always considered my older brother to be the artist while my passion was writing stories. Nevertheless, because of my mother's work, we were always exposed to creative work. She would often take us to museums and to the theater so the arts were a big part of my childhood. 

In terms of actual painting and drawing, however, I took my first formal art class in high school and was quickly discouraged because I couldn't get my drawings to look the way my teacher expected them to. I figured art was not for me and gave that up within the first week. 

I never picked up a paintbrush or pencil again until almost a year ago. I am 40years old now, so that says a lot. In 2014, my mom passed away to lung cancer and somehow, that event fueled in me a desire to be creative again. Perhaps it was my way of connecting with her. I'm not sure. But last year, I just felt this incredible pull to take up painting and drawing. I was surprised how easy and affordable it was to get access to art classes online through sites like Creative Bug and Skillshare. So I basically, taught myself how to draw and paint this time on my own terms. It was tremendously liberating. I didn't have to make things that fit within someone else's idea of what was good art. I could just make what I wanted to make using whatever crazy techniques I could experiment with and that was more than enough. I was free and happy and got in touch with a part of myself that was just begging to express itself. 

2) What inspires your paintings/ drawings? How do you work in layers to create such gorgeous pieces?

My inspiration comes mostly from color, pattern and texture. I tend to start with a color palette and move from there. I learned that craft paints are the way to go for me when I'm experimenting. They are cheap and come in a wild variety of colors. I've learned that in working in layers, creating contrast is my best friend. I love the way lighter values look up against darker ones and vice versa. I also love playing with different textures and patterns. The thing I love most about layering is that it is simply so freeing. I don't have to ever be worried about making something ugly, because I know I can always cover it up! My new thing now is trying other mediums such as incorporating pastels, watercolors, crayons, pencil and even puff paints into my work. 


3) You're in the middle of #100daysofsummersketches. What started this project and how has it changed and developed how you work and what you create?

I started this project as a way of keeping up with my daily creative habit throughout the summer. I'm home with the kids for the summer, so unless I force myself to sit down and do the creative work in the midst of the summer madness it will never happen. This challenge is perfect for me because it keeps me accountable and because I have such a small art journal, it's pretty doable. 

The project I have to say has changed a lot in terms of the kind of work I make. I really still consider myself to be a newbie to the art scene and because of that, I feel that I haven't really honed in on a particular style that I love and that is truly reflective of how I see myself as an artist. I love all different kinds of styles and mediums, so this project has been way of just trying on all sorts of different hats stylistically  in the hopes that I will eventually find my sweet spot. Sometimes I worry that my work seems all over the place, but then, I remind myself that the process of settling in on a personal style is a long evolution and I should just keep doing the work.  The one constant for me, however, has been my passion for color and pattern. I don't see that changing any time soon. Lately, I've also been loving the process of intuitive painting, which is something that I've only been introduced to over the summer. It's incredibly therapeutic and in line with the kind of work I would like to create. 

4) What does your creative tribe look like? How does it influence your work?

Great question! I actually had to think for a moment about whether or not I even had one! And then I remembered the incredible community of instagram artists that I have met over the course of my artist journey. Their support and encouragement has been phenomenal. They inspire me everyday to keep on this journey especially when I find myself stuck in a creative rut. I have so much to learn especially from those who have been at this longer than I have. I really love the Instagram community over at @carveouttimeforrart in particular because it is made up of mothers, like myself, who strive to keep their creative passion alive in the midst of raising children. I know that social media gets a lot of bad press these days, but truly speaking, I wouldn't be pursuing this passion of mine if it weren't for the thriving artist community on Instagram that raises me up to keep on going literally everyday. 

5) What word of advice would you give to other creatives as they develop their style and discover what inspires them?

My advice to other creatives would be to be patient with themselves as they discover what it is that defines their style. It can be an exciting journey if your are not in a hurry to nail down your particular style. Plus, I think that personal style is something that is every evolving. As people, we change all the time. Our tastes change. Our life circumstances change. Our skill level changes. So I guess I would say to just relax and try to just enjoy the process of play and experimentation. One thing I sometimes do is look at other artists whose work resonates with me and think about what it is in particular about their style that I love. I then try to incorporate all those elements into my own work while giving it my own spin. That said, I would warn against doing too much of that, because  it's easy to fall into the trap of comparison, which as we know is the killer of all creativity. Most importantly, try and have fun with your creative journey and don't take it too seriously. Allow yourself to be open to your world and let inspiration find you. Then, just get out your creative tool and make! 

Thanks for sharing with us, Sam! I'm as in love with your work as ever! Y'all can connect with Samantha @blossomrising on Instagram (which is where I got all these amazing photos, by the way). Follow me over there, too, @stringandstory

Make something fabulous this weekend!


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