Velvit Welcomes Ectoplasm
Ectoplasm fine artist, Sam, talks to Velvit about her evolution as an artist, her fascination with death and rebirth, and her feelings about the overlap of fashion and fine art.
France native Sam Ectoplasm opens up to Velvit about her very personal experience in dealing with existential issues in creating her work, how she found her aesthetic, and wonderful advice for aspiring artists.
Velvit: Tell me a little about yourself.
Sam Ectoplasm: I was born in south of France and spent all my life there until I chose to fly on a whim to Montréal in 2009... and I stayed there. I focused on art-making and finding places to exhibit my work. This year, I’ve started university to study the history of art.
V: Have you always been an artist, or is it something you grew into?
SE: I’ve always been drawn to create and learn. My mother painted and brought me to galleries and exhibitions. She had plenty of art books that I looked at avidly as a child. My sister is an artist as well. Art was an activity and preoccupation that was valorized at home so I guess that helped a lot in figuring out that I wanted to make art, would it be professionally or as a way of expressing/discovering myself. My first love was writing, but it slowly changed to drawing over time. I did a bit of jewelry and clothing, but drawing stuck with me. It's my main medium, but I consider trying new forms of art to expand my creativity
V: Did you study illustration/painting?
SE: I went to university of visual arts when i was in the beginning of my twenties but I was more inclined to partying than actually work on my art. Teachers were more into conceptual contemporary art, performances, and installations, so I kept my drawings in my sketchbook.
It took me years of maturation to figure out that I wanted to develop my illustrative and figurative skills. I also met the man whom I share my life with, who is a painter. Meeting him has actually motivated me to work harder. I studied on my own the techniques of others painters and illustrators, and I tried different mediums and drew from photographs to have a more realist rendering.
V: How would you describe your illustrative style?
SE: My work is figurative and symbolist. I try to give a sense of realism, especially in the rendering of bodies and faces, mixed with organic and vegetal motives, evolving like waves around the characters. My drawings have a sharp line, tiny details, and smooth, abstract backgrounds. I think it’s a mixture of old classic art, like baroque, with symbolism art of the 19th century mixed with anatomy studies. I try to find a balance between violence, darkness, sensuality, emotional, and spiritual content.
V: What’s your medium of choice?
SE: Pen and pencils on paper, but I enjoy some paintings on wood panel from time to time.
V: When you sit down to conceptualize a series or a piece, how do you conjure inspiration?
SE: Usually, I have an idea, very vague at first, of a problem that I need to sort out. I draw inspiration from where I live, and from the existential issues I struggle with, then I take time to reflect on how I can translate them into images, without being too obvious. I like to use visual metaphors and try to make a sort of riddle for the viewer. After that, I take pictures, or find sources on the internet to draw from. I make some sketches, but as I’m impatient, I like to start on the paper really quick. There’s a part of improvisation too. For example, the vegetal and organic motives are made directly, in a sort of meditative state, which is very soothing and pleasing. I like to see a drawing evolve by itself, surprising me, and my concept develop with the practice as well. I imagine the story as I draw, finding new meanings as the elements set in place. To get myself in the mood, I put on some inspiring music that I like to sing and dance to. And I drink (too much) coffee to get me motivated.
For the series called ‘’Desincarnation’’, I tried to develop an idea in several pieces, each piece being a variation on the subject of materiality and metaphysical.
V: You mention how you “deform the anatomy as a way of expressing the transformations of the soul” in your pieces. Can you tell us a little about your idea of how souls go through transformations?
SE: We go through cycles of growing, rotting, dying and transcending it into rebirth, whether it’s a relationships, love, relation to the self, ideas, moments of life. We have the incredible ability to destroy and regenerate our cells and organs, as well as our minds, all this movement being part of a bigger perpetual transformation that is nature. What I love about Canada is that the seasons are very intense here, from the romantic decadence of autumn, to the hell of emptiness that is winter, a blank canvas, slowly transforming into spring that is lived as a rebirth. Symbolically, the human mind goes through the same process, and the difficulty is to learn resilience, to endure and be confident that everything unfolds in it’s time. I tried to express that never-ending work in progress that makes us humans.
The ideas of death and rebirth have been really present in my work these last years because it relates with some introspection. I saw some patterns in myself, self-destruction, illusions, and stagnation, but I wasn’t sure how to make this transformation happen. Drawing depicted this frustration, this quest for inner peace and balance between positive and negative forces at work in the human psyche. I used organs-like element, waves of hair, vegetal and entrails as symbols of these feelings that are hard to put into words. At the same time, it was a celebration of the ephemeral vessel that is the flesh, an explosion of lush textures and vegetation.
The most common existential issue is the difficulty to connect body and mind. In my work, I try to express transcendence through the flesh, the spirit that lives in every cells of the body. Even in our times of over medicalization and western science of the world, the way the body works with the mind is still a mystery.
V: How about your own evolution and expression?
SE: I’ve evolved a lot stylistically since I began drawing on a regular basis because I put much more time and dedication in it. My subject matter evolved too. Since the last two years, I learned so much and felt the urge to express what I was living and feeling. I needed to create images in which I would identify and help me come to terms with several things. This process was a purge for my soul and allowed me to find new aesthetics. Although art is always a disguise of reality, I laid bare what I was living as a way to document, understand myself and communicate with others.
V: What about your personal style when it comes to expressing yourself through fashion?
SE: It depends on my mood, but I can say that wearing too much black never hurts! My style is pretty much rock, black skinny jeans and big boots, a lot of rings, with a seventies touch. When I stay at home and draw, I try to find clothes that I like wearing but are comfortable and not too precious to be stained (that’s another reason why black is awesome!) I have more exuberant pieces, like kimonos and sequined dresses that I put on when I go out.
V: Do you feel fine art and fashion overlap?
SE: I used to sew a lot and I silkscreen my drawings on shirts and I think fashion is definitely an art. The fact that fashion is more ‘’useful’’ than fine art is because it can be worn everyday, in the common opinion. Designers have the talent to elaborate on a piece around the constraint of the body and playing with that.
It takes mastery of the medium, concept, and passion, like any other forms of art. The clothes and jewelry you show at Velvit are proofs of it. Designers like LaLaYeah and Maude Nibelungen (to name a couple) bring strong emotions in their creations, crafted with true intelligence of the material. I also admire Iris Van Herpen and Katarzyna Konieczka’s fabulous, eccentric creations.
V: Are there any other creatives you are influenced by?
SE: They are too many to cite but I would say Symbolists and Art Nouveau painters of the late 19th century-early 20th, such as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Harry Clarke, Jean Delville, Gustav Adolf Mossa, and also contemporary illustrators (Marco Mazzoni, Vania Zouvlarov, Kikyz, Caitlin Hackett, John Dyer Baizley, Takato Yamamoto, Beksinski…)
When an artwork catches my eyes, it penetrates and influences me, consciously or not. Even artists from other mediums, like sculptress Berlinde de Bruyckere and musician Chelsea Wolfe, made a deep impression on me and emulate me to translate that feeling in my work.
V: If you could give one piece of advice to someone pursuing a career in illustration, what would you tell them?
SE: The main advice is to simply to lose yourself in your work, to put fear of wrong-doing and imperfection behind, and to practice a lot. It's by practicing regularly that ideas, inspiration, and improvement arrive. And also, to do it for yourself only; not to create to prove something to someone else, and not to create in order to solely earn a lot of money. One must look deep inside and realize what matters to you (them). You need to have the humility to learn, to be patient, and remember that it’s not a sprint, and as everything that matters in life, it takes time to evolve.
V: When it comes to the color black...
SE: Black definitely makes artwork more striking. India Ink is the richest black I have found; almost vinyl-like, and really graphic. Caravaggio, one of my favourite painters, was the first to use chiaroscuro, emerging half of the bodies in darkness. It brings a sense of tragic and reverence that few other colors have. Black means the limits of the sight and the beginning of imagination.
For more on Sam and Ectoplasm, visit her artists page and view her exclusive series for our curated COVET collection.