AS AN ARTIST, IT SEEMS LIKE THE LANDSCAPE IS EVER-CHANGING FROM SIMPLY THE TOOLS TO THE AESTHETIC. I INTEND TO BE AN ARTIST THAT NEVER WANTS TO STOP LEARNING AND AS SUCH, I FIND MORE AND MORE INTERESTING ARTISTS EVERYDAY. EACH ARTIST HAS A UNIQUE INSIGHT AND POINT OF VIEW, NO MATTER THE EXPERIENCE LEVEL. NEW VIEWS HELP OPEN MY MIND AND TEACH ME THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO UTILIZE MY SKILLS AND I HOPE THAT SHARING OUR STORIES WILL HELP OTHERS IN THE SAME WAY. I BELIEVE THERE ARE MANY PATHS ON AN ARTISTIC JOURNEY, AND EACH INTERVIEW WILL HELP TO SHOW THE STORIES OF THE ARTISTS THAT TREAD THEM.
TODAY WE'LL be interviewing Sam Flegal.
Sam has been a freelance illustrator since 2009. His art’s been used on book covers, hobby games, movie concept art, and even The History Channel. He’s also a co-curator of the online webshow, One Fantastic Week. We’ll be interviewing him today on his take on the industry and just in general, being an artist. That being said, let’s dive right in.
Kaminski: What first got into doing art and in that vein, what steps did you initially make to secure your foothold in this industry?
Flegal: I first started drawing at age 3. My parents used it as a technique to get me to stop talking all the time. I was never far from a pencil growing up. I loved to draw. I got a degree in art and became a graphic designer. After 7 years I realized I wasn’t drawing anymore, and what I really wanted to do was be an illustrator. I started going to Cons and getting portfolio reviews from other artists. After meeting some industry folks I went to The Illustration Master Class.
Kaminski: Interesting. IMC is always something that I think would help many artists from amateurs to experienced pros would benefit from. Perhaps one day I'll be able to attend, myself. Before you broke out on your own, was there a specific industry that you were targeting initially? If so, why? And if not, did the shotgun approach actually help to get your name out there to many different industries?
Flegal: I wanted to work in games, tabletop RPG and mini-games. That and comics is why I got into art in the first place. I didn't want to pursue comics because of the intensity of sequential art. Comics is very cutthroat. Maybe one day I'll revisit my love of comics. I don't know that I'd say I had a shotgun approach. I've always focused on fantasy art in one version or another.
Kaminski: Much like you, I've always strived for the games industry and have actually heard it to be just as cutthroat as the comics industry. Perhaps channeling your art into a comic akin to Alex Alice's Siegfried might be a good way to channel your two loves together. I'm probably fast-forwarding some there, but what ultimately led to your love of nordic mythology?
Flegal: I've always enjoyed stories. In researching the roots of fantasy you come to Tolkein, from there you find his influences were folklore and myth. Specifically the myths of the Norse. The stories are so rooted in our modern western culture that when I read them the felt true to me in a way that other stories didn't connect. Every time I did deeper to learn more about the old stories I find I learn more about my own culture, my ancestors, and ultimately myself.
Kaminski: That makes sense. They always say do what you love, and it shows in your work. I'm assuming your "AH-HA" moment came from IMC. Speaking from someone who went to art school for the entire gamut, I'm curious to know how your experience there compares. What was the program there like?
Flegal: The AH-HA moment wasn't in terms of what to paint, it would take years to figure that out. The AH-HA was how much fucking work professionals put in. it's not uncommon to spend 100 or 200 hours on a painting. When you're starting out speed doesn't matter. It's not about painting fast, it's about taking the time to make good paintings. That and really learning how to use reference and shoot my own reference was eye opening.
Kaminski: Yeah, when I was in art school everything was so rushed that it was hard to REALLY take the time to dive into a piece fully. I'm only just now discovering that slowing down and making sure that your pieces are both correct AND good (although it's subjective to our own eyes for certain) is more important than having twenty rushed or average pieces in a month. If you're not under any sorts of NDA, can you talk about a project that you're currently working on?
Flegal: I have a deep love for Norse Mythology. In my personal work I depict scenes from Norse Lore, a series I call Fateful Signs. Fateful Signs are what Odin saw as he hung from the great World Tree. Fateful Signs are the legends of the Gods and Ancestors carried down to us through the winds of time. Fateful Signs can be sought with runes, carved and made red. Fateful Signs are the words and deeds that honor the Lore of the Norse.
I present you with Fateful Signs.
Fateful Signs is a collection of oil paintings exploring the various legends and traditions of the ancient Germanic people. The series began out of an interest in Odin and exploded into a spiritual awakening. With each painting a piece of a much greater puzzle is uncovered. I first discovered Norse Mythology back in 1999, when I was a Freshman in college. I'd gone to school out-of-state and didn't know many people. This left me with a lot of free time, and I spent it in the school library. At that point in my life, I was questioning religion, so I read about all the world religions. Out of all the myths and legends, the lore of the Norse stuck with me.
Throughout my art education I found ways to bring Norse Mythology into my projects as often as I could. On foggy days I'd even yell "ODIN!" into the mist on campus. Over time I made many friends, and spent less time in the library. Eventually I graduated and became a Graphic Designer. I worked in marketing for many years, but ultimately I found my way back to drawing and painting.
I've been a freelance illustrator since 2009. I've done art for the gaming industry and concept art for movies, but in 2012 I was faced with a client-free month. I didn't know what to do – I hadn't drawn for myself in years! After some soul searching and sketching, I started to work on a painting of a trickster wizard. At first I didn't realize it, but the painting was of Loki. Before the end of the month, I got more client work and never finished the painting; but it got me thinking about the Norse Gods again.
As many artists do, I started to feel a desire to work on more personal paintings. I was reading more about Odin and I felt a connection with the One-Eyed God. Once I finally had the time to devote to personal work, I was inspired to paint Odin holding the head of Mimir, and this became my painting "Odin's Secrets."
I didn't know it then, but this was the beginning of Fateful Signs.
Kaminski: What are some things you would do if a client become a tad too unruly? Do you have any coping strategies?
Flegal: It depends on the contract, but I would recommend, always follow the letter of the contract. Main thing if a job sucks is get it done quickly and move on.
Kaminski: Do you have any short or long term goals?
Flegal: In the short-term, it would be to make another book. In the long term: The life of an artist is a long term goal. Learn to paint better. Make art that's even more true to me.
Kaminski: And lastly, what's the best piece of advice you've received or the best piece of advice you'd give to aspiring artists?
Flegal: Try to figure out why you really want to be an artist. The answer to that question is a journey, but it is the key to developing deeper art.
Kaminski: Thanks so much Sam!
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