“Drawing is central to what I do,” says artist and illustrator Sam Wood of how he came to develop his distinguished style. Currently living in London with his husband Mark, Sam graduated from Central Saint Martins with a BA in Fine Art in 2012. Ever since, he has been collaborating with designers and brands, with a larger focus on commissions, shows and solo exhibitions – where much of his work is created with a show in mind.
“For years”, he explains, “I contemplated colour and developed what has become a more recognisable style.” Then, over the course of post-graduation life, Sam started to question the ways in which a simple line can evoke a feeling or event. Meanwhile, 2017 arrived and that’s when he began observing things differently; this was the moment that he realised the impact that colour could have on his previously monochromatic imagery, “and it changed everything.”
Now working predominantly with colourful analogue drawing techniques, Sam’s work is redolent of an older aesthetic. He tends to use an Italian printing paper called Rosaspinaf, chosen for its ability to present a more tactile approach to pencil work: “I often think of it as ‘drawing on a tablecloth’ because of the high cotton content of the paper,” he says. He’s also recently been impelled to experiment with more larger-scale works, which is something that he marks as an organic transition considering the fact that he works heavily with silk and stretched linen, “taking a little from the environments I depict and making them part of my own materiality.”
Despite these analogue processes, Sam’s style is by no means passé. Instead, he pulls references from the past and blends them with the new. Take his main points of inspiration as an example; having always found elevation in painting, he marks Bathers at Asnières by French artist Georges Seurat, for instance, as one of his “all-time favourites” for its tone, but also because he revisits it often for its “formalism of composition”. Similarly, he finds the work of the Venetian Masters – especially Veronese with his “vast scale and searing colour” – alongside the greats like Rothko, Hodgkin, Hockney, Matisse and Doig as key players in the makeup of his own work. Basically anything that explores colour and scale provokes this artist, like the work of Israeli artist Doron Langberg which he “can’t get enough of” at the moment; “It’s truly evocative, like a memory that came back to punch you in the face.”
Putting influences in motion, the illustrator speaks of a recent series he was asked to create for the London architecture practice David Collins Studio. Thrilled by the opportunity, Sam points out how he’s now been working with them for the past three years on a variety of projects – “the team there really understand the importance of trust in design and creativity,” he says, “so I have always been given a lot of freedom by them which is invaluable.” The brief was to produce a collection of drawings that celebrated the work of the studio, as part of their upcoming 35th anniversary celebration. So, to commend as such, Sam delved into its 10-year portfolio and started researching into the subject matter. The process saw him land on everything from the “warm grandeur” of The Wolseley on London’s Piccadilly to “contemporary jewels” like Thomas Keller’s TAK Room in Manhattan. A vast portfolio to say the least, this gave Sam the chance to experiment with work that he already knows quite well. “It was a treat to look a little closer and consider the feeling I got from each one.”
The result of which is a splashy and bold depiction of interiors, whereby Alexander McQueen’s Saville Row is drawn in the finest of colours and we get an exclusive view of Burlington Gate, one of London’s most luxurious apartment settings centred in Mayfair. Extravagant yet surprisingly calm, Sam’s illustrative works will have their own place in history for their eloquent and realistic detailing. “People tell me my images are playful and gestural, which I would agree with in many respects as I adore bold line drawings and rich colour,” he concludes. “However, I would say the images I enjoy making the most are the ones that feel contemplative and have something quiet in them, and it’s often the job of colour to portray that. I would say that I’m a draftsman first and a colourist second.”
Sam Wood: David Collins Studio, Anniversary Sketches
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.