Inspired by sci-fi and myths, Sammy Stein's illustrations are a postmodern ode to the past

Since we last spoke to the Paris-based illustrator, he’s been keeping busy producing dozens of zines, magazines and books.

6 May 2020

The last time we spoke to Paris-based illustrator Sammy Stein, it was his dexterity in self-publishing and comic book strips that caught our eye. Four years down the line and Sammy has continued to impress us, producing around a dozen new personal zines and books, as well as taking up numerous art residencies. He’s also completed two issues of his book Lagon Revue as well as two more issues of Collection Revue magazine.

The first, Sammy describes, is a “prospective comics anthology” that’s run in collaboration with Alexis Beauclair, Séverine Bascouert of L'institut sérigraphique and Jean-Philippe Bretin. Four issues have been released since 2016, with the aim of publishing one each year. The latter, Collection Revue, is now in its 10th anniversary and is a magazine filled with interviews with artists, graphic designers, publishers and cartoonists.

Alongside these prosperous projects, Sammy has continued to travel the world in order to inspire his work. 2017 was the year that saw the illustrator join an art residency in Colombia with Séverine – a printer and publisher whom he works with often. “We made the book Turtle Museum which is a fake guide inspired by the art museum, el Museo de la Tertulia, located in Cali, where we lived for two weeks,” he tells It’s Nice That. The result is a publication crafted from riso, silkscreen and hot foil – within, you can read “weird facts” and discover art works, “browsing between fiction and reality”. Then, in 2018 and 2019, Sammy traversed to Asia (Japan, Taiwan and China to be exact) to exhibit work in a few shows and book fairs. “We had a lot of projects on this year, but everything has been stopped by the coronavirus,” he says. “We’re taking this time to work on new books.”


Sammy Stein: Trappe

Despite the current climate, Sammy’s work has flourished since his last feature. After his studies in art at les Beaux-Arts de Paris, he began to experiment with sound, video and drawings, which transpired into the making of his first-ever comic book. Since then, he’s continued to work in his chosen medium, taking walks in the cities “weird areas”, ruins, natural or fake landscapes for daily inspiration. “A mysterious monster garden in Italy, an old 70s park in Osaka, speaking with people, listening to synthesiser music, visits bookshops around the world” – these, he tells us, are just a few small moments that effortlessly influence him.

Sammy’s working process tends to revolve around the juggling of various projects – whether that’s a comic book, illustration, exhibition or for one of his two magazines. At the start of a new project, Sammy points out the importance of a narrative. “I try to find different ways to tell stories, by changing the point of view of the narrator or finding some new tricks; I have several lines of research, but I’m really interested in objects that tell stories.” An example of this can be seen from a comic he created last year, a printed zine titled The Boardgames for Marecage (Lagon #5). A story about people playing a board game, he challenged himself by creating it without any direct references to the world of board games – no elves, trolls or creatures.

Then, last summer, Sammy and his long-term collaborator Séverine – plus 10 other artists – were invited to an artist residency put together by artist Margaux Duseigneur, Antoine Marchalot, Chloé Munich, Vincent Lalanne and Pauline Barzilaï. They all moved to a “little middle-aged town” named Uzerche to work for two weeks, whereby Sammy decided to create a zine inspired by the town and its surrounding area. “I wanted to give the city a fantastical atmosphere,” he says. The book was then translated into three different languages, including Occitan, an old french language from the area – “nobody speaks this language anymore, except some old people, nice professors and accapella singers”.

It’s clear that Sammy’s interests lay predominantly among the tales and folklore of the past, with an added zest of sci-fi, art and graphic design. Next, he will continue to work on a 200-page anthology of several zines that he’s released over the last few years – published by Matière Editions. To top it all off, Sammy has more zines in progress, some self-produced whiles others are published independently. “One work in particular, which is almost finished, is a zine named Pompei 2079,” he concludes. “This is a story of a traveller, who walks across a giant landscape and volcano area. We follow this character during the four seasons. In summer, he meets a potter who shows him his ceramic collection and tells the story of each, before a volcano awakening” – so keep your eyes peeled!

GallerySammy Stein: L'oasis

GallerySammy Stein: Pompei 2079

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima. 

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