It takes a lot of work to become an artist.
“People just think you’ll paint something and then sell it, but it’s so much more complex,” says Sam Shuter.
That’s what the 25-year-old artist, also known as Sammo, found out when she quit her job in film production to begin a new career as an artist. Throughout her five years actively working in the film industry, painting was always her release, she says.
Originally from Montreal, she moved to Toronto as a teenager. She spends her days in the city building her new art career, which largely involves promoting her paintings to build a fan base.
Her first series is called “Introduction,” and it aims to introduce her to the world as an artist. These paintings use vibrant colours to depict men wearing suits –always portrayed from the neck down.
“I just like the idea that it’s the everyman,” she says, explaining why she refuses to put faces on the men. She also doesn’t title her paintings for the same reason.
“Unless I feel like there’s something that comes naturally, I’m not going to force-title it. It leaves it open for more interpretation.”
Suits have always been the focus of her art, going as far back as her childhood. Shuter recalls sitting in her Grade 2 class, drawing doodles of men in suits.
“My teacher took my doodles and held them up to the front of the class,” she says. “I was mortified.”
Despite her embarrassment, she says to this day, she has kept track of the doodles.
She attributes her fascination with the subject to the straight lines that make up a suit.
“It’s a weird thing about control,” she says. “It’s just something I always loved so I always sketched it.”
Despite the consistent subject, Shuter says each painting is unique. Some are more playful, while others are serious.
“I have some that are basic and straightforward, and there’s another I’m working on that looks like he’s jumping into the air,” she says.
Although she only recently made art her full-time job, she’s made promising strides already. Her work will soon be featured in two retail stores in Toronto – “these awesome, upscale, bespoke tailor shops in the downtown core” – and she’s working out the details for a contract to display her art across the pond at a gallery in London. Another gallery, in Miami, will be showcasing her work in the fall.
Social media is at the heart of her early success, she says. The British gallery discovered her through Twitter, a medium she has found incredibly time-consuming, yet invaluable for gathering fans and networking with other artists.
Although her Jewish roots aren’t directly shown in her art, she’s been very inspired by her Jewish grandparents.
Her grandfather has always encouraged her to be as productive as possible – an attitude that’s helped her find early success.
Her grandmother often paints as well, and inspires her creatively. Shuter says there have been times in her life when she wasn’t painting regularly, but when she saw her grandmother painting, it reminded her that she needed to get back into the art.
Shuter describes the process of creating a painting as a little bit daunting. She says she gets excited when she starts, and then halfway through decides she hates the way it’s turning out. She’ll continue painting for hours, and then realize she loves the finished product.
It’s not always easy to figure out when it’s done. “I never know when to put the brush down,” she says. “My sign is when I wrack my brain and there’s nothing else I can possibly put down there.”
Paintings can sometimes take months from start to finish, although she compares the process to writing a book.
“Let’s say it takes someone four years to write a book,” she says. “But how many actual days during those four years were they writing?”
Once, she kept a painting as a work-in-progress for two months because she couldn’t decide what colours to use. Her colour choices can heavily change the energy of the picture.
“Sometimes, my selection feels more natural than others,” she says. “I was hitting ‘painter’s block,’ so I let that painting hang on the wall for a while and started another one.”
For now, Shuter will continue her “Introduction” series, which currently includes nine paintings. She says she’ll keep on adding to this collection until she feels she no longer has to introduce herself as an artist.
“I could see myself going to a hundred paintings,” she says.
And when does an artist know that they’ve found success?
“When I get to the point where I can comfortably do this for a living, I’ll feel successful on another level,” she says, “but I already feel successful in taking something I love and being able to share it with people.”
For more information about Shuter, visit www.iamsammo.com.