This week’s featured artist is Sam Nagel, an illustrator from South Florida. She enjoys creating lush, beautiful watercolor paintings of marine life and various animals. Read below to learn more about her favorite childhood story, the coolest place she’s ever visited, and more.
BBP: Describe your art in 5 words or less!
Sam: Colorful, splashy, quick, lively, fun!
BBP: Name an artist or person that inspires your art and why!
Sam: I can’t pick only one, so here are my top three favorite artists right now… Audrey Kawasaki, Jenny Saville, and Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. They’re all female artists who are successful in their own styles and subject matter.
BBP: Did you go to school for art or are you primarily self-taught?
Sam: I studied Illustration at Ringling College of Art & Design, graduated in ’09 with my BFA. But I didn’t start painting in watercolor until after I graduated, so I consider myself self-taught in that aspect. Really, every artist is self-taught. School is just a special environment where you are encouraged to practice, practice, practice! It was like a four-year boot camp with little sleep, hours of critiques, always surrounded by a ton of talent, and a pile of assignments to build your artistic muscles.
BBP: When did you start designing/creating? Was there a particular event that inspired you to pursue it further?
Sam: I was always drawing as a kid. There was one particular art assignment I had in first grade where we made a crayon drawing of an animal in space. I drew the planets and stars, and I thought the coolest thing ever was a frog in a space helmet. My teacher then painted a wash of black watercolor over top of the crayon to show us how wax repelled water. She hung all of the paintings on the wall and everyone especially loved mine… it might sound silly, but that was the first time I realized I had a knack for art.
BBP: How has your style changed since you started?
Sam: Immensely. In high school I drew a lot of super detailed, anal-retentive graphite drawings. I didn’t like paints back then, so I tried chalky pastels to begin learning how to use color. It turned out to be the best thing because I honed my drawing skills before I ever attempted to paint. While in college I mostly painted with oils in a completely different style than how I paint now. For a while after I graduated I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so my style was all over the place. But one thing always remained the same… I love using color, and I mean, every single color. I saw how watercolors could produce pure vivid colors and decided to try it. I purchased a set of Dr. Martin liquid watercolors, and tested them out with a couple of simple sea creature paintings, then a mermaid and here I am!
BBP: Where is the coolest place you’ve visited?
Sam: I just took a trip to Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont. I am from South Florida, so the mountains of Vermont is a complete change for me, it was absolutely beautiful! I might become a mountain girl someday!
BBP: Do you have a particular spot or place where you create most of your art?
Sam: I have my own studio inside my home. I create everything there.
BBP: Do you have any children? If so, what are their names and ages?
Sam: No children yet, maybe someday
BBP: Do you have any pets?
Sam: No, pets are not allowed where I live, but when I move I’m getting a cat!
BBP: Growing up, were your parents into or involved in art?
Sam: My mom is an artist. Today she works primarily as a stained glass artist, but when I was younger she mostly did graphic art. Back then that included a lot of hand drawn ink, and marker illustrations, so I grew up ogling at her marker set … all those amazing colors!
BBP: What were your favorite hobbies as a kid?
Sam: Drawing and swimming. I was on a swim team for many years.
BBP: What’s your favorite story to tell about your childhood?
Sam: The time I watched my dad walk into a huge spider web. He stumbled back and I saw a ginormous banana spider hanging from a piece of web attached to his mustache. He screamed and rolled on the ground like he was on fire! I was also on the ground laughing hysterically!
BBP: What did your room look like growing up?
Sam: I shared a room with my little brother until I was in third grade. We had bunk beds and my bed sheets were Care Bear themed when I was really little. My mom sponge painted a colorful pattern all over the wall. She kept it fairly gender neutral because we were a boy and girl. Then I got my own room and chose a sunflower theme with blues and yellows… it was really springy and girly.
BBP: If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do instead?
Sam: Landscape design… I love gardening. I want to create a secret garden of my own.
BBP: Do you prefer to swim in a pool, ocean, or lake?
Sam: Pool. It reminds me of my swim team days.
BBP: What is one thing that you’ve never tried, but would like to?
Sam: Skiing! I’m a Florida girl, so any snow sport is foreign to me… I’ve barely ever seen snow!
BBP: Sweet or savory?
BBP: Dogs or cats?
Sam: Cats! Cats are the coolest! :3