Novermber 8th, 2017
Jesse Gussow

This week’s interview examines the subtly unsettling work of New Zealand oil painter Sam Bee.  The lighting, perspective, brush strokes, and use of blacks stand out immediately when looking at his work. His images with eyes or an eye are flawless and perfect. Not only am I creeped out by every eye in his work, I’m drawn to them. His art is sure to illicit an emotional response upon viewing. It’s a wicked feeling and I love it!


Where are you from?

I'm from Wellington, New Zealand.


How did you get started in Art?

I started painting approximately 2 and a half years ago. I was a stay-at-home dad and my wife decided I needed a creative outlet so hired a studio space for me. I had always had a desire to paint and used to draw a lot when I was young. I watched some Youtube tutorials on using oil paint and jumped straight in. I also studied the work of artists I admired trying to figure out their process.


Who are some of the artists that you admired that got you into oil painting?

I'd say one of the first artists that got me fired up when I started was Scott Waddell. Some of the first tutorials I watched were his; he's a technical genius. After that the artists that inspired me (and still do) would be Brad Kunkle, Christian Rex Van Minnen and Linnea Strid.


How would you describe your artwork?

A bit of a mixed bag really. Sometimes figurative and realistic, sometimes a little impressionistic. I have the attention span of a goldfish so I'm always changing my approach depending on my mood.


What is the best way you've heard your work described by someone else?

“Good enough to eat”... I like that, but maybe its because I like pudding.


Why did you decide to become an artist?

I think I was always going to try, I just didn't know when. So when I got the opportunity I thought I better give it my all. It's a privilege to be able to do something I love as a job so I wasn't about to squander it. Many never get the chance.


Where do you find your inspiration?

All over. Sometimes I'll see another artist’s work and get inspired or more often [I see] a face that speaks to me. We live our lives surrounded by beauty, both conventional and abstract. I see form and color all around me every day.


If you were a dinosaur, what kind would you be, and why?

I'd be a Diplodocus. They seemed pretty chill and the view up there must've been spectacular!


How long does a typical piece take to make from start to finish?

I usually work small so sometimes I can belt out a piece in 30 minutes, or it can take me a year because I'm impatient as hell and move on quickly. I always have a dozen 'work in progress' paintings. I have a great deal of respect for painters that can work on one piece for months at a time.


What is your entire process for a piece?

For something that's more of a conventional portrait I sketch out the basic outline first on a prepped board, then start from the top and work my way down. I generally don't do under-painting or blocking in, just straight into the detail. For something looser I'll skip the sketch and just use paint. Sometimes I'll add details to them later once the paint has dried a little.


Your work could be describe as a little dark and macabre. What is the reason that your work tends to be that way?

I find beauty in the strange and unusual. I don't always set out to paint that way, sometimes the painting just has a life of its own and I tag along for the ride.


How have you grown as an artist from when you first started?

I'd like to think I've gotten more confident in my process. I used to sketch out every painting I did but these days I tend to do that less and less. I just freestyle and trust that'll it'll come together in the end. If it doesn't, then that's cool, it’s only paint; you can fix it later.  


What is your favourite medium to work on? Canvas, a wall, stone or wood, etc.?

I almost always use MDF [medium density fibreboard] for all my work, even my drawings. It's easy to prep and framing options are better than canvas.


What are your goals for the future?

I guess I'll keep painting until my hand modelling career takes off. Any day now...It's totally gonna happen!


Do you prefer Oreo or Fudgee-O cookies?

We don't have Fudgee-O's here but we do have Oreos. So I'm gonna say Oreooooo's!

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