This week’s featured artist on Columbus Underground is Samantha Bennett. Samantha studied fine arts at the Columbus College of Art & Design and then moved away from Columbus for the past 12 years. She has recently returned to find both her personal life and the city transformed. Samantha’s work ranges from large outdoor murals to commissioned personal portraits, and much of her work is done with a purpose: raising awareness and fund for groups including the March of Dimes and the National Organization for Women Artists.
Q: Tell us a bit about your beginnings as an artist from how you got started with murals to your college experience.
A: I have been an “artist” all of my life. It’s kind of a long story, but it is the core of who I am as an artist. As a baby, I had a deadly form of meningitis (Meningococcemia). Although I survived, I had a few amputations to my fingers, toes and scarring throughout my body. While I don’t think I have ever let the meningitis experience control my life, in a way, the leftover issues from the disease helped me discover myself as an artist… it’s cheesy, but true! As a child I think showed early signs of an artistic ability and seeing how I couldn’t play sports, my parents really encouraged me to develop my artistic skills. They put me in drawing lessons in elementary school and then I just stuck with it through college.
When I first started at the Columbus College of Art and Design, I was strongly advised to be an illustration major… so I tried it! That’s a funny memory now… trying to paint on taped-off illustration board! Ugh. I somehow managed to make a huge mess of the “clean” taped off area. That didn’t last long, and then I was off to the fine arts department and never looked back. I basically painted on anything that I could fit into my hatchback. At some point in college, I was offered to create a mural and had a great time. I enjoy painting murals and I enjoy painting on canvas. For a while, because I was pregnant for the past 4 years (or it feels like it), I have been very picky about which mural jobs I take on.
Q: As a “boomeranger” who left Columbus for awhile and came back, what have you noticed as the most significant changes in the city, arts-related or otherwise?
A: I was born in Pensacola and we moved to Newark, Ohio when I was 7. I went to elementary, middle and high school in Newark and then moved to Columbus and went to CCAD. My parents ended up moving to Florida while I was at CCAD and within a year of them moving, I ended up down there with them. In Pensacola, I met my husband while he was in flight school for the Navy. We lived the military life moving around for about 8 years. We ended up being stationed in DC (living in the Maryland suburbs). It was the first time I was close enough to drive to Columbus in a long time. Which, yes, had changed tremendously since I lived off of gritty High Street! Every time we visited I realized how much I missed Columbus more and more. So as soon as my husband got out of the Navy, I pushed for the Midwest move. It took about two years for Jason to finally get an offer good enough for us to move. So now, here I am back in Columbus, I left as a starving art student and came back 12 years later as a professional artist with two babies and a husband. We love it.
Q: How would you describe your artistic style?
A: Yikes, I never know how to describe my style. I feel like people can call me what they want. When I first started taking art commissions, it was almost always to crate realistic portraits from photos. I can do the photorealistic drawing and deep down I like the satisfaction of someone saying, “wow, that looks just like…”. But yeah, that kind of art gets boring. So instead, I began to find a way to create the same “wow” likeness effect yet also create some kind of emotional response with color. As far as all of the gold leafy and collaged portraits go, I added that style to my portraits after a trip to the Louvre.
Q: Since you do everything from murals to portraits, do you have a preference on the different types of scales that you use?
A: I’ve been called a jack-of-all-trades and I’m cool with that. I don’t mind exploring other mediums and styles. I enjoy a challenge so I am known to take on projects that have nothing to do with my portfolio.
With that said, I love painting portraits. I have been drawing people for as long as I can remember. I also love painting really large so if given the opportunity to create a “Sam painting” in a large area (like a mural), I go for it!
Q: Do you have any upcoming shows, projects or other way for people to experience your work?
A: Well, we just got back into town within the past month. So I’m really just getting my feet wet again in Columbus. As far as my commission stuff goes, I actually just finished a mural off of Livingston Avenue. I’ve also been offered to create a mural for the Department of Veteran Affairs, but that’s still in the beginning stages. It should be fun and I hope the government is willing to continue put out more funds for public art.
For the past couple of years I’ve been creating a series of paintings called “Butterflied Portraits”. I started that series after our horrible encounter with infant loss. The paintings represent women and now families that were affected my infant or miscarriage. Those paintings have been a part of campaigns for the March of Dimes, the National Organization for Women Artists and for other groups that are helping families that experience loss. I am still working on that series and I am looking forward to showing those paintings as a show in Columbus one day.
More information can be found online at www.paintersam.com.