|Samantha Marcone is an incredible local artist who creates beautiful nature-inspired colors and brightened up our week with her stunning watercolors. We are thrilled that she was able to take the time to talk to use about her work and to share this interview with you.|
How did you start out as a painter?
I always really loved art, and got into painting acrylics a little bit when I was in college. I really started getting into painting, especially watercolors when I had to take two days off from teaching due to a cold last fall. With no much to do and an unused watercolor palette I really just fell in love with the medium and I’ve been almost addicted to it since.
Walk me through the process of beginning a piece. Is each painting done with full intention? Or do you find yourself crafting new ideas as you go along? How do you pick your subject?
Almost every piece is started with me staring at my watercolors and deciding what color Id like to work with. I usually end up scouring the internet looking for whatever interesting animals, plants or fungi I can find with that primary color and I go from there. Depending on the day or mood I’m in, my artistic intent can range from being as accurate as possible, or more loose as I decide to play with colors and let go of the realism that usually drives me.
Your work finds a lovely blend between abstract and realism. How do you balance these two aspects of your work?
By day I teach Biology and Anatomy, so often I go for the scientific illustration when it comes to my art work, specifically when the subjects are things I am familiar with. At one point in my life, as I pursued a degree in zoology, I had intended to pursue art to be a scientific illustrator- this ended up switching to a masters in education, where and I find myself using art to teach almost daily. If I can’t explain something verbally to my students the next thing I do is try to draw it out, and I find that’s where a lot of my practice comes from. I think that also dictates what my subject is some days, after I’ve drawn the brain 6 times on the board in expo market and erased it to draw a neuron, I start to miss the brain so I go home and draw a nice one to keep for myself. When it comes to the abstract aspect of my art, I think it tends to come out when I’m not familiar with my subject, or have a lack of resources. The giraffe, one of my more abstract pieces, was painted during one of the blizzards we had last winter, I had no internet, no good books for reference, just a doodle of a giraffe. I actually think the abstract work takes me a lot longer to paint because it is just so different from what I teach and interact with on a daily basis. It’s a fun challenge for me, and I like trying to change my perspective from the way I typically view the world.
In a broader context, what inspires you about nature?
Outside of work I consider myself a naturalist, and can spend hours outside. I constantly find myself appreciating the perfection and beauty of what nature has designed, something I try to reflect in my artwork. I was a 13 year Girl Scout, something that I think made me appreciate not just nature and outdoors, but trying to protect it. I have my degree in zoology, and have spent most of my working life working with animals (specifically fish and insects) or focusing on conservation through environmental education. One of my really good friends Sam Jaffe, who owns The Caterpillar Lab in NH got me interested in bugs because of the way he photographed them- listening to him tell me how amazing these plain looking caterpillars were. He would literally drape them on my shoulders and head when I would go hang out with him and it definitely started to change how I saw macro universe.
Your work is very colorful! I also adore how soft yet boldly geometric all your pieces are. Was this choice on purpose?
I love color. I think the color and line work I choose is a reflection of the ebb and flow of my personality that I impose onto my art. Growing up in New England I faced some harsh winters and found myself always looking forward to the burst of colors of spring, summer and fall. My personality I think definitely flows with the seasons, and reflects what environment I’m immersed in. My art in the winter tends to be those more geometric and lined work, with more muted and softer colors. I have seasonal depression and tend to see things as more hard and muted when I’m in those lows that I experience. When I’m in those highs, especially when it’s warm, I spend more time outside and I’m generally seeing the world in brighter color, which I bring into my art to hold on to that happy place.
Your work appears scientific in nature. Do you keep your pieces more accurate to the subjects or do you take creative liberties with some?
I don’t often take creative liberty with my subjects- I have been fascinated with anatomy since I took a comparative anatomy class in college and have transitioned my observation and inspection of nature to be more of a comparative approach, trying to observe and admire the adaptations that each living thing has that has allowed it to survive on this planet. I really enjoy researching why my subjects are built the way that they are and try to reflect their unique differences in my art. If anything, my creative liberties come in the form of overly bright colors, mostly highlighting the things I see as the most impressive in an evolutionary aspect.
Is there a personal meaning to any or all of your work?
All of my work is based on things that I find interesting… I am a bad business person in the respect that if someone wants me to make something, almost every bone in my body is like “don’t do it, go paint this ugly vulture that almost no one would want to hang in their home, just because you’ve been really into researching why they’re bald this week”. Every piece I make is meaningful to me in some way- I pour my emotion into my art every time I make it, sometimes based on my photography or my friends Naturalist photography, sometimes based on something I saw while hiking, sometimes based the subject of a question a student asked. I tend to get momentarily obsessed with the idea of something until I paint it, and then get to sit back and appreciate it.
What project are you currently working on? At any given time I’m honestly working on 3-5 things. I am not one of those artists who can sit and work on one piece for more than a few hours. I like to take mental breaks by switching up my mediums and subjects (which sometimes means I have art that goes unfinished for days, weeks or years at a time). I’m currently trying to play around with graphic design, and explore the world of Lino printing. I also have been getting back into acrylics, but using wood slices as a canvas for naturalist based art. I am absolutely obsessed with bones and skeletons and I have been working on doing more anatomical artwork.
What is the greatest achievement you’ve reached so far as an artist? What are you the most proud of, and what are your goals?
I think the greatest achievement I’ve reached as an artist is having a few people get my art tattooed on their body. Being asked to design something they wanted to have on their body forever is truly the biggest compliment I could receive, and their happiness with the final product is just overwhelming.I’m most proud of taking the step to sell my art finally. The response has been empowering and made me better myself as an artist; I feel like I am much more motivated to make art, as well as up my game and my techniques. I truly think each piece I make is better than the last.My goals currently are to create an educational coloring book, and to start designing a naturalist art clothing line- there is a very small niche of people I think will be interested in it, but I would honestly love to see people wearing my art. I just think that would be the absolute coolest thing I could do.
What kinds of reactions do your pieces get? How do you feel about those reactions.
I’ve started doing pop up shows to sell my art at indie-style craft markets and I’ve gotten a lot of compliments. A lot of people will sit and talk to me about why I have painted a specific piece and end up buying it once they have heard my (sometimes bizarre) backstory to why I chose a specific subject. One person visited my booth, talked to me for about 20 minutes, then came back with their parents and said “Mom this is the artist I was telling you about!”. That kind of positive feedback blows my mind. I think the craziest thing is that the people who come to the pop ups don’t know me, and then end up buying 3-5 different pieces because they truly enjoy my art so much. I had a woman tell me that my art “brought her so much joy” when she saw saw it that she had to have it. It’s crazy. I’m still not used to it.
What words would you use to describe your work?
Naturalistic and nature inspired- I don’t think I’ve really found my niche in mediums or style aside from my subjects, so this is definitely still to be determined What do you try to express in your work? In general, I think I try to express the beauty I see in sometimes unappreciated nature. I paint a lot of insects and mushrooms, which is not a go-to subject when people look for living room art, but I get to explain how amazing these things are when they ask why I paint them, and I hope it makes people reconsider stepping on them at the very least.
Are there any artists who inspire you?
Dino Nemec, Laurelin Sittery, and Joe Weatherly are all contemporary artists that constantly inspire me. They all are nature based artists, very different in styles but I really enjoy the realism aspect of art, mixed in with sometimes abstract linework or colorful additions to their pieces.
What is your goal as an artist?
I just want to make people happy, and maybe teach them something through my art. I would love to incorporate more conservation into my art, and help people appreciate and understand nature and our role in the environment.
Samantha can be found on Facebook HERE and on instagram at @birderincrime