This past Tuesday, Texas State welcomed Austin-based artist Sam Sanford to lecture on his work and process. He introduced himself and his work as “always trying to get back to a feeling of punkrockness and intellectual freedom” he had when he first started painting. His process began as a way to paint the same way a printer would- using three primary colors, yellow, magenta, cyan, he glazes thin layers of each to color correct and achieve any color on the gamut. While explaining this process he clicked through several examples of his early works, showing what he believed to be the “worst painting he’s ever done” saying “it looks like it belongs in a coffee shop, so I sold it”. His ultimate struggle as an artist is fixation; he is constantly trying to get back to abstraction, which is why he laments the fact that he is most well known for his photo-based realist paintings.
JAN 1972, 2013, oil on paperboard, 10″ x 15″
The painting above (from his Dark Days series) was printed on the “Sam Sanford, guest lecturer” flyer that hung around the JCM all week. Going into the lecture I had no idea who Sam Sanford was, and seeing the flyer in passing I assumed he was a photographer, so learning that this was a painting and hearing his process felt not only surprising, but ironic. The very series he is most known for (and wants to get away from artistically) was my first contact with his work.
At the end of the lecture Sam opened up about his realizations through painting professionally and the expectations of galleries that made working or even thinking about his art the same way, impossible. He talked about the invisible, uncontrollable forces at play in everyone’s lives and how he went to a dark place in making paintings that were dark and self-involved. Today, Sam Sanford makes paintings with friends for fun instead of profit. Together they paint or draw “dumb things” or anything that makes each other laugh. He closed by showing us the painting he considers to be his best work to date, it features two football players because in his opinion, “football is the dumbest thing ever”.
You can view some of his Dark Days series and the later more abstract/”punk rock” works on his website here -> http://samsanford.tumblr.com/