Interviewer: Rachael Pantuso
Interviewee: Artist Samantha Saenz
November 29, 2016
Samantha Saenz is an ambitious, unique artist who is getting her degree in Drawing. Her works derive from her adoration for cartoons and her enjoyment of comedic ideas. Her senior thesis works are on display in the Texas State Gallery, and they stand out for their comical subject matter and intriguing cartoon horse characters. What a pleasure it was meeting and getting to know her.
Where are you from?
I’m from the Valley in south Texas, really far from here. (She giggles)
Do you like this area (San Marcos)? Do you think this area is beneficial in helping you create your work?
San Marcos? Yeah, there’s… not a lot of art going on in the Valley. They offer a Printmaking class at the University there. But yeah, I feel like because it’s a ‘college town’ there’s a lot of creativity and people experimenting and stuff. And it makes you feel comfortable to experiment yourself.
Do you visit Austin often?
No, not really. I kind of just stay around San Marcos.
Did you always know you wanted to be an artist? If so, was there a specific moment or inspiration that occurred?
No, I didn’t think being an artist was practical. So I actually studied Interior Design for three years, almost four, I almost finished! (She laughs) And then I switched my major to Drawing because I was miserable, I didn’t like it! It was drawing but it wasn’t creative. It was structured, and I didn’t like that. I got to draw, at least, but it wasn’t enjoyable… So I switched because I thought as soon as I graduate I’m not going to want to do this. I’ve always liked drawing but it was just a hobby, I didn’t think I could ever do anything with it.
Was there an overlap (in courses), though?
Yeah, some classes even transferred over. But a lot of it was architectural drawing – you know with blue prints and structure. And I would clash with my professors a lot because they would tell me my work wasn’t realistic. Like one of my first projects was to make a living space and I made mine like a ‘hobbit home’, and they would say, you know, this is cool but who would want to live here? And I said ‘I would!’ (she laughs)… It became more about codes and the other person than about me.
Are there any specific artists that you have been following or are interested in?
Yeah, I’ve been really into Jean Michel Basquiat a lot recently because he has this quote, “Believe it or not, I can actually draw”! Because his works have this appearance or aesthetic of anyone can make them.
Does he have a style you try to incorporate into your own? Or do you just admire his work?
Well I think I just admire his approach to it. Stylistically, there aren’t many contemporary artists that I look at. I actually like watching a lot of cartoons — I watch a lot of Beavis and Butthead, and I did when I was younger. And now I like a lot more stuff like South Park – stuff with a lot of character development. Characters that you can think about what they would do in a certain situation, and know what they would say. That’s what I’m really interested in.
Do you have any personal criteria that you follow to know when your work is complete?
No not really, I kind of just keep adding to it. For instance, with printmaking the plate is more malleable so I can edition it where I can make a set of prints and then decide later to go back and change it. You can start over or you can keep adding to it. There’s a bunch of processes you can use and I use three. That’s when it comes together. So I guess it’s just implementing all the different steps and processes.
Is there any music, literature or films that have inspired you lately with your work?
I mean not really any music or films. I like comics, I’ll read strips and stuff here and there. I don’t know if that counts as literature. (She laughs) I think it does! But my work is usually self-portraits, like the horse eating a corn dog is from an inside joke between my and my close friend.
Referring to your thesis works, do you feel you had enough time to complete them and the proper materials to create your ‘vision’ for these works?
Yeah definitely, I started these pieces in the summer and really worked on them in my printmaking classes — which I was lucky enough to be able to take alongside my thesis courses. So I had double the help from professors, and the printmaking professor always had plenty of materials for us so we could have everything we needed in class and not have to leave or not be able to work in class.
I know you said earlier that you enjoy drawing, have you always enjoyed that medium the most?
Yeah, when I was younger I would draw the Hey Arnold! Cartoons a lot and that’s why I think my parents weren’t really surprised when I switched majors. But I also really enjoy printmaking and the ability to combine them and create something.
Do you have a creative process? If so, what is it?
Yeah, well I doodle a lot, especially during my classes I will doodle all over my notes. So a lot of these pieces began as that. I was in a history class and I was thinking ‘I need to think of a new character’, so I asked my friend what animal I should draw and she suggested a horse. So I started drawing these little cartoon horses doing different little things like holding balloons or drinking a martini and then I showed them to my class and they all liked them. So it’s usually accidental, I don’t think I can really sit down and say ‘I’m going to create!’ (She laughs)
What would your ideal studio look like? Or ideal work station?
Well I guess just like a printmaking studio you know, or something that’s open with windows. The printmaking studio is kind of dark and you can’t really take the prints anywhere outside the studio until they are done, so something with lots of light that’s not so claustrophobic would be nice. I like feeling like I have a lot of space and light around me so I can feel relaxed.
How do you think you’ve grown as an artist? Maybe comparing your thesis works to your old works?
I definitely feel more confident in my work, before I would second guess my ideas and drawings. I would see them as just doodles and I think printmaking helped me put that value on my drawings. And my professors from my drawing classes didn’t really appreciate my drawings because they are simple, but now I’ll take what they say and consider it but I will be doing it for me. And the printmaking professors were really good about helping you do what you want to do and help you improve from there.
Do you have a specific audience that your work is directed to?
Um, well no because I think that anyone should be able to look at it (referring to her thesis works) and get something from it. Whether it’s what I’m trying to say with it or not. They will still feel a certain way about it, which is what is important.
What is your favorite part of the process of creating a work?
I think for me it’s the final result, and being satisfied with something. Then thinking back to the beginning and how I didn’t know what was going to come out of it. It’s really cool to look at a finished work and think about the process and work it took to get here.
What’s your favorite part about being an artist?
I think the freedom of it, the freedom to be expressive. Like a pass to do something crazy and someone ask you ‘what is that? You’re crazy!’ and then being able to tell them you’re an artist and they say ‘oh okay that makes sense.’ (She laughs)
What do you feel makes your art unique?
I guess because its unique to me, and I’ve gotten a lot that the horses look like me and match my sense of humor. And I think because I’m honest to my sense of humor and not trying to cater to other people’s humor, it makes me feel good to be myself and feel like I really put myself out there for people.
What do you hope to get across with your viewers? Is there a message or idea behind your works?
I think, highlighting the unique qualities about yourself and not shying away from them. And acknowledging that the rougher parts of you make you unique.
I really enjoyed talking with Samantha, she was so kind and it was easy to tell how compassionate she is about being an artist. She has a bright future ahead of her because of her unique style and ambition. I hope to see her works gain more acknowledgement and to see her progress over time.