In conversation with artist Sam Stillman.
Can you talk about your journey into or interest the arts?
I’ve always loved creating ever since I was a little kid. I just recently started applying to go back to school for art education. At first, putting a portfolio together felt like work. I was focusing on taking a big step in my life and I wanted it to be perfect. It wasn’t until I started collaging that I began to really find myself in my work. When I am collaging I feel limitless and at my most creative place. I’m not worrying about technicality, because there are no rules when you’re making a collage.
I remember a few months ago, my roommate asked me what I would do for work if I could do anything in the world. I told him I would sell my art. I never thought I would actually do it, it’s scary taking that step and putting your work out there. When COVID-19 hit, the school that I work at shut down and I needed to find a new way to make money. I decided it was time to put my fears aside and try and sell my art. I made an Instagram and threw my collages out into the world. I wasn’t expecting much to come from it, but I needed to try. I’m tearing up as I write this because it means so much to me that people actually want to buy my art. It’s so meaningful for me to create, so it’s really special that other people can enjoy it, too.
Do you use a sketchbook? I’m interested in what a sketchbook means to you and your work.
I enjoy sketching, but I haven’t used it as a tool in my collaging process. I’m a big planner by nature, but when I’m making a collage I really like to go with the flow. I don’t like to limit myself with a strict plan, because it can really go any direction. I find my inspiration by flipping through stacks of old books and magazines. I try and piece things together that I think will enhance or add value to my main image. If something doesn’t fit just right, I’ll use it for another collage. I’ll move the images around until it looks how I want it. I find collaging to be very intuitive. I also like the way simple collages look, so it’s important for me to know when to put the scissors down and call it finished.
Your work is often of a very particular scale, can you talk about this?
I typically prefer working on a smaller scale, 5 x 7 is kind of my go-to. I love to make small art because it is a challenge to cut tiny images and I just like the way little things look in general. You can pack a lot of life into a small space.
Can you talk about your process of working. How do you work, how often, is there a particular pattern?
I typically collage late into the night on weekdays and non-stop throughout the weekend. I currently work as an occupational therapy practitioner, but I’ve been having trouble staying focused because all I want to do is make collages. I will even sometimes start sneaky snipping images under the table during virtual meetings. I can be a bit obsessive, but it doesn’t feel like work, it feels like what I need to do. It keeps me feeling productive and passionate. It gets me out of bed in the morning.
Do you find the process of creating work relaxing or therapeutic? I’ve become increasingly interested in the relationship of the sketchbook and the work to the artist.
Yes, absolutely! I find every part of the collage process therapeutic. I find peace flipping through pages, cutting, arranging images, painting, gluing, and packaging. The act of cutting itself sends me into a different world. When I am cutting an intricate image with an exacto knife, I am not thinking about anything but the paper and blade. Collaging is the one thing that I truly get lost in. It is the ultimate escape from reality for me. It’s like an addiction, but a healthy one, I think.