QL: Your watercolors are so dynamic and your style is so distinct and strong — I love pouring over the images on your website www.samanthahahn.com. Where did you find your stylistic voice in painting? How has it evolved and who has been your greatest influence in finding this artistic voice?
SH: This is a great question. It’s hard to pinpoint one voice or influence. I did grow up in an artistic home. My mom was an artist and my dad worked in the music business so I saw them both doing creative work professionally. It was completely natural for me to pursue commercial art. Since I was little, the female figure was always my central focus. Perhaps it was because of our proximity to The Met and Moma. I grew up frequenting these special places and consuming paintings of women. I think painting is a lifelong practice. I have studied it and practiced it and I think with time I grow and change naturally. It’s something you just can’t force but you can go with the natural flow and evolution of your hand as an artist.
QL: What would you tell young artists starting out and what is the best piece of advice you have received?
SH: I think artists that are just starting out can find conflicting advice around every corner because everyone’s path to success in their field is different. I tell them to take it all with a grain of salt (including my own advice). One person’s point of entry might be completely different from another person’s. Keep your eyes open to specific niches in the market where your work would be a good fit.
QL: I know you have two young kids – are they in the studio with you often? I have two young girls and each has such a distinct style already and it is so fun to watch it shift and change. Any fun stories exploring art with your little ones?
SH: I take a very laid back approach to art with my kids. I don’t want to prescribe my aesthetic on them. That being said, materials and workspace are readily available. Both show an interest and propensity for art. My son Henry is 7. We draw together (everything from Pokemon to hawks) and he’s currently interested in rendering all details correctly. It’s fascinating to see him work this way because I’m not a perfectionist at all. If I mess up I just start over. He will sit there and erase and erase until the drawing is the way he wants. He’s also abnormally amazing at designing paper planes! My daughter Vivian is only 2 but she wants to join us at the table and is happy to use any material she’s given from paints to play doh to markers and stickers. They see me working in my studio but I mainly work when they’re at school so weekends are when we make art together in a relaxed way.
QL: Which artwork moves you most — which do you return to the museum to spend time with time and time again?
SH: I have a few answers. Abstract Expressionist paintings move me deeply. Take me to a room with Helen Frankenthaler and Mark Rothko and leave me there to swoon. I also have this strange fascination with the Joan of Arc painting by Jules Bastian LaPage. I simply must see it when we go to The Met. Lastly, Alex Katz. To me he is the master of figurative art. His paintings blow me away.
QL: If you are organizing a dinner party of artists — literary and visual – who would you invite? Top three and why?
SH: (I’m interpreting this as living and dead)
Wow, what a dinner party. I want to host this! Ok, let’s see. I will start with visual artists and pick 3 who work very differently from each other but speak a visual language: Alex Katz, Ellsworth Kelly and Helen Frankenthaler. It would be interesting for them to talk about color. Each uses it so emotionally and intuitively but Alex and Ellsworth are very economic and Helen is liberal with it. I wonder what they’d say to each other about their intentions when painting. My literary guests would be John Steinbeck, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and Toni Morrison. They all write female heroines who are strong and independent with voices and minds of their own. I’d love to hear them talk about the various constraints of the time they wrote in and how they imagined their heroine subverting expectations.
QL: What is your ideal reading space? The essentials that create comfort and coziness for you?
SH: I have two. I like reading in a cozy soft chair with natural light, a cup of tea with honey in hand and a throw blanket over my lap. If weather permits, I love reading outside in fresh air, under a shady tree or on the beach. The combination of the peace and quiet in nature and taking time with a good book feel like ultimate luxury.
QL: I know when I am asked what my favorite book is, I can never narrow it down to one — and and each is a favorite for a different reason and different season of life . . . . Do you have one favorite book or a rotating list? What’s it for you? A long list or a treasured tome?
SH: I could go on and on because I agree with you that there are different favorites for different reasons but if I could only pick one it would be East of Eden. I feel like I didn’t read it but rather watched it. Steinbeck really paints a scene and takes you to it.
QL: What book would surprise people that you have on your shelf?
SH: I had to just get up from my desk and look. I do frequent book purges so my collection is pretty succinct. I have novels I loved reading. Some books that are on deck and lots of art and photo books. The one that stands out is: Puzzlegrams by Pentagram. I’m not really into doing puzzles so at first glance it looks out of place but the design and typography in the book are so economic and yet thoughtful. I just find it compelling visually.
QL: How do you relax and unwind?
SH: There’s nothing super grandiose. With two young children and working as freelancers sometimes it feels like we don’t have a chance to pause. Each night we take time to cuddle and watch a show and read our books before bed. Something else I love is going for a long evening walk with my husband (leaving the kiddos sleeping under the care of a sitter). We usually wind up in Carroll Gardens where we grab a cup of decaf and peruse Bookcourt.
QL: What is your favorite quarterlane box?
SH: The Winter Aesthete is amazing. I know I could get lost in it for days!
QL: What are you working on next? Upcoming projects or exhibitions? We would love to follow along!
Well I’m obviously super excited to be working with you on quarterlane. The Edit will have so many amazing features. I’m so thrilled to be planning photoshoots with people we admire to find out about their reading lifestyle. I just finished a notecard set for The Smithsonian and Chronicle Books of famous jewelry like Marie Antoinette’s earrings and the Napolean Diamond Necklace. Other than that I have been working on lots of illustration projects from book covers to magazine editorials. The best way to get a peek at what’s on my desk or what’s come to fruition is through Instagram (@samanthajhahn).