Happy to oblige!
First question: How did you find your way to becoming a kidlit scrap artist?
I was a newspaper artist for 39 years, got laid off, became bored, wrote a little fable that was bouncing around in my head, realized it was possible to create the characters with found objects so they could be posed in different positions and tell a story. So, I decided to design a 32-page picture book. Finding a publisher for it was the hard part!
Glad you got those ideas out of your head and into the 3-D world! What do you like about creating humorous characters out of scrap metal?
It’s a relaxing way to make art. I daydream, allowing intuition to guide me. The results often surprise me, so I continue doing it.
I take buckets of junk that I’ve collected from all over and also things that are donated to me by generous friends (dug relics, plastic bits, beach combing flotsam, metal, wood, etc.) and pour it onto the studio floor. For the children’s book characters, I imagine a goat, for instance, then I find things that work together in the proper scale--a paint brush becomes his head and beard, nails are his horns, a key winder nose, rubber tire fragment body, etc. Then I photograph it with my iPhone and design the book on my desktop Mac.
Tell me a little about your upcoming book, Gifts of the Magpie?
My mother called me a “magpie” when I was little because I liked to collect stuff. That memory and my experience as a scrap artist inspired me to start thinking about writing a story. Six months after being laid off, I woke up to a soft, April rain and as I lay there, inspiration struck and I wrote Gifts of the Magpie in under an hour. It’s about a generous magpie who is good at finding things, so she asks her friends what they want. She gets everything wrong and disappoints everyone--until they realize, by using a little creativity, she gave them exactly what they needed. It contains a hopeful message of positive thinking, plus some fun wordplay and of course, lots of scrap art! Capstone is publishing it in early 2021.
Is it fun? This late bloomer is having a blast!
Your delight is evident in the objects! What are you working on now?
I’m always creating personal work, like the Keep On Truckin’ tribute to R. Crumb, selling a few pieces, working on three commissions. In July, Capstone agreed to publish my second picture book, Tag and the Magic Squeaker, about a mouse who teams up with a dog to put one over on a cat. And my third book, The Hangry Pizzly Bear, which incorporates over 30 portmanteaus, is under consideration.
Haha! Sounds artliciously fun! Well, thanks for stopping by and for sharing a little bit about your kidlit journey with me. It's been a blast!
Enjoyed it, Dionna!
Sam began collecting found objects (metal debris, road gloves, flattened cans, etc.) in 1990 while working in San Jose, CA and in 2009, back in Virginia, he began devoting himself to creating art using these things. It was like a faucet being turned on full blast. His solo exhibition was in 2012 and he's shown his work at local galleries several times since. He also began leading workshops to share his philosophy of seeing and utilizing the beauty that surrounds us.
Today, Sam spends most of my time in his home studio, where he recently illustrated and designed the 2019 Meat Puppets album, DUSTY NOTES (2018), designed an e-book for kids, SCRAP ART ALPHABET (2018) and created his first children’s book, GIFTS OF THE MAGPIE, to be released in early 2021.