Playful woodland creatures, colourful blooms and fruits, lush plants and friendly characters with rosy cheeks are some of the whimsical subjects found in Sam Pernoski‘s work. It is, as she describes it, happy art. Her folksy-style illustrations have been featured on Print & Pattern and Swatch & Repeat, and have also been published in UPPERCASE and Teen Breathe magazines. Sam currently lives in Pitt Meadows, British Columbia, which means she is very local to our Vancouver headquarters, and today we are thrilled to welcome her to our blog.
1) How did you discover your love for what you do?
For as long as I can remember I’ve loved to draw, doodle and paint. I think I knew as a child that art and creativity made me happy but I probably didn’t appreciate or fully understand what that meant until I was well into my adult years. When I was a child I would draw cartoon characters over and over again. I loved any opportunity to draw or paint. In grade 5 our teacher had me create a few of his illustrated spelling tests. I do believe I still have those lying around somewhere!
Coming out of my childhood it wasn’t until I began having my own children that I started to explore illustration and painting again. The more I explored, things just started to click and I realized that this is something that brings me a lot of joy.
2) Have you received any formal training in the arts?
No, I have never received any formal training in the arts. I actually took art (for the first time) in grade 11. I ended up leaving the school year early to find employment. My art teacher had arranged for me to stay on and take art as my only class for as long as I wished. Unfortunately it didn’t work out with my schedule and I was unable to take him up on his generous offer. That’s the closest I’ve been to being trained in any sort of art form.
I have taken a variety of classes online and have read tons of how-to books, both of which I feel have helped me progress along the way. On another note, I did in fact go back to complete my grade 12 and passed with honors!
3) What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
This is an easy one – no doubt about it I would be a singer! Can I sing now? No. However, I would have loved to take some lessons so that I could have explored that option further.
4) Do you have a particular style or medium you prefer to work with?
As far as style goes, I have come to appreciate creating a more whimsical style of art. I am drawn to happy things that have a cheerful look and I prefer creating illustrations that have a hand drawn feel to them.
In regard to mediums, I will switch back and forth as I love variety. I work digitally, with watercolor and gouache or acrylics. I also enjoy simple drawing and adding color and texture with regular graphite and pencil crayons.
5) Where do you find inspiration?
If I’m consciously looking for inspiration, I will look to Pinterest, Instagram and online retail shops. You can get a good feel for current trends this way. It makes for a great starting point to begin bouncing ideas around.
When I’m not purposely looking purposely for inspiration I can find it anywhere, whether I’m walking my dog through the park, sitting in our garden or chatting to my three daughters about the latest fashion. I do my best to keep an open mind and be observant with what’s around me. I try to stay curious enough that I see possibility in really anything. There is no limit to creativity except for the limit we put on ourselves, and inspiration is everywhere.
6) Can you tell us a bit about your creative process?
Although it’s not used consistently, I keep a sketchbook. Many in fact. I have some that I use for creating rough ideas and then others that are meant more for completed pieces. Whether I am drawing in them or painting, I find the biggest benefit is that it allows me to be in that raw creative process. I can unload everything that’s going on in my mind, get each idea out of my head and onto the paper.
When I’m not using an actual sketchbook (which is about 50% of the time), I love my iPad Pro. The digital version allows me to be even quicker if that’s what I need. I can draw right away and then send my illustrations to my laptop. I generally finish up all of my work in either Photoshop or Illustrator.
7) What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Overall, my experience as an artist has been very positive. The times that stick out the most for me are the moments where I’ve sold an illustration to a happy customer or completed work for a client, and I can tell they are pleased with the art. It’s satisfying to know I’ve done a job well.
8) You are surrounded by the beautiful Pacific Northwest landscape. What are your favourite spots for inspiration in British Columbia?
I love to be near the water. A day or at least an afternoon spent at the beach is always time well spent. I don’t have any particular spot, but if I had to choose (in the summer months!) I would probably head slightly north and soak up the sun in the Okanagan. I spent some of my happier childhood moments there and have tried to continue that tradition with my own children.
9) Aside from art, what are your other passions in life?
I enjoy pretty simple things. Reading, hanging out with my pets while we binge Netflix and, of course, spending time with my family. Life goes by so quickly, it’s important to appreciate every little moment. I do love to be in my garden. That’s probably where I am the happiest.
10) Any advice you would like to share with aspiring artists?
Keep practicing your craft and work on strengthening your skills. Recognize where you are not as strong and work to improve in those areas. This process never stops no matter what level you are currently at.
Keep going! Even if you only have limited time to work on your art, use your time wisely! Every step you take counts.
Be open to learning in whatever ways work best for you. This may be through in-person or online classes, books, tutorials, etc. There are so many free resources now on the internet.
Be kind to yourself. This is so important because not every day will feel inspiring. Some days it feels as though I haven’t accomplished anything. It takes a moment or two to reorganize my thoughts and focus again. I know now after doing this for so long that these moments do pass and we move on. Always appreciate your journey and where you’ve come to get here. Keep your dreams alive by taking actions, big or small, and visualize them manifesting.
Find a balance. This means spending time with family and friends too! Make sure you feel balanced in all areas of your life. Carve out time just for you! You may have other interests or hobbies that you’d like to try. Maybe you’d like to sit and read a book or watch a favorite television show. I need to workout everyday and that’s my hour of not thinking of anything art related, while I work on myself.
Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. This is so easy to do but can be really damaging to your work flow. Many times we don’t know the other artist we look up to and we are unaware of what they may have gone through to get where they are. Admire their work but also respect your own talents. It’s very likely that they have been where you are right now.
BONUS: We’ve started a new tradition where we ask every featured artist to do a shoutout to a fellow artist that inspires them, as a way of #artistssupportingartists. Please nominate an artist and tell us why you admire their work.
I would love to nominate Sue Mattero. Sue’s artwork is so charming, I’m inspired whenever I see her work. I’ve admired on Amazon the books that she’s illustrated and the art that she shares through social media. Sue creates the most delightful characters. There is a traditional painterly look to a lot of her work and I just love that. I enjoy the cheekiness of her art as well! It makes me smile!