Some might say that Sam Flores was born an artist. Painting and drawing since he was a little boy, Flores is always looking to develop his creative side, no matter how much success he's achieved. He paints characters that are immersed in tragic worlds, where beauty and darkness seem to be able to harmoniously coexist. Given their brightly colored surroundings, why are his characters' eyes almost always closed and their hands tightly clenched? Flores tell us that they are "hiding from the viewer, blind to their surroundings. They are withdrawn and self-involved. To see into their eyes means that you can see into their souls."
The artist was born in New Mexico where he lived for the first twenty years of his life until he packed up and moved to San Francisco in 1995. His paintings take inspiration from his years as a graffiti artist but also have elements of fine art in them. He has a keen eye for color and contrast, creating spellbinding stories that make you feel as though you've fallen down a rabbit hole.
We were able to get in touch with Sam to ask him more about his work. Read that interview, below, after enjoying his stunningly surreal paintings.
Sam Flores, the artist
You started with graffiti in 1992 and have since moved to more fine art. How has your style evolved?
I was a product of the '80s and '90s; growing up skating, listening to punk and hip-hop, reading comic books and watching Japanimation. Since I grew up with Mike Giant and Agree, I got a lot of inspiration from them and other graffiti writers from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
You're a self-taught artist. How long did it take you before you found your style?
I'm still trying to develop myself every day. The stuff I've been doing so far has just been the tip of the iceberg in the sense of what I'd like to do. It's time to develop more. Things tend to get stale with everyone so it's always good to keep evolving and changing. We all have so much to learn...constantly.
How have you seen the street art movement change over the years? In your opinion, who are the ones leading the way?
I've seen graffiti go from underground, hated and misunderstood, to becoming mainstream and "in." Now, a lot of
OG writers have used the level of popularity to their benefit and do really cool projects in the cities. I really like what Espo has been up to, his city mural projects are killin' it. Bansky, of course, is still doing cutting-edge shit. I like BLU and all those new stop-motion giant mural cats. There's a lot of really great mural artists these days. Os Gemeos are, hands down, the kings!
How does living in San Francisco influence your style?
I really like the eclectic melting pot of like and unlike-minded weirdos, wackos and artists and everything in between. They all come to San Francisco in hopes of finding themselves or people like themselves. I get a lot of inspiration from the people as well as the city itself. It's constantly changing and evolving.
What's the best part of your job, as an artist, and what's the worst?
Best part is to do what I love every day. I'm constantly learning, teaching myself and finding myself. It's great to be your own boss but it can also be very hard to balance your work with your personal life. You need to treat it like a job everyday and not just you sit around doing a little art every once in awhile. But just being able to create for a living is indescribable, it's been my dream.
What's a typical day for you like?
Waking up around 8;30-9:00am, go over morning emails, then checking my daily list. I like to have my studio set up - paint ready on pallet, music playing Nagchampa. Then, I get a shower so when I'm ready I come downstairs and the studio is ready for a day of "studio time." At night, I get on my computer, work on design work and check more emails. Then, I'm asleep around 2am. I like to work late into the morning usually, it's calming and quiet and I find a lot of inspiration and ideas deep in the morning.
What's your favorite piece and why?
My favorite stuff I haven't created yet, everything I've done has just been learning exercises and tests. I liked this show I did at Joshua Liner's old gallery called Lineage Gallery in Old Philly. I painted a lot of samurais, I like painting samurais.
You've worked with corporate sponsors and brands. What's collaborating with these companies like? How much artistic freedom do they give you?
It's been good. Of course, different companies, different projects, different artistic freedoms, but all and all i can't complain about anyone not letting me do what I've wanted.
What's next for you?
I want to start finishing some of my stories and work on some animation projects. It's a plan I've had since i first saw Ralph Bakshi's animations Coonskin
and American Pop and Fire and Ice
What's some advice you could give to aspiring artists?
To keep on creating and practicing. We will always be learning till the end. And don't be in any hurry to get somewhere. Enjoy and concentrate on the in-between.That's where all your personal development and skill comes in. Slow and steady...
Thank you so much for the interview, Sam. I can't tell you how much we love and appreciate your work.