London based artist Sam Gare on her wild adventures and why she climbs, slides down and paints the places we go to feel small…

Sam Gare - V Sky Print

Sam Gare – Villarrica Sky

2014. Acrylic marker, ink and pastel on paper.

Can you talk a little about your creative background? Were you sketching from your sledge at five years old?

I’ve always been creative, especially when I was young; I was the girl who could draw all through school – which helped me get through it actually 🙂 But if I’m honest I struggled making my creativity a career. I did not study art past A Level but instead I focused on my desire to be outside and explore the world through documentary film making. I’ve always loved the outdoors – making dens progressed to camping, sledding progressed to snowboarding, walking progressed to hiking and so on. But my art never reflected this other love in my life. It wasn’t until I came back from travelling and I found myself in the Outer Hebrides that I finally made the link between my art and my love of the wild. Sounds clichéd but I haven’t looked back since.

Sam Gare

 Sam doing exactly what she loves on Villarrica, Chile.

What is Project Paint Plane and where do you see it taking in the years ahead?

Project Paint Plane is about creating an artistic interpretation of the wild world. It’s about travel and exploration and using art to connect with the world around you. On a very basic level it’s a map of places I go to record these lands through my art. I started PPP just under a year ago and my hope over the coming years (most likely tens of years) is to travel, explore and paint, to create a picture of every corner of the world. I’m fascinated by how people interact with space and how these spaces change us. PPP is my own interpretations but I would love to work collaboratively with scientists and other disciplines on future works to create a more 3D interpretation of these lands and how we interact with them, be it to live, to travel, to explore, to climb, to farm, to keep us warm or just to be in awe of.

Sam Gare - Map

 Project Paint Plane – visit Sam’s website to see some of the places she’s captured in her art.

I love your description of why you seek out places where you feel small. How it awakens the “desire to conquer, climb, stand upon, slide down and paint.” Can you expand on this?

When I was little I loved wildlife and animals, quite stereotypical for a little girl I suppose, though that was all that was girly about me; I played in the dirt, climbed trees, raced on my bike with my brother and of course never wore skirts 🙂 I had books on every kind of animal and habitat and was always fascinated by the apparent harsh world they survived in compared to us. I remember watching a baby bird who had fallen out his nest suffer and squirrels frantically burying nuts to survive the winter and being told to ‘let nature take its course’. What is nature and why is it so unforgiving? And my child mind also wondered why it did not seem to affect me?

Sam Gare - Sea Of Lakes

Sam Gare – Sea Of Lakes

2014. Acrylic marker, ink and pastel on paper.

I only mention this as I believe this is where my fascination with the places that make us feel small began – the immense world outside my windows that has power over everything, and the tiny space I occupy within it. It was only a matter of time before this and my creativity became one. I’m older now and understand more but I still find myself fascinated by the deep desire to exist outside the bubble wrapped and sometimes all-consuming apathy of civilisation.

Don’t get me wrong I like a warm shower as much as the next person or watching a good film and seeing my friends/family but I also have this need to experience the ‘real’ world, the untouched and forever untamed world smashing all around us. If I can stand upon those mountains, ride over those seas or push myself to my limits in the coldest parts of the world, I’m alive! I’m seeing the world at its most destructive and powerful but also at its most beautiful and inspiring. I feel small in comparison but truly alive and awake and it is this feeling I want, and hope, to capture in my work.

Sam Gare - Villarrica climb

 The climb up Villarrica, one of Chile’s most active volcanoes.

Can you talk us through your materials and processes for the mountain pieces?

I use acrylic markers and pens as the main base for the mountains. I never draw outlines but let my own instincts create the shapes from photos and memory. I use pastel for the sky as it allows me to capture the light, which has always been a focus and an important part of capturing the personality of the space. My work it not about creating realistic interpretations of the view, but to capture the movement, feel and freedom of these spaces and the feeling of being small.

Sam Gare - Crosshatch Mountain

Sam Gare – Crosshatch Mountain

2014. Acrylic marker, ink and pastel on paper.

You go to paint “where the wild is in charge”. Do you feel in charge while you’re working or are you surprised by what unfolds once you start?

I like this question. There are times when I can’t capture what I felt when I was standing in the space and as a consequence there are many drawings hidden away gaining dust which lack the ‘heart’ of the space. So in that sense yes the wild is in charge. No piece ever ends up as I first envisioned and I like this about my work. It really is a process and the act of imprinting these views always brings new memories or feelings. A sky which I intended to be light, turns stormy, colours become more vivid or more insipid. The wild is in charge and the work I am left with must be how the land wants to be remembered… well remembered by me that is 🙂

Sam Gare - Tethered

Sam Gare – Tethered

2014. Acrylic, charcoal, pen, ink and pastel on paper.

What tips would you give to other artists to find their audience and sell their work?

It took me a long time to make the decision to put my art out there. But mainly the decision made itself once I found the link between my art and my love of the wild – it gave me the courage to share it. The best thing I can say is to believe in what you create, you will have to put all your energies into getting it seen so never doubt what you do. Also use social media and the internet! This is such an amazing development for artists – I started out by submitting art to open calls I found on twitter and from there a gallery picked me up. I spend just as much time marketing myself as I do painting, linking with people who have similar interests and getting involved in other disciplines linked to my art, like traveling and science. Just get out and make yourself heard 🙂

Villarrica climb

 Climbing up Villarrica before sliding right back down again.

Can you describe what snowboarding down Villarrica, one of Chile’s most active volcanoes, was like?

Beginning the hike up the mountain really early in the morning and seeing the smoke rise from the top was pretty incomprehensible. There are lifts part of the way but the rest involved carrying your board and using ice axes and crampons (I have an unhealthy obsession with crampons! Love those things 🙂 ) Snowboarding a volcano comes with a few interesting obstacles, as well as the hike up, the snow was very icy so I was just short of seeing the crater, you can never predict the power of nature and weather. Also the ice meant it was a bumpy hard ride down, but very fulfilling. Looking up knowing you were amongst the clouds an hour ago gives you the greatest sense of scale and achievement. The quietness at the top and the colours are something I will never be able to explain. I’m usually left this way after an experience.
I climbed, I concurred and I slide down 🙂

Sam Gare - Villarrica

Sam Gare – Villarrica

2014. Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper.

How do you collect source material when on location or do you rely mainly on memory and feeling?

I take pictures and sketch to give myself references for shapes, but most of the work relies on my memories and feelings. I could never sum up a place with a one millisecond glimpse captured on camera. My work comprises of many memories of the space, its colours, its sound, my own reaction to the space and how it makes me feel throughout the days I am there.

Sam Gare The Matterhorn

Sam Gare – The Matterhorn

2014. Acrylic, charcoal, pen, ink and pastel on paper.

You’ve pinpointed Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, as a place you’d love to visit. What sets it apart at the top of your list?

Svalbard, Greenland, Arctic Circle and in fact Antarctica have always been places I have dreamed of visiting. These white lands create the most amazing colours. The only sound you hear is the distant crack of breaking ice or the slow movement of the snow amongst the beautiful emptiness. They truly are unfathomable, unforgiving and beautiful lands. Life is hard in these places but life exists, is that not amazing? – The way that life strives to live in such unlivable places. I went to North Cape and the Arctic Circle a few years back and I know every time I go back I will continue to be blown away by its beauty. Svalbard and Greenland are in fact really close to us and anyone I know who has visited, has come backed awed and changed. Why does this place change you and awe you so? – That’s what I want to find out and capture.

Sam Gare - Seathwaite

Sam Gare – Seathwaite

2014. Pastel on sugar paper. 84 x 59 cm.

Which artists or teachers/mentors have inspired you the most in your practice?

I have to admit I have never had artists as mentors or teachers. Maybe it was because my work was never initially about art. My mentors were my friends; my scientific and crazy outdoor loving friends. Without them I would not be doing all the things I do now, without out them I would not have learnt to express what I love and believe in myself. They also have helped me understand geology, science and meteorology as well as taught me to snowboard 🙂 they opened the doors. Books were also my mentors and I binged read books about climbing & wildness, such Call of the Wild by Jack London, Into the Wild & Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, White Spider by Heinrich Harrer and many more.

But since I have been in the art world the most amazing thing that happened was Eleni Duke, owner of Curious Duke Gallery, taking a chance on an unknown artist. She has been there every step of the way, helping me, giving me direction and taking me to art fairs. As my friends’ open doors, Eleni opened the main one which allowed me to grow over the last year. I’ll never be able to thank her enough.

See more of Sam’s work at her website

You can also keep up to date with Sam’s work on Twitter.