As a child, Sam Shuter would watch her father get dressed in a suit each morning before work. Now an artist working under the alias Sammo, she's still attracted to the aesthetics of a men's suit. Joel Yum sits down with Sammo to discuss her inspiration, career change, and how she is learning to embrace her mistakes.
Joel Yum: When did you get started in art?
Sam Shuter: I think we all get started when we're toddlers - isn't that the first thing you do, mess around with crayons? I was the kind of person that definitely drew in the lines, though. That's the part of me that people don't know: the perfectionist side. I was definitely the one who wanted my picture to look the best. I wasn't all over the place. Maybe I'm still not that kind of artist yet.
JY: When did it become a career?
SS: I've only been going about three months. I never took it seriously, but it was always under my nose. I did it as a hobby. I think because I knew I was able to do it, I rebelled against it. I didn't want to do something that I knew I could do. I was looking for another challenge.
I wanted to run a business and see what that was like. But I didn't know how many aspects of business were involved with art. The social networking is a full-time job on its own. I had no idea what it took to be a career artist.
JY: Why men's suits?
SS: I used to doodle them. They just became an object of my affection. My dad would put a suit on every morning to go to work. I am attracted to the symmetry of a suit: the lines of the lapel, or a tie, or the way a man's shoulders sit. It's just visually appealing for me, it makes me want to trace along those lines with a pencil, or start sketching. I go crazy with the colours and the other elements involved and then I control it with the lines of the suit.
People ask if I am going to do women. No, it just doesn't feel natural. They're very curvy, which is a beautiful thing, but at the same time it's not the part that pulled me in right away.
I think my favourite part is always when I get to the lapel. I always get most excited to draw the lapel.
JY: Do you take inspiration from designer suits?
SS: I see suits in all different places. I've sat downtown by myself just watching people and checking out what they're wearing.
I love big lapels. Tom Ford - they might even be patented - he has these amazing, amazing corners. They're just fantastic. They're huge, it looks like armour. I love it. I love a Hugo Boss suit.
Labels aside, any suit in general inspires me. But what I see and what I end up painting actually end up being two different things. I never know what I'm going to end up with. I have something in mind, whether it's a colour scheme or the way a person is standing, but I can't control what actually ends up on the canvas at the end of the day.
JY: Besides the suit, is there anything else you want to try artistically?
SS: I was thinking of putting [my pieces] on t-shirts and tanks. Maybe I'll come out with a line of socks, or some ties.
It would be really cool to collaborate with a designer and do the inside silk of a blazer to make it more colourful, or the sole of a shoe. I have a lot of things in the works right now, a lot of people I'm talking to. Even other artists, just collaborating on a painting itself. I have so many ideas, but I've only been at this for a couple of months. I want to produce more art.
JY: One thing at a time right?
SS: That's a lesson I'm still learning. Sometimes I'll be painting and I'll put another canvas up on the wall and just start working on the second one. I'll visualise something and I just want to get it out of my system. And then I'll go back and revisit the other painting.
JY: Where does the name Sammo come from?
SS: A show application asked me if I went by a name, and I didn't know what to put because I wasn't taking myself seriously so I didn't feel comfortable putting 'Sam Shuter' or 'Samara Shuter.' A couple of my friends used to call me Sammo all the time so I just went with it because I felt more comfortable doing something that was more removed from myself, creating a character almost.
JY: Despite being new to this, do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
SS: I'm still trying to listen to my own advice, and advice from friends and colleagues!
We're all so filled with fear and anxiety about trying to make something perfect. I have such anxiety before starting each painting. It's the perfectionist in me but I don't start to loosen up until a certain stage where I feel like there is more freedom. I'm so particular about which direction I want to take at the beginning, when the reality is that I should just be open to making those mistakes.
Start with one thing. And then one thing requires the next thing, and so on and so forth. Just start. Pick one thing, and it's amazing what needs to accompany that thing. You just have to start by taking the photo, picking up the camera.
Photographs courtesy of Sammo. Interview by Joel Yum. For a more personal view of Sammo, head over to The Image Interview.
Sign up to receive a weekly dispatch from
The Genteel is committed to delivering quality journalism, unearthing the forces shaping international fashion and design, through the lens of business, culture, society, best kept secrets and street style. As multi-dimensional and stimulating as its readers, The Genteel is the inspired destination where informed readers converge with in-depth fashion and design coverage.
A worldwide collective of contributors currently form The Genteel. On a daily basis our team dispatches thought-provoking and insightful articles from the streets of Oslo, Toronto, Beirut, Moscow, United Arab Emirates, Seoul and beyond.