Let’s be honest if you were recuperating after breaking your arm, drawing would not be the first thing most of us would think to do to alleviate the boredom. But this is precisely what artist Samantha Barnes did when she found herself incapacitated with a fractured right arm. This “lucky break” (pardon the pun) led to her selling her first series of ink drawings of dogs to a print shop in the Kings Road, Chelsea back in the 1990’s. Although Samantha had an arts background, having graduated from Edinburgh College of Art with a degree in printed textiles, she had spent her first working years in London employed in a series of marketing and events management jobs, before this rekindling of her passion for drawing.
Fast forward 20 years and Samantha, who has had a varied and successful career as both a gallery owner and an artist, can currently be found creating beautiful pieces of art from her idyllic studio The Art Retreat in Woodbridge, Suffolk. Today dogs aren’t Samantha’s only subject matter, but it was her dog art that caught my attention at the recent Art For Cure exhibition at Glemham Hall. Her delicate simple line prints of Lurchers, which I later discovered are created using a drypoint print making technique, stopped me in my tracks and I had to find out more.
I therefore arranged to visit Samantha at her Woodbridge studio, where she is currently busy preparing for her her solo exhibition, to be held at The Art Retreat, on the weekend of 16th & 17th June. Both Samantha and her adorable Cocker Spaniel, Barney, gave me a warm welcome and we sat chatting in her friends’ garden, in which The Art Retreat is situated. It appears that Barney can take the credit for this wonderful workspace, since it was after getting to know the owners of 44 chapel Street through dog walking, that they offered Samantha use of this fabulous building at the end of their garden! A garden, Samantha and Barney get to share with the owners’ beautiful hairy Lurcher Rex and some chickens!
Lurchers were the subject of the print I first saw at Glemham Hall, which Samantha explained to me is created using a drypoint print making technique. A technique that dates back to the 15th Century, is created by drawing with sharp implement directly onto a copper plate, the ink is then applied and wiped off so that the ink remaining in the incisions creates the distinctive line on the paper. Owing to the delicate nature of the incision in the plate, only a small edition of prints can be created from the one plate. Samantha creates just 12 prints from each plate, and each of these are slightly different and unique, due to the varying ways the ink can be wiped from the plate.
Aside from the drypoint prints, Samantha also paints the most gorgeous dog portraits, in an unfussy style that is bold, full of energy and truly reflects the character of each individual dog. Her textile roots show through in her confident and clever use of colour and this joyous, colourful vitality is also evident in Samantha’s non dog paintings, which often depict public places and landscapes in and around Suffolk. Created mainly in acrylics, Samantha’s paintings are happiness on a canvas, and as Samantha says on her own website … “I am an artist that makes paintings, drawings and prints directly from my tummy, not my head”.
And don’t forget if you can get to Suffolk, Samantha’s artwork will be on display at The Art Retreat (in the garden of) 44 Chapel St. Woodbridge, Suffolk, IP12 4NF on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th June.