For Sam Still, making art is a compulsion and a comfort. It is his love, his passion – and sometimes a source of hardship. He says it’s “an obsession that seems at times unhealthy; I have to create constantly. I quit my ‘real’ job in 2010 so that I would be forced to engage an art career fully.”
Art is both his illness and his cure. In 2000, at age 47, Still sold a successful high-end framing business in New Orleans and moved his family to New York, where he eventually devoted himself exclusively to making art – while maintaining a sense of comfort and security for his wife and children.
“It’s a very scary thing to think about: How do you actually have people become familiar with your work and then collect it? How do you actually make a living?” He’s not afraid to say that he actively ponders how best to optimize his earning potential. “I study the marketplace, constantly readjusting where I perceive I might fit,” he says.
Take his Never Ending Drawing Project. Every Sunday since July 29, 2012, Still has placed one nine-inch-square drawing on eBay, closing each auction after about a week. He describes the project as “a platform that follows the process of creating an object and that object entering the marketplace.”
But the drawings are still distinctly his drawings. Their creation involves every bit of the highly visceral sensuality he expends and experiences in making his art, and which makes his work – with its uniquely textured, sometimes cloudy, sometimes gleaming, but always strikingly and surprisingly dimensional surfaces – beguiling for the viewer.
Still’s description of his experience of making art testifies to energy channeled in a way that engages and excites all senses. It is almost sexual in its narrative of a building tension culminating in a release that merges destruction, transcendence, and creation.
“My act of drawing is the push and pull of the radiograph barrel against the paper grain,” he says. “The delight in the ink’s power to overcome, obliterate, saturate the white as the barrel passes along the paper. The smell of the ink, the sound of the barrel scratching a pathway as the ink is pulled out of the pen. The almost giddy anticipation of the act of drawing, the chase. Oh, what animalistic pleasure is derived.”
Read the full interview with Sam Still in DINOSAUR No. 1, and visit his website to see more incredible work.