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Featured Shop: Samantha French

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My name is Samantha French, and I’m an oil painter. I live in Ridgewood, New York and work out of my studio in Brooklyn.

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My work starts by taking thousands of photos, which I then edit and cull down. I make mock-ups of images I want to work with by choosing elements and piecing them together, which I eventually paint from. I have slowly been scanning all of my larger paintings on a large format flatbed scanner; this means that, even at the largest size, the detail is incredible. I’ve put a lot of time (and money) into researching and finding the highest quality equipment and print materials. Each print is made at my studio on thick velvet fine art paper. I personally inspect, color correct, sign, pack and ship each one.

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I’ve always loved painting the figure, and the first “water” piece I made was a painting from an old photograph of my mother and aunt at the lake when I was a baby. With that element of nostalgia, as well as the beautifully abstracted reflections in the water, I knew I had found something that deeply resonated with me. My work then was slightly more ethereal and less structured than it is now, but the progression to underwater swimmers was organic. Every painting lends something to the next. The more I work, the more I learn about what I want from the next piece and the better my technique becomes. I’m still learning every time I go into the studio, and I try to keep pushing myself further.

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I studied at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and I found painting to be the most challenging medium I studied, but essentially the most rewarding. I grew up in a small town, and although I loved to draw and create, I never really thought of it as a career. It didn’t seem like there were many opportunities outside of teaching or advertising; being a full-time fine artist wasn’t even on my radar. But once I saw that it could be a reality, I worked as hard as I could to make it so.

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Etsy has changed my idea of how you can make a living as a fine artist. My parents own a coffee shop and roastery in Minnesota, and they also had other small businesses while I was growing up. This made it seem pretty natural for me to own my own business – creative or otherwise. I’ve been selling my paintings and making prints since my first year in college. Being an artist is being a small business, and it feels very organic to me. At this point, I’m not sure what else I could do.

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I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to control my own business; it suits me perfectly. My original paintings are at a price point that isn’t affordable for a lot of people, so making my work accessible via prints is important to me and the growth of my name. So many of my patrons have reached out to me, and when I hear why they bought a certain piece it can be really moving. You can’t work in a vacuum. This constant connection to my patrons and collectors keeps me in my work and helps me to understand what my paintings are doing.

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Though I mainly sell prints on Etsy, my true focus is on paintings and the act of painting itself. Prints are a way of connecting my work with a larger audience, but they aren’t meant to be the end product. I put a lot of time and energy into each piece before they are even conceivable as prints. I’m not following trends or trying to make quick images that are easily sale-able. I’m just doing what I love, doing it the best I can, and hoping others enjoy it as well.

Maker photographs by Aaron Hauck, studio and listing photos by Samantha French.

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