Samantha Shumaker is a young artist tackling old stories; from Greco-Roman mythology, to Native American culture, and her own fear of doomsday. She is creating new art that resonates with all walks of life, by striking at a deep sense of familiarity that isn’t bound by a single people. Now, as she is ramping up for her first solo exhibition, the 23-year-old painter reflects on her process.
“Every culture has its lore, its way of warning people,” Shumaker states. She aims to capture those cultures’ stories, mixing them with similar themes until she achieves her final product. She doesn’t always know where it’s going, sometimes just starting with a single element and incorporating more as she sees what fits, working in details that one might overlook at first glance.
Being surrounded by Shumaker’s oil paintings was, admittedly, a little intimidating. Just about every one of them illustrated a powerful female, and the sheer size and realism of her style made it seem as if they could walk right off the canvas. The self-taught painter, or “YouTube-taught” as she put it, has an affinity for minute details reminiscent of Italian Renaissance artists. “I love the [classical] style because there’s nothing left to the imagination,” she explained. “Every detail is planned, which I like because I am a very detail-oriented person.” An excellent example of this can be found in her piece Doomsday Clock, where even the pupils of the female subject are shaped like gears, tying in with the clock motif that is depicted on the woman’s face.
“I don’t want to make pretty art; I want to make a message,” Shumaker explained. “Each piece has its own story. From a conversation with a stranger, to something I see on TV or hear in a song.” Much of her art balances a classical portrait with surrealist elements, and, in the case of Doomsday Clock, a message of approaching demise. Her piece Promethea captures the story of Prometheus in a female form, focusing on her victory of the procurement of fire, but the flock of black birds looming informs the latter part of the story, and her inevitable punishment. Each work carries a weight with it, much like those same old myths used to teach morals.
Despite her impressive skill and dedication, typically spending a few weeks of eight-hour days working on each canvas, the young artist wasn’t always going to be a painter. Shumaker was initially going to school to be a teacher, but after taking humanities courses and continuing her love of painting on the side, she was pushed to take the leap. However, she didn’t want to go into it without a realistic expectation. “I read a lot of books about the art business, and [made] a five-year plan.” It was important to her to show her family that there was a way to do what she loved while still being able to support herself. She knew she wouldn’t become the next big thing overnight, but considering she has already sold quite a few pieces, she has proved that she can be successful and, in turn, has earned the support of her loved ones.
When she isn’t painting, she is creating time-lapse videos of her work on her YouTube channel, ShumakerArt. Posting online allows her art to reach an audience much wider than the limited number of people who might make it to a gallery. “Surreal Dark Art Vampire Portrait,” featuring her work Bathory, is a particularly captivating video. Inspired by the serial killer Elizabeth Báthory, it is mesmerizing to watch hours of work on this painting compressed into a five-minute span. Her favorite part of using the popular video client is the instant interaction she can have with viewers, providing further information when they have questions, allowing her “innate teacher” to come through.
Samantha Shumaker will be showing at the Henao Contemporary Center 5601 Edgewater Dr, Orlando, FL 32810 on March 11, 2016, at 7pm