Sketchbook Stories :: Isabel Samaras


Isabel Samaras is a Bay Area artist, painter, chocoholic and a cult favorite of the Pop Surrealism/Lowbrow Art Scene. Her paintings, often marry the classical paintings by the Old Masters with narratives and characters from movies, television and pop culture. Isabel’s oil paintings are witty, mysterious and sexy, but all the while still managing to have a tender and delicate hand. She has been featured in books like: Pop Surrealism: The Rise Of Underground Art, Weirdo Deluxe and her very own On Tender Hooks. Isabel admits to obsessing about everything from monsters and fairy tales to succulents and how to score more high grade chocolate.


Here is Isabel’s Sketchbook Story::

IS: I started working on a series of paintings called “Into The Woodz” that came out of pondering what might have happened to the “lost girls” – the ones in the fairy tales that *didn’t* end up rescued and delivered into a life of castle luxury. (The whole vapid Disney princess culture really irritates me.) What I wanted to know was what became of ones who stayed in the forest, had to find their own way and figure out stuff on their own? What kind of women would they grow into after their tales ended? I’d done some paintings about Red Riding Hood for one show, and then my thoughts turned to Goldilocks & the Three Bears.

IS: A lot of my work revolves around themes of love and a fascination with the idea of soul mates, so I decided that the moment when Goldy woke up and saw Baby Bear standing over the bed was a lightening bolt “love at first sight” thing for both of them. I envisioned a  diptych: “The Porridge Eaters.”  The first sketches were really just thumbnail scribbles that were *literally* the size of my fingernail that I probably drew while riding BART (that’s our subway).


IS: Around the same time I was listening to a lot of old 80s hip hop records, and that started to infiltrate my drawings. The bear in my sketchbook ended up with a gold foil dookie rope made from the wrapper of a chocolate bar.

IS: My studio wall is like a living scrapbook, some of which gets folded into the art, and some of which is just for fun. (I also have shelves full of odd collections: bones and medical models, old Batman toys, vintage games, and too many birds to count.)


IS: Because I am a cheap and readily available model, I’m often the body in many of my paintings. For the face I was actually looking at the singer Duffy, though I didn’t really want it to be a portrait of her 
(I just liked her apple cheeks n’ blond hair). I mocked up a fake label and wrapped it around a Quaker Oats can so I could draw from that for my “Just Right” brand oatmeal.  And the bowl is something I have in my kitchen, though it’s yellow in real life.


IS: A smarter person probably would have painted the two pieces of the diptych simultaneously but I didn’t have Goldy figured out when I started Baby, so the challenge was to make sure everything worked together. I hung them both up on the wall side by side to make sure the landscape was lining up as I drew it, and kept Baby close as I painted so I could match the colors.


IS: And here they are in the gallery! When my framer came up with these amazing frames I totally flipped – the wood looked like it had been clawed at regular intervals by bears!


photo by Josh Keppel 

Isabel’s video interview with Chronicel Books further explaining her Baby and Goldy paintings, as well as the rest of the “Into The Woodz” series and her book.

And Here’s where you can find Isabel::

website ::

     blog ::

    book :: On Tender Hooks The Art of Isabel Samaras ::,book-info/store,books/products_id,7923/title,On-Tender-Hooks/

  1. Thanks for posting this walk-through of Isabel's process. She is an amazing artist and super sweet/funny person. I highly recommend picking up her book too for more inside peeks.

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