Bringing Monsters To Life With Visual Artist Samara Barks
I love connecting with visual artists who dabble into horror art as well as fellow A Nightmare On Elm Street fans that I can obsess about the films over, so when Sam reached out, I really wanted to get to know the creative, ecclectic person who wants to bring more representation of women of color in roller derby, who has found her groove with convention boothing, and the critical emphasis on the combination of patience, creativitiy, and commerce to be successful at your craft.
What was your first horror-related piece of art and what inspired it?
Boy, that's a hard one. Before I went all “professional,” it was just monsters I would make up in high school. The mean kids would get morphed into my own creations to deal with how they treated kids that weren't in the so called cool crowd. But that was many moons ago. Out side of that it was my favorite horror movies that fueled my horror art. Video games were a close second for inspiration, but I was never a hardcore gamer. I just loved the characters that came from the games.
It looks like your two favorite horror icons are Pinhead (Hellraiser) and Ash (Evil Dead). Give us your story as to why they are your stand out’s above the others.
Actually my favorites would be Pinhead and Freddy! I didn't get into Ash until I met my partner who's also an avid horror fan. Ash is his favorite, but I've grown to love that character, especially with the new show Ash vs. The Evil Dead. Pinhead is one of my favorites because there's honestly no escape from the Cenobites. They can be the most f'd up thing you can imagine. And as the sequels kept coming out he almost becomes an anti-hero in some of them. The plot lines fall apart a lot in the movies, which just makes them a lot more fun. I love to heckle the movies and can't count how many times I've seen the entire franchise. The Pinhead of the book is waaay more messed up than any of the movies though. Clive Barker never got to do the character as f'd up as he is in the books.
I grew up on the Saturday afternoon matinees where they'd show old horror movies like Raw Head Rex, Pumpkinhead, Vincent Price classics and the like. But Freddy and the horror characters of the 80's opened up a whole new genre of gore. I love Freddy/Nightmare on Elm Street because that was one of the first mainstream horror movies I saw as a kid. On my 10th birthday my mom asked what I wanted, I asked to rent A Nightmare on Elm Street on VHS. She actually got it for me. It was campy, funny and gory and I loved it! I always ended up rooting for Freddy. Ha!
Participating in conventions with the Mixed Hues brand, what has been the response to your work? Do you feel your mission to represent women of color and our varying interests through your work is having an impact?
When I started I was terrified of cons. For one, I wasn't a comic book artist, I had no following and I didn't have the confidence to feel like I'd even be noticed. Not saying I'm this huge artist now, but I've gotten a great response to my work. I definitely feel like my presence has an impact. When I do cons now, I get so many thank yous and encouragement from other POC for not only doing sci fi/fan/horror illustrations but for creating my own characters too.
I didn't start creating fan art for sale of my favorites until last year. I had the internal fight of feeling like I was using someone else's established brand to get my name out there. So I just created the fan art for myself and people started to respond to it. The first platform that really got me out there though was roller derby. I was a roller derby skater for six years and I still street skate. That community was lacking heavily in representation for women of color and kind of still is. So, when I began making skater art with women of color it took off from there. I have a lot of varying interests, but skating and horror are my top two passions.
How has running Mixed Hues helped your approach to the marriage of business and art and what would you say has been the best lessons and triumphs that you would share with those driven by the creative industry that also want to make a living from it?
Running Mixed Hues has taught me so much! A lot of us artists just want to create, but we often neglect the business side. It's helped me learn how I want my messages to be transmitted. It's made me think about the communities I'm involved in and why I started Mixed Hues to begin with. It forced me to get out of my shell and start to learn how to market my art as a product. No one will know about our art unless we have the confidence to put it out there. I had to set boundaries of what I thought my art was worth. That's probably the hardest lesson artists have to learn. Self worth.
A lesson I've learned and am still learning is this all takes time. Time and dedication. There are a million artists out here. Don't set yourself up for failure by comparing yourself to someone that's been in the game for 20 years. Sure, use their blueprint as encouragement. But you can't expect a huge return when you've only been working on your craft for a couple years. There are times when my work is heavy and I have tons of commissions, then it dries up. As artists you have to have the fortitude to keep creating in those lean times. To find and work multiple streams of income. To reach out to peers for help and return that support when others need it.
What additional horror characters or figures will you be drawing and putting up for display in the future? Who are some of your other favorites that you want to bring to life with your vision?
I have my mind on doing a series of the classic movie monsters in the Renaissance or Art Nouveau/Mucha styles. The Wolf Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, Frankenstein, etc. I know the classics have been done ad nauseam, but I'm going to do it my way!
Even though this one isn't horror per se, it's more suspense, I've always wanted to do art for The Cell, the [Vincent] D'Onofrio and Jennifer Lopez movie. The set and costume designs throughout that movie were beautiful. I plan on doing more Hannibal fan art of course, because that show is the tits! And every time I watch it, I see something that gives me an idea for a new piece. Oh! And of course some art for Stranger Things 2!