This interview was conducted between Artist Sam Schryver (SAMVE7) and Claire Sarfeld A WAY Gallery Director over email, between September to October 2020. Sam first grabbed the gallery's attention through social media. His vibrant abstractions, attention to detail, and overall aesthetic was the perfect addition to the group exhibition SPECTRUM that Claire was curating at the time.
Sam's colourful pieces work caught the attention of many throughout the duration of the show, and questions were sparked between the A WAY team about his practice. After hearing more about Sam, his practice and his journey as an artist so far the Q&A below was born. Sam was a pleasure to work with, his personality, honestly, and energy are highlighted throughout the interview. Be sure to follow Sam and his journey, he is absolutely one to watch.
Will you please tell the A WAY Community a bit about yourself and your background as an artist?
My name is Samuel Schryver, I sign my work as SAMVE7. I was born in Los Angeles, CA in 1983 and grew up in the greater LA area. My home has been on the island of Kaua’i since 2015. I am a full time creative professional- a fine artist foremost, and a designer / creative director by trade. I split my time about 70% fine art (thank god) and 30% design/direction. I've been creating art since I was a teenager, I mean since forever really, but started to tune into it as a teen. I’ve always worked as a creative professional, even my first job was working at “the art store” (now known as ‘dick blick’) when I was in high school, which I got fired from for skipping inventory shifts LOL. I learned graphic design when I was 18 which opened the door to a lot of other creative work over the years. The design side of me shows up in my fine art too, so it’s been an integral part of the whole process.
Have you had any professional training?
I haven’t received any true professional training for fine art. Most everything I have learned on my own or from friends that are artists. Although, I did 2 years of trade school studying screen-printing, which definitely plays its part in my work as well.
Pictured above left to right 'Farewell to Thee— The Queens Song [ OE ]', close up of 'The 23rd Sun', and 'Punalu’u II – Black sand bordering turquoise water'.
How did you get into the Street Art Scene?
Well just to clarify, I never regarded myself as a street artist even though I did art in the streets haha. That term became more of an umbrella for all things relative to the artwork that was done illegally or reminiscent of. I never really identified with that label, when I was painting illegally, we’d describe “street artists” as the guys who were doing stencils, or putting up posters, like OBEY, niche stuff like that. My friends and I, and the scene we were in, was just straight-up graffiti writing. I started writing graffiti when I was 16, and that infatuation lasted til about 23. A friend of mine that I would skateboard with, had already gotten into graffiti. Our junior year, we were both in the same art class and we did some sort of study project together, and he was like “ey, let's do some shit on graff…”, I didn't know anything about it. So, he took me down to the local “yard” — an illegal gallery where writers go to paint pieces and flex their skills. It was a section of an unused railway that went under a bridge with lots of high walls, plenty of surfaces to paint. I was so blown away that this existed right under society’s noses, it was like I just peeked into this underworld that you’re not supposed to know about, it was so sexy and fascinating to me. I was addicted to it immediately and was off and running from there.
Is there anything you miss about being a part of that world? Or do you feel it's best you've left and moved forward?
For sure I miss aspects of that world, all my friends and the mix of characters, and everyone's drive -or obsession - to do it just cuz. There was definitely no monetary motivation, quite the opposite. Most of the time I spent doing it, it was exhilarating and raw —it was an unreal experience. It played itself out quickly in the end and I had to move on, it became a dark world for me and I was on track to really fucking my life up, so I had to exit. It was a great foundation but I'm glad I moved beyond its stylistic confines.
In terms of stylistic confines, what do you mean exactly?
I mean like just writing your name over and over, doing lettering in spray paint and roller paint, it can become limited. Graffiti is rad, so don’t get me wrong, and it has some ultra-high achieving artists (who also have recognized there are confines to break). There’s just a lot more to explore out there once you release a few belief systems.
When we started speaking you were working on a mural in Kaua'i, how did this project come about? Will you tell us a bit about it?
My friend Seth Womble is a local artist (@sethcre8s) who has been working a lot with the county of Kaua’i to bring art into public spaces here. He got this project to paint one of the county’s civic center buildings, and he invited me to do it with him (thanks Seth, you’re a legend!). The concept was pretty abstract so he felt it would be a good fit for me to team up with him on it. The mural is meant to convey 2 subjects: first, Hawaii’s land and seascapes - from freshly formed land via lava to the ocean. And second, the Native Hawaiian sport of Hōlua (land sledding) which as I understand, was traditionally done by the Ali’i (chiefs) down the slopes of volcanoes toward the sea.
Is your work intuitive? Or do you approach your works with a plan in your mind of what you're wanting to create?
It is mostly intuitive. I will definitely know the vibe I want to convey, the energy it should have, but visually it’s not mapped out. What I start out with in the beginning typically is not what you see in the end. I will get a rhythm going in the first few layers and start to understand the piece… then the meaning or message of it starts to show itself and usually unfolds pretty effortlessly from there.
Do you believe your current style was created while you were a graffiti artist or it came to you after leaving that world?
That part of me is in my work, but it’s an evolution of style from that time and post. Certain aspects of graffiti and its nature, and the mediums I was accustomed to using, show up in my work now. It’s just like a developing personality, everything from the past takes its part in what you see today. So, graffiti shows up for sure, my graphic eye shows up, the influence of my surroundings shows up too. It’s just a blend of it all.
Has it been a smooth transition from walls to canvases? Or did it take some manipulation of your practice?
It was smooth for sure, I mean I honestly never really thought much about it, even when I was doing graffiti I also did work on canvases.
In lieu of a signature, you have chosen to incorporate your left thumbprint on the corner of each of your canvases. Where did this idea come from?
I didn’t like that when I’d look at my finished work, my eye would be going to the signature, or that it would seem out of place. So, I thought, what better a signature than my left thumbprint (I’m left-handed). It’s subtle, a piece of me, and nearly impossible to forge.
I once had a professor who said that "painting the sides of your canvases, took your painting from 2D to 3D objects", is this something that crossed your mind when choosing to consider such detail on the sides and backs of your artworks?
Yea for sure, I feel that whatever can be seen on the piece, especially the sides, should be done with as much intention as the rest of the piece. I can’t leave the sides unfinished or looking sub-par, it will drive me nuts! And yea I like doing some work on the back too, just quick and raw. I think it's rad for someone to be able to flip a piece over and see something that’s typically hidden. It’s kinda like getting to see the side of someone that most people don’t, it’s unique for only those who are close.
Is there anything else creative that you do outside of painting or what does a normal day look like for you? Are you into the studio every day?
For creative, I’ve been getting into video editing lately as a new medium, and I’m pretty excited about that. I surf and swim a lot too— exercising, spending time in nature and in the water is really important to me. I spend a lot of time in the studio, I work out of my friend's space, Kapache1, so we are both in there together pretty often. We-vibe together well and push each other to do things differently, we talk a lot of shit too haha but in good fun, just to pump each other up.
Pictured above left to right Kapache1 and SAMVE7 in the studio.
What is next for SAMVE7?
Like I said before I started using video as a medium, so I’m aiming to bridge motion and sound into my work. I also just closed my collection of work from 2019-2020, and now going into my new collection “20E7 - Power Season”. This collection is going to be much more raw and aggressive, I want to explore ideas that I’ve had that I felt wasn’t fitting with my previous body of work. I’m setting aside some techniques and finishes that I’ve worked with a lot, and going after an unfiltered, less refined aesthetic. It’s liberating to explore new concepts and drop certain ideas of what it meant for my work to feel “finished”.
Thank you again Sam for taking the time to chat with me and tell the A WAY community a bit more about your practice.