Sam Wade, 30, portrait painter
When you look around at abundance of moving, strange, sometimes dark paintings at his Eugene Court studio space, it’s a little difficult to imagine that about a year ago, art was merely a side hustle for Sam Wade.
The emotional portraits that line the lobby walls of Foundry Studios and Gallery represent months of non-stop painting by the contemporary realist – Sam’s real-world education and evolution as a portrait painter, in canvases both big and small. They’re his first real attempt to make a go of it in the art world.
And they’re stunning.
His work will be on display from May 4 to May 25 at the Center for Visual Artists Gallery at his one-man show.
“I should have done this five years ago,” Sam says. “I’ve been pretty busy, to say the least.”
The Greensboro native studied classical guitar at Weaver Academy, and moved to Nashville, thinking he might become a professional musician. That idea quickly faded, and he transferred to Middle Tennessee State to study painting and graphic design.
“I stayed out there working terrible restaurant jobs with ever more terrible hours. I tried to do art where I could when I had the chance,” Sam says.
He loved creative work. He did the occasional portrait. But he wasn’t paying the bills with it. Nashville, it seemed, already had its favorite portrait artists, and Sam didn’t know how to break in.
Last year, a small office space opened in a building Sam’s father owns. He ditched his life in Tennessee to try art full time, back in his hometown.
He reconnected with some old friends, and made some new art world friends. He opened the Foundry, which is now home to three artists.
And he started to paint.
His subjects are familiar. Family, friends, himself as a child.
His technique is a mix of new and old-school tools. Oil paint and photo-editing software. He uses photographs of his subjects, projected onto a large television screen in front of his canvas, for reference.
Sometimes he scans the photos and transforms the image digitally before beginning to paint.
“Some of them are messing around with image modulation. I will take pictures and run them through Photoshop and do image manipulation and post them on top of each other and create masks,” Sam says. “These are all sort of experiments. I don’t know how it is going to end up…It’s allowed me to create things that I naturally wouldn’t think to do.”
He only had created about five paintings when he won the unique opportunity to have a solo show at the CVA. He’s spent the last 11 months cramming, at the studio for up to 12 hours a day. He paints multiple painting at a time, at least five hours a day.
“I’ve got 50 paintings at the moment, which is crazy,” Sam says.
He’s already had some success – selling one of his first and favorite portraits late last year at the Hilary Clement pop-up gallery downtown.
“I had no idea that in Greensboro a person would pay $1,400 for a painting that I did of my friend. But they did,” he says. “I’m hopeful I can create a market for myself.”