We came across artist Mark Sahm on Twitter. Can you guess why we were interested in his work? Read on to find out…
Tell us about the kind of work you do. How long have you worked from home? And where is home? I make paintings with hand-rendered die-cuts and LED backlighting, but I also work as a design production manager in Manhattan (to pay the bills). I commute between NYC and my townhouse in Stamford, CT. My wife and I moved here in 2007, and it was actually the first time I had a proper studio. All the way from college until then, I either painted in my bedroom, a garage, and even an unheated storage space. But those sacrifices were good, since I’m able to truly appreciate it now. You don’t know relief until you don’t have to paint with gloves and a hat on during the winter!
Describe your style? How would you define your aesthetic? My style and aesthetic are contemporary and abstract, but I’m always trying to evolve. I also try to embrace as much technology as I can. Aside of using low-energy LEDs to light my paintings, my composition design makes heavy use of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Often I will snap a digital photo of the painting in progress, and play with different colors and shapes in AI & PS to get the best option. This helps to reduce mistakes, as dried acrylic paint is as unforgiving as a woman who caught her boyfriend cheating.
How do you keep your work space organized? It’s strange, but when a camera comes into the studio, almost everything magically finds its way to the bins, shelves and closets! But when I’m at work, I like having everything out in front of me to see what might inspire me as I’m immersed in the process. Once you’ve acquired a fair amount of art materials, you forget about things that are hidden away. So when the time calls for spontaneity, you go with what catches your eye.
When you set up your studio what did you have to keep in mind? Were there any particular obstacles to overcome? Our building is a New York style brick townhouse built in 1890, but renovated in 2007. My wife and I wanted to use the basement as the studio, but it was the only area that hadn’t been renovated. This was compounded by the fact that we didn’t have the money to afford a professional contractor to do it all at once. So over the span of a year, I did a lot of the work myself— laid a subfloor, hung drywall, installed a drop ceiling, and so on. But the rawness of the space allowed us to quadruple the amount of ceiling lights, as well as adjust many of the soffits to fit shelves and workstations in different nooks. Of course, not a lot of art was produced that first year. But the investment has already paid itself off tenfold in karmic value.
Is there any piece of studio furniture you covet right now? Is it any secret? I want an Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman to sit in while I’m sketching! Although, I wouldn’t dare keep it within 30 feet of my paints for fear of a drip. I’d have to keep it in a giant plexiglas display cube when not in use. But I’m saving up to get one someday, so if anyone knows of one with paint drips already on it, call me, I’m in the market.
What accessory can’t you do without? It’s actually something inexpensive and commonplace: A utility knife with a fresh blade. Cutting through thick canvas with several layers of acrylic on it dulls an edge very quickly, so I go through 1 to 2 industrial strength blades per painting.
What would you change about your studio space? You know you’re an artist when you’ve once asked your partner, “Honey, what do you think about turning the living room into an art studio?” Obviously, the answer would be more square feet. But right now I have most of the tools I need and want. So I’m focused on creating art that helps make someone’s room complete.
What inspires you? This answer could be endless for me, so I’ll give you four examples: Music that makes the hairs on my arms stand up. An idea that invigorates my mind so much that I can’t leave the studio until I’m completely exhausted (or out of caffeine). The belief that creativity is never truly dead, despite what the cynics say. The knowledge that my art and design heroes were all unknowns once, and they worked hard to become great— so maybe I can too.