Here at TWG, I love to highlight artists and unique projects that engage and spark creativity. One such project is Kaleidoscope: The Art of Sam Skyler, an art book filled with inspirational designs of the geeky characters and universes we know and love.
Sam Skyler is a freelance artist who expresses her fandom and imagination through cosplaying, airbrushing, and digital illustration. She participated in both Her Universe Fashion Shows and created the hearts design for two Her Universe dresses.
She is, without a doubt, an amazing and talented fangirl in the community, and I had the opportunity to interview her about her first Kickstarter project.
Tell us a little bit about your background as an artist. How did you get started in art? Was there something specific in your life that sparked the desire to create?
Growing up, I always had a passion for art and finding ways to use creativity to bring color to the world. There was a specific moment that sparked my desire to create. I was about 4 years old, and I was seeing my first movie in theater, which was Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Seeing the characters move and interact on that huge screen is what hooked me on illustration and animation. It was from that moment on that I would watch that film (along with Fantasia) over and over to understand the use of color and movement, and how I could try to capture those same feelings in my artwork
Artists are often inspired by their surroundings and personal experiences. What, in particular, helps your creative process?
When I was younger, I never really felt like I fit in because I loved different things than all the other girls and was obsessed with animation, Star Wars, and other sci-fi and nerdy fandoms. When it came time to enter high school, I ended up switching schools so I could be in the airbrushing, art and animation classes at Sheldon High. It was there that I received an amazing foundation of the arts and animation. The tools and knowledge that I gained there still help me to this day.
I painted the Star Wars hearts a few years ago as a way to tell my younger self that “when you get older you will meet people who love the same things you love!” It was a way of connecting with others to share our passion of nerd universes. That’s what helps me with the creative process and keeps me inspired; I want to bring light and positivity to people.
You’re a big Star Wars fan, and you’re also into many other geeky fandoms. How did Star Wars, and geek culture in general, influence your art style?
Star Wars and geek culture influence my art style in many ways. From the technology, characters, and the challenges they face, to the use of color and fashion! The story influences me the most because I’m always looking for fun and challenging ways to look at worlds in another perspective! And connecting with others about my work fuels even more creativity and ideas; it’s a beautiful and encouraging cycle.
You’ve participated in the Her Universe Fashion Show and you’ve also designed the Star Wars heart art for two Her Universe dresses. What were those experiences like and what did you learn from them?
It was very exciting to be in the Her Universe Fashion Show at SDCC and to celebrate nerd fashion. I felt truly honored when I was accepted the second year. It was very intimidating, being surrounded by so many experienced fashion designers because I’m still pretty new to the fashion and cosplay scene. But everyone was incredibly nice and I made some wonderful friendships from that event.
Having the opportunity to work with Ashley and the Her Universe team was a dream come true. They care so much about creating apparel that is classy and represents your favorite fandoms in a positive way. I loved collaborating with them and bringing the hearts to more people!
I learned that when you have a positive message with your artwork and you project that as much as possible, you will connect with people who believe in that message too. It’s so wonderful and exciting to see women and little girls in the heart dresses and to know that my work is now part of their lives and that they can wear that proudly.
Tell us the story behind your self-published art book, Kaleidoscope: The Art of Sam Skyler. Where did you get the idea for the book? What was the inspiration behind it?
The inspiration came while I was creating my Star Wars 365 art-a-day series. I made a few kaleidoscope designs of loved characters from Star Wars and a lot of people enjoyed them. A few even asked if they could get them as tattoos! They asked if I’d make more kaleidoscopes of other fandoms, and that’s when it opened my mind to exploring different worlds!
This book is a collaboration between you and every supporter who contributes to your Kickstarter campaign. Tell us more about that, and what specifically about this aspect do you find most rewarding and most challenging?
I’m a huge fan of art books and artist sketchbooks and have contributed to many on Kickstarter myself. I’ve always wondered what their style would look like if they drew other fandoms. When I was brainstorming my book, I wanted to give my supporters a chance to feel like they could actually contribute! I wouldn’t have gotten the idea if it wasn’t for them, and I want to give back and make this a collaboration. It’s a very rewarding feeling because I feel we are all working together and taking this journey as peers.
The most challenging thing with the designs is finding ways to capture the feel of that fandom without using faces/portraits or certain elements, but it’s a fun challenge. And the most challenging part of the project is the hope that people can connect with your vision and help fund the dream of getting the book made.
What was your process in creating the art for Kaleidoscope? What steps did you take to create each individual illustration?
The process starts with finding colors that I connect with, and what do I want the audience to feel when they see this piece. It starts with multiple rough sketches to see where I want the center focus to be and to make sure the design can line up in a pleasing way. Then, I start inking the lines, so it can become a coloring book as well (which for every supporter that receives one, I’ll be donating one to a children’s hospital or school to keep the arts alive.)
After I ink the lines, I start adding rough blocks of color, then shade them. I’m starting to show more of the process with the time lapse videos I’m posting on Instagram because it’s always exciting to see how the art piece evolves!
There’s something really calming and therapeutic about kaleidoscope art. What do you hope people will take away from the book?
Thank you so much! I’m glad that they are calming and therapeutic because that’s one of my goals for the pieces. The hope that people can find serenity and look at the worlds we love in another way. I think because they look very similar to mandalas too, which are designs that are spiritual dedications to the universe.
I hope when people look at this book, they can look at these worlds and even their own life in new perspectives. Kaleidoscopes are a beautiful visual instrument because they are always changing when you look through them. It doesn’t mean that one design is more beautiful than the other, it’s just different and unique in its own way. When you have to go through your own challenges in life, remember that it’s part of the evolution that a kaleidoscope takes too.
What words of advice do you have for aspiring artists looking to publish their own work independently?
The piece of advice I have for aspiring artists that are looking to publish independently is to never give up! There are so many times where I was feeling that I was doing everything wrong or I was unsure what my next step would be. It ended up forcing me to learn new things and to become resourceful. There are so many road blocks, speed bumps, challenges, and struggles along the way, but it will help you because it’s the best learning experience you could ever receive. Write down all your ideas and create the best road map that you can. Never lose your determination and what got you started in the first place because that mission statement and goal will help you level up.
What other projects are you working on that you’re able to tell us about?
There are so many amazing projects that are starting to take flight. I can’t give specifics on one just yet, but I’m very excited to be designing artwork for a company to bring more nerd designs to life for women!
More cosplays are in the works too! I’m planning to make more “Dress Up and Draw” videos on my YouTube channel to help encourage others to draw and be creative. Along with another show that is still in its early stages, but will hopefully help promote creatives and the nerd community.
And thank you so much for this interview, I’m truly honored!
May the force be with you, always!