Artist Interview: Sam Branton

In the upcoming Hampstead AAF (11 – 15 June) we are showcasing the surreal work of artist Sam Branton for the first time.

For the Art Fair we will be presenting works from Sam’s latest Deluge series – a collection of miniature drawings in softly applied coloured pencil and influenced by the landscapes of Lorrain and Poussin. Deluge imagines the comical and confused moments that could happen during the aftermath of a great downpour. Below is an interview with Sam offering more insight into his practice:

Q.1 – What are your main historical and cultural references?

The Northern Renaissance, in particular Jan Brueghel (elder and younger) Bosch and Durer, are recurring references for my work. I would like the drawings to appear to be, at first glance, as an old cartoon, perhaps an illustration of a fable or a mythological story.

I also look to films to give the work a slight cinematic feeling. For some drawings I imagine what they might look like in a movie: the way the animals would move within their environment; the sounds and music you might hear; and the various angles one could shoot the scene.

Elephant with Monkeys - Coloured Pencil on Paper - 50 x 70 cm - £800

Elephant with Monkeys – Coloured Pencil on Paper – 50 x 70 cm – £800

Q.2 – Why do you choose coloured pencil as a medium?

Red crayon is a medium you often find in renaissance sketches and so I wanted to add that feeling to the work.

Q.3 – Scale seems to be an important factor in your works and something you manipulate to affect the viewer – particularly in your smaller pieces. What is your decision process behind these choices?

In the past I’ve usually worked on a much larger scale, attempting to make pieces that would be striking and grab the viewer’s attention. But for the Deluge series I was interested in how the viewer might approach it. They would see a small, classical looking drawing in the corner of the room and then on closer inspection, find an absurd, little happening taking place. I like the idea that a peculiar event was taking place in a picture on the wall and that no one might notice it.

I also like the idea that even though they are small, they could portray rather largish, dramatic things, such as the ‘Whale in a Tree’.

Whale in a Tree - Coloured Pencil on Paper - 50 x 70 cm - £800

Whale in a Tree – Coloured Pencil on Paper – 50 x 70 cm – £800

Q.4 – Your content in the Deluge series presents surreal interactions between creatures and landscapes after an imagined downpour. Is narrative and story-telling central to your practice?

Before beginning a new series of drawings I like to form a loose narrative in my mind. Once I have an overarching idea, an environment and collection of characters, I find the scenes present themselves quite easily. Once I chose the animals for Deluge I could start pairing them all off. To me, many seemed to be natural partners.

I’m interested in the viewer thinking about the events that may have taken place up to the scene they’re looking at, as well as the different ways it could continue. By not producing a concrete storyline, the viewer has the possibility of following on with their own. This may produce lots more drawings for the viewer to think about.

Horse with Pufferfish Coloured Pencil on Paper  50 x 70 cm  £800

Horse with Pufferfish – Coloured Pencil on Paper – 50 x 70 cm – £800

Q.5 – How do you see your practice developing in the future and what are you up to next?

There are a few more drawings I have in mind for the Deluge series. I also want to continue fine tuning the drawings in quite subtle ways: working more into the backgrounds and adding more details; playing with the classical compositions and spaces; creating more interesting dynamics and tensions between the animals; and perhaps working on a much smaller scale.


If you would like to see Sam’s work first-hand alongside other artists such as Max Naylor, Kate Evans and Charles Emerson on our stand at Hampstead AAF then please email with your postal address for complimentary tickets.