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Preserving culture through art

“I’ve always loved art, and at an early age loved to draw and use markers,” Citizen Potawatomi Nation member Stuart Sampson told the Hownikan over coffee at The Red Cup in Oklahoma City. “I have had no training as far as art school or anything like that. It was all just a love for painting. I’ve always had that passion for art and that love for it.”

A descendant of the Greemore family, Sampson’s Potawatomi roots inspire him to create vivid Native American portraits.

“It all comes from my grandfather, and he was passionate about his heritage,” he said. “I think growing up, just seeing paintings and stuff like that in his house, different artifacts and things, it just kind of sparked my curiosity.

“Later in life, I started doing research and just really have always loved the imagery and the culture,” he said. “And family is really important in the culture.”

Creative process

Stuart Sampson enjoys researching vintage Native American photographs to use as muse.

Sampson began focusing on his artwork a few years ago while taking a break in his career.

“I was just not really happy with what I was doing as far as a career was concerned, and I turned to my art,” he said.

“It’s always been a happy place for me, always — somewhere that I can go and express my feelings and emotions,” Sampson said. He begins each piece with a section of wood, which he stains and sands before drawing the image onto the wood to paint.

“I usually work from photographs, and I can kind of doctor them up the way I want, but I don’t really ever have a plan as far as when I start a piece of how it’s going to end up — it just kind of happens organically,” he said. “I think that’s a part of art that I love so much. You start with an idea, and at the end, it might be totally different than the one you started with.”

He pulls inspiration from numerous painters including T.C. Cannon and Vincent van Gogh.

“I think you see a lot of those vibrant colors coming out in my works as well. I don’t know if I plan on that, it’s just something that kind of happens,” Sampson said. “I think it works well with a neutral background and far as the wood stain on my wood goes.”

He enjoys experimenting outside of his regular routine and recently began using a rotary tool to carve images into wood.

“I think art is all trial and error. I didn’t know how it was going to come out,” he said. “I had no idea of the process, and so I drew my image as more of a graphic image.”

Sampson said he is detail oriented, and although the project created more mess than his normal paintings, he is pleased with the results.

“I think it’s something that I will probably keep doing,” Sampson said. “I think as an artist, you kind of get bored with doing the same thing.”

Outside of the birth of his daughter Olivia in May of this year, he said his biggest achievement to date is selling his art.

“Being able to find an outlet to sell my work has been a really big accomplishment,” Sampson said, then smiled. “I’ve been lucky, honestly, to have people support me and people who love my art just as much as I love painting.”

While Sampson does currently have a regular, full-time job, he said his ultimate goal is to provide for his family through his art.

“I think in life, when you find your passion, it’s not work at all,” he said.

If interested in viewing Stuart Sampson’s artwork, visit stuartsampsonart.com.