I first saw Sam’s work on Instagram – and instantly fell in love with his bold use of colours, his beautiful drawings, and incredible digital technique. I just had to find out more about his work, and how he goes about creating these fantastic pieces!
How long have you been creating Pinup works – and how did you get started?
It really all began several years back when I worked as a penciller for a few smaller comic book publishers, the best known being Malibu’s Ultraverse line. One of the publishers I worked for was Heroic Publishing, of which the flagship character is Flare. Their stories usually revolved around female protagonists and that was just fine with me.
At a certain point, though, I realized that sequential art could be very gruelling and I often had to draw lots of stuff that I didn’t enjoy. On top of that, the work was sporadic so a full time job was still a necessity and left little time for sleep.
Drawing the super-heroines, however, was great, just not awesome enough for me to pursue it long term.
That said, I suppose I’ve been working with a focus on pinup art for almost 4 years. It all resurfaced when a friend of mine who promotes comic book conventions asked me to design and illustrate a promotional poster for one of his upcoming shows. The illustration I created was a cute/sexy Harley Quinn vector piece and was well received by the attendees of the con. My friend suggested that I do prints of just the character (minus all of the text) and set up at his next show. Since I hadn’t been a comic book artist for years, I hadn’t been a guest at a convention for quite some time. I reluctantly took him up on it and really enjoyed the whole thing. I began to build up my inventory of pinup work and started making prints as well as a mini pinup book and started selling them at conventions on a regular basis. Now I’m back into the whole comic convention thing but as a pinup artist with a focus on geek culture related pinup prints as opposed to working the floor always trying to land a gig from one of the publishers.
It’s incredible to hear about your journey through art – what do you think has influenced your style, and how have you found that your style has developed?
The style I currently use is based on a series of spot illustrations I did a few years back for an issue of American Profile Magazine. I was working as production manager at the time and the art director approached me about illustrating the feature for an issue. I did some quick, simple and somewhat cartoonish images in Adobe Illustrator and sort of fell in love with vector. In my spare time, I would plug away at pinup illustrations using the same type of style and it eventually evolved into what I’m doing now.
What is your typical process when creating a piece of work?
First there is the idea or inspiration. If it is a commission, people often have very distinct ideas about what they want. Especially since what I do is based so much in the comic book/geek culture realm, I come across a fair amount of customers with very vivid imaginations and get some fun and interesting requests.
When my work isn’t being done for someone else, my ideas are inspired by the beauty the female form coupled with any number of things from characters I like to cool cosplays I’ve seen to what I’m watching on TV.
The process itself, however, depends on the project. Most pieces start with a scan of a previously done sketch used as a template but others are vector from the beginning. Once that is established, I’ll sit in front of the iMac for a couple of hours, usually with the TV on behind me for white noise. I’ll step away for a bit, come back and see if I still hate whatever it is I’m working on (I always hate them for at least the first few hours) or deem it worthy of taking further. Once that decision is made, I’ll pick at it until I feel like it’s complete…then I’ll pick at it some more. Usually I have to send it to the customer or post it to social media before I’ll stop tweaking things. I really need to work on letting it go.
Who or what has been your biggest creative influence?
Wow! Lots of stuff. Initially, comic books from the 70’s. Mostly Marvel but some Archie and, of course, Vampirella.
The Buscemas’ Marvel work really excited me and their ladies were always beautiful. Later it was Batman The Animated Series, Batman Beyond and Justice League Unlimited. Bruce Timm is the master! Again, his females are phenomenal. And you can’t deny the beauty of most anything ever created by Robert McGinnis.
Who are your favourite artists at the moment?
I really like Ragnar, Shane Glines and most recently, Pernille Ørum and Loish.
How do you overcome those times when you hit the creative wall and get artistic block?
I wish there was a set answer to that but, sadly, there isn’t. I’ve tried everything from taking a walk to eating a sandwich and found that the solution will present itself when it’s damn well ready.
What do you like to do when you aren’t creating art? What is a day in the life of Sam Payne like?
I guess it’s more of what I have to do when I’m not creating art.
I work full time as a production director for a well-known publisher of print magazines. I will say, if you have to work, this isn’t the worst thing I could be doing with my time.
Outside of work, I hang out with my girlfriend and her one-eyed cat (Stinkeye), and we occasionally visit the local pubs and sketch random bar patrons. Aside from that there isn’t a lot to tell.
What are your art essentials? What couldn’t you live without?
My 27″ iMac and Adobe Illustrator are my digital necessities. From a traditional standpoint, I’m really digging the Strathmore Toned Tan paper with any combination of color pencils.
I just bought a new iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil so we will see if it works itself to the top of the list. So far, it looks promising.
What does the future hold for you? What are you working on next?
I’ve just wrapped up a couple of Archie Comics variant covers that are exclusive to Rick’s Comic City here in Nashville. Betty & Veronica #1 was released in July and Josie and the Pussycats #1 comes out in September. Now I just have a couple of commissions for individuals to knock out and I’ll be ready to take on new projects. I can always be contacted through my website, pop-tartz.squarespace.com , if anyone is interested.
What words of advice would you give to someone who is starting out as an artist?
There are people far more qualified than I am for the advice segment but here goes:
Never get discouraged! Art is subjective. You may get 12 totally different opinions of varying degrees on the same image. Just remember, the criticism that you hear only once is strictly an opinion and may or may not be valid. However, when you hear the same types of things from multiple people, those are the things you may need to work on or revisit. I was told this some time ago and it may be one of the more valuable pieces of wisdom I’ve received.
Oh, and draw, dammit! Draw all of the time.