Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 | No Comments

Sam D’Orazio

The improbably brief bio on Sam D’Orazio’s website reads: “Sam D’Orazio likes making things about people and colors.” This may very well be as close as any of us are going to come to defining the wide range of experimentations and approaches in his work. Churning just beneath a surface of flat shape and colour are stories of angst and humor, anger and wonder.

Q1. While we love your commercial work, we were completely blown away by the range of style and experimentation in your personal paintings, and extensive sketchbook work shown on your blog. How important is this to your process? Do you approach personal projects differently from commissions?

I think it’s just important to play and keeping things interesting. If I feel a sense of revulsion putting down an all too familiar shape I know I’m not in an engaged state of mind. Generally I’m not interested in creating a “brand” via my work – that happens inevitably. I’m more interested in seeing what falls under the umbrella of my vocabulary and feels natural. I dont like deliberate stagnation. Right now I have a bunch of small drawings on my desk that have a Rugrats meets R. Crumb/Zap Comix vibe that I think might be definitively “not me”. Sometimes you swim too far out into the ocean and lose sight of the beach. It all makes sense next to each other anyways, I dont think it’s too different from piece to piece.

I think the biggest difference between commissions and personal projects is just that I have to sketch commissions at the beginning, and I also have to respect a deadline and context. For the most part the end result isn’t that different.

Top-right: “Unrequited”

Bottom-right: Illustration for Plansponsor about “keeping complex information organized”

Sam D'Orazio

Sam D'Orazio

From Sam D'Orazio sketchbook

Endpapers from Sam D’Orazio sketchbook

Q2. Can you tell us a bit about what inspires your paintings?

I think the general DNA of what I make involves a bunch of different strains competing for interest: formal play (vibing out to shapes, colors, organization, composition), narrative, the collision of our intense personal moments with the repetitious architecture around us… My friends, Woody Allen, painters like Jake Longstreth, Paul Wackers, Guy Yanai, the Romanticists (as well as plenty of Blockbuster favorites, Hockney, Guston, Bacon, etc.). Cartoons/comics across the ages, nature, cheesy sunsets, reflective light, Minecraft. Each thing I make is like some kind of shitty curry, and I’ve made it with all of these aforementioned spices thrown in, and sometimes the cap falls off on one of the shakers.

Top-right: Safe Transactions

Right: The Last Tree

Sam D'Orazio

Sam D'Orazio

Risky Real Estate for PLANSPONSOR

“Risky Real Estate” for Plansponsor

Q3. We’ve noticed a tendency towards abstraction in your sketchbooks, and in your piece ‘Explosive Growth’ (for Plansponsor) you went all-out abstract on a commercial illo. Was it challenging to reflect an editorial article theme without any figurative elements? What is it about abstract work that you like?

I think for illustration I dont like to think in one mode of representation…Sometimes things dont feel natural being done in a more abstract fashion, though. Sometimes the solution comes to you in the fog of sketching and says “Hey man, I think you just want to paint a dude getting struck by lightning this week. Its okay.” I generally think abstract solutions are more porous can sometimes lead to more rewarding experiences than some of the loaded imagery and one liners that happen across the world of illustration. I envision a future where I keep chasing my interest in abstraction and I eventually end up doing shit more like Sol Lewitt or something, stuff that’s beyond naturalistic/representational abstract… Like you’re opening up your copy of Bloomberg or whatever and a ton of fucked up confetti and glitter spills out of the page with the article about “Unwanted Business Models” (i.e pop ups)!

Genrally the abstract things I make come from a few different places…Sometimes it’s not as satisfying, or interesting, or evocative or whatever to portray reality objectively. Sometimes it’s also satisfying to deal explicitly with what certain colors and shapes do or say. Sometimes I dont have an explicit story to paint but I know there is something in me that will be fun to paint that day. I think most important about shifting between modes of representation is just getting to hit a spectrum of things. I like finding ways to touch different emotional wavelengths.

Explosive Growth for PLANSPONSOR

“Explosive Growth” for Plansponsor

Q4. You’ve recorded a ton of music as Phantasmosis. How would you describe the kind of music you make? Is there any connection between your visual work and your music? Do you find different parts of you come out when making different kinds of art?elements? What is it about abstract work that you like?

If someone asked about my music I would, for better or worse, call it “indie rock” or “guitar pop”. I say indie rock with derision because it also is as silly as using the term experimental as an aesthetic qualifier. But that statement is disingenuous since I also like plenty of indie rock. I think there is a loose link between the visual and audio stuff-general threads and ideas. I feel like some of the chord structures I use have a similar chroma to my paintings.

The best part about working with music is just the ability to craft extremes easier. Any number of sounds noises and chords can create moments of any thread in the emotional fabric. And those things can create some dynamic narratives or exist as purely experiential moments. Lots more room to create knee jerking, affecting possibilities. Right now I’m working on stuff that has a McCartney I/drone/Jim O’Rourke vibe to it. Trying to craft quietness.

Q5. Given the opportunity, what would be a dream project for you?

What wouldnt be? Going on tour again. Making a book. Designing a video game. Impossibly huge, Anselm Kiefer/Richard Serra type shit. Murals. Surface design. Hosting The Price is Right after the Drew Carey era. Right now though, I’m all about illustration!

Sam D'Orazio

Q6. Tell us something people don’t know about you.

Much like Prince, the aforementioned Jim O’Rourke, Ghandi, Pablo Picasso, Voltaire and Cyndi Lauper I stand at a mere 5’3”. I am exactly 107 years older than James Joyce. And I just updated my website!

Sam D'Orazio


“Pinterest” for Planadviser

S&TM: We’d like to thank Sam for taking the time to do this interview. We really appreciate it!

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