‘UGLY ANIMAL ILLUSTRATOR’, SAMI'S BIO READS. FROM BIN CHICKENS TO FISH AND MOTHS, SAMI'S DETAILED NATURAL HISTORY ILLUSTRATIONS ATTRACT DESCRIPTIONS THESE ANIMALS WOULD NEVER BE ATTACHED TO. THE DETAIL IS INCREDIBLE; I'VE NEVER LOOKED AT AN IBIS FOR MORE THAN A FEW SECONDS, BUT AFTER CROSSING PATHS WITH SAMI'S ART, YOU FIND AN UNTAPPED APPRECIATION FOR THESE UGLY CREATURES.
After winning the Australian Museum Scholarship, and appearing in The Sydney Morning Herald and on ABC Sydney radio for her art, Sami reflects on her achievements and looks forward to pursuing even greater goals.
When did you discover your talent?
Ever since I was younger, I’ve loved drawing everything I saw in front of me. In early primary school, I would sit outside my house and draw the trees in the yard, sometimes even pulling out all the DVDs to sketch the front covers all throughout my drawing pads (The SpongeBob Movie was a fave). It was then that I realised I could replicate things quite well through illustration.
And when did you realise you wanted to make it more than a hobby?
It wasn’t until around Year 9 or 10 at school that I started to think about my art-making in a career sense. At that time, I thought all that was possible was art teaching or a curator role, and neither of those interested me. I worried that I had been given a talent that I could not pursue, but I was adamant in finding a way to make it work.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to make the leap from enjoying something as a hobby to turning it into a career or source of income?
It is difficult to make the step into having your creative career be your source of income, and I am certainly not at that stage yet. However, all I can advise is that if it’s something you really desire in life, you can make it happen. I’ve realised now that there is no other career path that’s better suited to me, so I will make sure this is it. But be prepared to keep your day job for a while until things fall into place!
You’ve been featured in The Sydney Morning Herald, interviewed on ABC Sydney radio and held exhibitions. What has the response been like to your art?
At first I seem to catch people off-guard. They aren’t expecting to see detailed illustrations of these hideous creatures they’ve grown to dislike, but after that, they embrace it with open arms and minds.
It's exciting to see things that aren’t typically replicated in the art world and I feel that I have found my niche!
Congrats on winning the Australian Museum scholarship! How has this helped you?
In many ways! Having the publicity from the Australian Museum scholarship caused The Sydney Morning Herald to do a two-page story on my art-making and then an interview with the radio. I am getting the opportunity to now see some of the exhibits at the AM behind the scenes, and was given $5000 towards my university fees. The whole experience has improved my talking skills and professionalism as well as defining my career goals.
Have you always liked ‘ugly’ animals, or was it since starting Natural History Illustration at UON?
One of my favourite artists growing up was Alex Pardee, as his bizarre illustrations of abnormal creatures kept me intrigued and wanting more. I believe I took this love of the ‘unusual’ and turned it into a want/need to replicate the oddest things in my surroundings: ugly animals.
What did you learn from studying Natural History Illustration?
I gained so much technical skill and knowledge from my NHI degree, and if it wasn’t for this course, I would not be where I am today. I was open to the Graphic Design side, which has given me skills that benefit my art-making immensely. I was able to do courses in Medical Illustration and work from human specimens to create educational information posters, and most importantly, I was introduced to a world of like-minded people who have supported me and inspired me to continue doing what I love.
You work with a range of mediums; do you have a favourite? Or something you’re dying to try?
I would have to say my favourite is watercolour. Growing up, graphite and coloured pencil was my area of expertise, and I would usually steer clear of paints as I was too impatient to learn. It wasn’t until starting my NHI degree, when I was forced to learn the techniques for watercolour in order to do assessments, that I began to fall in love. I am yet to try oil paints but am so excited, because of the limitations that watercolour presents. I feel that learning this new medium can only increase the realism in my art, and I cannot wait!
Any upcoming events or anything special you want to mention?
This year I’m completing my Honours in NHI and am working on an exciting project for it. I’ve been broadening my Etsy store and am selling more and more items as time goes on. On the 8th of April, I will be having an art stall at the Perfect Sunday music and market event at the Lass O’Gowrie. I’m so excited for this event as I get to share my love of all things weird and wonderful with the public and have the opportunity to sell my art products to those who will adore it.
What’s your ultimate goal for your art in the future?
A tough question, as I have so many goals and aspirations in my career, but one that stands out is that I would absolutely LOVE to be one day featured in (or on the cover if I’m really pushing it) National Geographic magazine. This shares the best of the best in the natural history world and having the honour of being featured amongst other artists like that would be so special.
Lastly, what’s your favourite thing about Newcastle?
What I love about this town is the huge art society that exists. I’ve never experienced such a love and desire for creatives. The amount of markets, art stalls, exhibitions, competitions, and communities/like-minded people available to Novocastrians, compared to other places, is so motivating. I am so excited to broaden my world in that way.
Find Sami selling her art at Perfect Sunday on 8th April at the Lass O'Gowrie. Check out Sami's art on her website samibayly.com and on her Instagram @samibayly.