A very well known artist once said, “When you truly love nature, you find beauty everywhere”. It is not a coincidence. For Samantha French, there is something so serene floating in the tepid water of a quiet lake, just you and the beauty of nature, that she has to evocate it. Her work is precisely that, an evocation of a feeling in time. Her goal is to take the viewer to a place and time they remember. Her constant: painting and creating. By half hyperreality and half feeling of nostalgia, her paintings become unique pieces of art. She is much more than a contemporary and impressionistic artist.
First of all, who is Samantha French? How do you describe her? 
Painting and creating is my constant. I like to work; it’s really what makes me who I am. I grew up in Minessota and moved to New York about ten years ago, my partner is a painter as well and we live and work here with our two dogs. 
Born in Minnesota, living in New York. In what way did each of these places influence you and your work?
I’ve always loved painting the figure, and the first water themed piece was a painting from an old photograph of my mother and aunt at the lake in my hometown when I was a baby. With this element of nostalgia and these beautiful abstracted qualities of green reflections in the water, I knew I had found something that deeply resonated with me. My early work was slightly more ethereal and less structured than it is now, but the progression to underwater swimmers was organic. I was using a lot of found imagery, vintage bathers, old family photos, imagination mixed with studio shots. Every painting lends something to the next and the more I worked, the more I learned about what I wanted from the next piece and the better my technique became. I’m still learning every time I go into the studio and try to keep pushing myself further. It was a natural progression to the pool imagery after moving to NY and needing the control of my own photography. I started taking photos of people swimming from above. I bought an underwater case for my camera not long after, really transforming the work into what you see today.
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How do you define your style? What is it that distiguishes you from others?
I have a hard time defining it in set term. I’m not hyperrealistic but it’s not abstract. I don’t use a formula or specific way of getting the image across. It’s very organic and intuitive for me to paint what I see, how I want someone else to see it. I use all my own photography and models to get my distinct point of view across.
How did you begin with painting?
I went to a private art school and found painting to be the most challenging – and in-turn the most exciting and rewarding so it became my primary focus. There has never been a point where I’ve said, this is it, this is the best I can do, you can always get better and continue to explore and go deeper.
Your works are described as an exploration of the idea of escaping, the tranquility and nostalgia for the lazy summer days of your childhood. What if I say water and nature?
I grew up in a pretty idyllic area where lakes were down basically every road. There is something so serene, floating in the tepid water of one quiet lake, just you and nature. However my paintings are frequently based on pools now and reflect more of a southern Californian mid-century aesthetic, but my memories and the feelings I get thinking back about those childhood summers are still in the work, just slightly idealized and adapted to the life I lead now. Also, pool waters allow for better reflections that now play an important role in my painting. I consider myself a figurative painter but the reflections and refracted light add an abstract quality to the work. Having the figure as a reference point allows me to focus on those abstractions that the reflections in the water provide. Along with the contrasts they bring to the work, discovering how the two things react with one another, such as how the light bouncing off the skin mimics the ripples in the water above is very fascinating to me. It looks chaotic but there is a rhythm to it. The patterns are a direct reflection of the waters reflection and how it is moving. There is almost a filter over the figure, the skin tones aren’t natural and going into each painting is different. They’re transformed and distorted into shapes and colors and lends itself to intricate and fluid mark making. Isolating these brief moments where someone is about to break the surface of the water or slowly breathing out to stay under just a little longer, taking a static image and showing the movement that is just about to happen and freezing it for eternity.
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What do you want to transmit when you make hyper-realism paintings? Do you think that you can take the viewer closer to reality with it? Where are the limits?
I hope I can transport them to a place or time they remember; an evocation of a feeling in time, half hyperreality and half feeling of nostalgia. Being in that same situation, in the water at some point either last week or twenty years ago. I wouldn’t consider my work to be hyper-realistic, I think it borders a contemporary and impressionistic view on painting – things are played up and left out and hopefully there is just enough information to get the image across without getting too fussy.
Who were your influences? Any mentors?
I love figurative painters: Euan Glow, Édouard Vuillard, Jenny Saville, Ann Gale, Elmer Bischoff, and many others.
What is a good piece of work? Do you think you can be objective when you value works within the field of art?
I have pretty specific tastes but I can understand the value of techniques or ideas in a piece of work for the most part. It’s when those two intersect and create something other than just the replication of an image that it does something for me and becomes art.
What work that you have done do you like the most?
Everything kind of has a place for me, they all have some element in them that I’m drawn to or proud of or needed to execute for some reason.
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Something that you would really love to do and you haven't? Something you never would do?
I never say never because learning and evolving and growing older as an artist and woman has taught me that my ideas on things are always changing. I would like to continue making work I’m excited by and showing with people I admire. I’d also love to finally get a book of my work finished that I’ve been working on.
Do you think you can learn to paint, by looking at a painting?
Not really. I think you can learn to paint like other people by replicating their work. Then that leads to knowledge of materials and color work but you need to physically do it. You need to take it beyond that and make it your own somehow.
What do you think about the future of painting?
I keep hearing (every few years) that figurative painting has made a comeback, I never knew it left. I’ve always preferred figure and realistic paintings so maybe I’ve always looked for them. I don’t know the future of painting as a whole – if I could predict it I’d probably be rich! (laughs) You see a lot of trends come and go every few years and despite I can love a lot what is going on right now, it’s not very influential to my work. I’m just going to keep tinkering away at what I would like to see and the rest of the art world can do whatever it likes.
Last question, where are your projects going to in the future?
I’ve got a couple shows in the works and am working on new paintings always. I’m trying to take it a little slower lately with my exhibition schedule.
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