During the Pandemic: A Conversation with Sam Vokey

Pictured above: Tidal Inlet, oil on linen, 32”x 52”
 
Written by: Francesca Sinnott
 
Pictured: Sam Vokey
 
Upon first glance, one is awe struck by Copley Master Sam Vokey’s exceptional oil paintings.  Also impressive is his passion for surfing and his interests as a young man that included: philosophy, sports and playwriting. Sam is a prolific artist who for 30 years has been able to make a career of his painting, working all day, usually 6 days a week. “Everywhere I go I bring my paint box. I often paint outside in the early morning and late afternoon when the light is best or when a weather event is passing by”.  Sam’s painting style is most closely associated with the Boston School, crossing Realism with some of the softer edges and painterly qualities of Impressionism.  He paints landscapes, portraits and still life’s. With his landscapes Sam “strives to create windows in to the world”.  “I hope to convey to viewers the refuge nature can provide in these uncertain times”. Sam is represented by many galleries, has a painting in a permanent museum collection (Cape Code Museum of Fine Arts) and in many corporate collections.  
 
Sam’s involvement with Co|So (1987) began while at the R. H. Ives Gammell School in Boston. “ I exhibited at Co|So and I also hung shows and did carpentry work there”. Co|So enabled him to enter juried competitions and gain accreditation. “It drew commercial galleries looking for new artists.” Sam remains active with Co|So and will be in the Fresh Paint Auction.
 
At the beginning of the pandemic all of the galleries representing Sam closed down. This was concerning until they went on-line.  Sam says he was “very worried about the art market”, but he was lucky to gain commission work from commercial and private clients including some of the largest paintings he has made to date. He says modestly, “These clients already own my work or know of me. While being house bound, the private clients have sought art to fill these newly renovated spaces”. Sam also describes how the competition to receive a hospital commission (3 large paintings) “was very intense”. The pandemic has also simplified Sam’s life. He now works in his living room instead of his studio and this has been a happy transition, allowing him to be nearer to his artist wife Hannah and their cat.
 
 
I call this painting “Sanctuary” because it conveys the “calm and beauty of the open spaces of marsh and sky at a time when we all need it”. A landscape will begin with an oil study outside. The study provides the starting point for a larger landscape painting that is completed in the studio. “I will recreate the light effect in the larger painting but will try to improve the design from memory and years of painting landscapes and designing pictures”. 
 
Pictured: Sanctuary, oil on linen, 20” x 22”
 
Sam recently completed several portraits from photos. He appreciates the commissions because “they push him out of his comfort zone”.
 
Pictured: Brothers, oil on linen, 26” x 34”
 
Sam’s life as a working artist reveals a great depth of training in art, art culture and history. After graduating Bowdoin College, where he thought he might become a playwright, Sam chose visual art and was accepted in to the R.H. Ives Gammell School above the Guild Of Boston Artists gallery on Newbury St. (1987-1991). The rigorous training there was based on the French Academy and the Boston School of Impressionism, “a synthesis of academic representational training and impressionist color”.  “”Winter Glow’ is an example of a classic Boston School painting”. 
 
Pictured: Winter Glow, oil on linen, 26” x 30”
 
 “Students worked independently and were taught drawing and painting as practiced by the great masters. Ives Gammell had died in 1981 so his students did the teaching. Usually Robert Cormier or Bob Hunter would come by every week and critique our work”. (Also David Lowry, Bob Moore and Gary Hoffman).  We were taught to “paint the visual truth”. 
 
Sam encourages young artists to enter juried shows and gain exposure through associations like Co|So. “I also advise them to stay in touch with their clients”. To this end, Sam sends out a monthly newsletter. He also maintains an on-line presence through a website, Instagram and Facebook.
 
Instagram : samvokeyart
 
Pictured: Lights on the River, oil on linen, 12” x 9”
 
No matter how accomplished he is, Sam shares that he can always “take more risks” and “get better” with each painting. “I have ideas I would like to pursue and I try to balance those with my commissions. I try for more unusual designs. I experiment with layers, textures and color.  I always believe my best paintings are still ahead of me.”