Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Saga 5


I just finished Saga 5, and it's been a long time coming. This one is about the pandemic. I started it last spring when magnolias and cherry blossoms were blooming all over Philadelphia and we were becoming aware of an airborne virus. 

For a lot of the time during the last year I didn't feel like I could work on this painting. I made about this much of it (above) and then stopped for a while. I'd occasionally paint in one of the bubbles, but often I was too overwhelmed to paint.  My show at the Rosewood Art Centre was postponed, my nerves were shot, and I found it most helpful to dive into new media. I've acquired lots of new technical skills that have pushed my art to some interesting new places, but this painting languished for a while.

The wave is full of bubbles, swimmers, bodies and ghosts. All the bubbles show some aspect of pandemic life, and almost all feature computer screens. The top bubble in the image above is a riff on Degas' Interior , which is in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

There are some personal moments in the bubbles, too. I'm the frog in the pink sweatshirt who is teaching online, and my son is the bored kid doing online learning in the top left. There are also more than a few references to the protests, as well as sourdough, yoga, essential workers and scenes based on artists and families who I know. 

Once the vaccine started to feel like a real possibility I started painting again, and this week, one vaccination down, I finished it. 

 The flying businessmen are back. 

They are excited about these guys, who are based on the thugs who invaded the capitol and their supporters & enablers. (I've tried to paint Trump in several of these pieces, but I'm really allergic to his face, and this is the closest I could come; his mouth is yelling on the top left. )

Below them are these frogs, who show up in several other paintings. I was thinking about the protests, and the election, and the people who fought so hard to hang on to our democratic processes. This part is directly based on Leutze's Washington Crossing the Delaware . The long banner that wraps around the characters would say Black Lives Matter if it were stretched out.

You can see these pieces larger on my website and pretty soon they will be on view in person, which is super exciting. They're going to the Rosewood Art Center in Kettering Ohio from April 12- May 14th. I can't wait to see them all in one room.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Saga 4

I just got Saga 4 posted on the website, and I couldn't be prouder. I'm noticing that each piece I make gets more tricky than the last one.

I want these Saga pieces to work together cumulatively, so I spend a lot of time at the beginning of each piece making sure that the left edge of the piece lines up with the right edge of the previous one. I think of them as big frames in a comic strip: they are meant to be read from left to right, and to form full compositions on the wall: so when I had three Saga pieces, like in the show at the Firehouse Art Center (see previous post), I cared that the composition worked as a triptych, and the right edge of the third piece balanced out the left edge of of the first one.

Samantha Simpson Saga 1-4, Ink and Watercolor on Paper, 2017-2020)

 In Saga 4 I wanted a radically different sense of space: the close up water in Saga 3 had to become a distant cliff edge in Saga 4, but the pieces had to look like they were meant to go together at the seams.

I set this all up at the beginning of the piece when I make the drawings, but each piece takes a long time to paint. Saga 4 was no exception. I started Saga 4 in the summer of 2019 and I just finished it in March of 2020. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that I worried about whether or not it would match up with Saga 3 every time I worked on it.

I never really know if they're going to sit well together until I finish. I move the pieces off my working wall and put them next to the previous piece. My studio is big enough to show two at a time, so I have to trust that they will work out until I see them together. What made this transition particularly tricky is that Saga 3 is a closeup: it's a take on Monet's water lillies. I want Saga 3 to read as a time of relative leisure before Saga 4's heightened concerns.

Below is a closeup of Saga 3  and Saga 4:

Samantha Simpson Saga 3 and 4, Ink and Watercolor on Paper, 2019-2020)

Saga 4 is below. It's an eight foot long piece, so there's a lot you might want to see in more detail. There's a wall being built, executive-graph bugs, a two headed goose and a human child with a plastic lightsaber. There's a nice big version on my website here.

Samantha Simpson, Saga 4, Ink and watercolor on paper, 91.5" x 51", 2020

I was getting ready to ship these out to the Rosewood Art Center in Kettering Ohio for a show this spring, but it's delayed until next year. I'm looking forward to it, but in the meantime I'm staying inside, staying safe, and I hope you are too..

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Interesting Times

I am chuffed. The news is terrible right now and the air in Philadelphia feels like wet sock, but yesterday evening the Firehouse Art Center posted this little video and ever since then I have had a very specific kind of happiness blooming in my heart that is pretty much summed up by that great British understatement of a word.

Here it is. The pieces shown are from my Saga Series, and they are part of  their Interesting Times exhibition.

This video thrills me largely because there are three pieces on that wall. I paint these pieces so that when they are hung end to end they flow together. I carefully make sure that the colors in left edge of each new piece line up exactly with the right edge of the last one, but I can only hang two of them at a time in my studio, so I've actually never seen them all in a row before. They work just like I'd hoped, and I couldn't be happier to see how beautifully they were installed.

I'm also delighted to see them out in the world. These pieces take a long time, and although I've shown them to people in my studio, this exhibition is their first. The curator, Brandy Coons, did a great job of picking the other artists in the exhibit. Kathryn Jill Johnson and Robin Hextrum both make wonderful work. If you're in the Boulder area, check it out!

I've written in past blog posts about Saga 1 and 2, but I didn't have time to post about Saga 3.

Samantha Simpson, Saga 3, Ink and watercolor on paper, 92" x 51", 2018

There is a lot happening in this piece and you can see details on my website here

One thing that people might not guess is that this piece references Monet.

Call it a remix.

Samantha Simpson, Saga 3 detailInk and watercolor on paper, 92" x 51", 2018

If you're interested in seeing updates on work in progress, please follow me on instagram! I'm slow about updating this blog but I'm better over there, where I post as the_drawist.  There are even details of Saga 4, which I'm working on right now.

*I am Canadian, so I feel I'm entitled to be chuffed by virtue of our association with the Queen.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Still, still, I mean it, After All

My book is here!

It's finally done and I'm so happy about how it came out- I've been working on it for over a year, on and off, trying to figure out how to translate my  text heavy images into the book form. It's a project I was very interested in because for a long time I've been thinking that my work lies somewhere between painting and writing. Many of my pieces have repeating characters and themes and several of my images work as chapters in on ongoing narrative, rather than conclusions in and of themselves.

 It's very satisfying to have this series of pieces in a book format, all together, in sequence, with the important text readable in the correct order.  The book is 144 pages long and the images are large and only slightly less vivid than the originals. I love it. You can take a look at the first 15 or so pages by clicking the little image below, which links you to a little preview of the book on Blurb, the print-on-demand site where I had the book made.

If you'd like to purchase a copy, you can do so at that link too, but be warned: the softcover version is totally beautiful but way more expensive than what you'd pay for a similar book in a bookstore. This is what happens when one can't get thousands of copies of a book published in China. There is an ebook version available as well, and I get about the same amount of money from sales of either book, so if you're interested in supporting what I so by buying a book, do what fits your budget. If you are a huge fan and would like a personalized copy, please email me at and I will make arrangements to send one your way!