Sunday, April 26, 2015

Interview: Samara Doumnande

Oil painting by Samara Doumnande










Samara Doumnande has found solace in her artwork. As a young adult, her dream of going to Rhode Island School of Design was cut short by unexpected health issues. In the face of this adversity, she was able to finish college closer to home, meet the love of her life, marry and create a family. Her art has been her mainstay and has helped her to cope with an enduring illness.

Samara has begun to show her work in regional art shows. She is currently a House Artist member at The Shoe Factory Art Co-op where her still life paintings and animal portrait prints are on display.


Pastel by Samara Doumnande

Shoe Factory: Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
Samara Doumnande: I grew up in the South Wedge neighborhood in Rochester, NY.  I am currently a stay at home Mom and live in West Henrietta.

SF: When did you start creating art?  Where did you learn your craft? 
SD: I started creating art as soon as I could hold a pencil. I was taught from an early age from the many talented artists in my family; my mom, my uncles, and my brother, although none of them pursued art professionally. I believe that I am the first to do that.

I was also guided by art teachers in school. In my middle and high school years I attended School of the Arts where I majored in Visual Arts.

Oil painting by Samara Doumnande


SF: Did you attend college? 
I attended Rhode Island School of Design for freshman year. I had to transfer to Rochester Institute of Technology to be closer to home for health reasons.  My major at RISD had been architecture, but I ended up getting a BFA in Interior Design at RIT.

Oil painting by Samara Doumnande

SF: What materials do you use in your art?
SD: I use graphite pencil, pen and ink, Prismacolor markers, pastels, acrylic paint, and oil paint. I paint on everything from illustration board to canvas.

Oil painting by Samara Doumnande

SF: How do you make your art?
SD: The majority of my work is done using photos as a reference. When I’m doing a portrait commission of a person, pet, or a home, I work from my clients’ photos. 

House portrait by Samara Doumnande

When I take my own photos, my subject matter usually consists of the people, places, and things, which surround me. I paint my children, my husband, the houses on my street, and favorite places in my neighborhood. 

Samara painting in her home studio

When working from a photograph, I like to put my artistic touch to it and spin it in a different direction. Sometimes I change the color, scale, and texture of objects. Sometimes I will omit objects from a composition or add objects that weren’t in the reference photo.

SF: What are you currently working on?
SD: I’ve been snapping a lot of photos of my three little girls to use for portraits. Most of the portraits I’ve done of them have been in pastel, but I plan on doing a series of them in oil. I’ve been doing a lot of still life paintings and I’m working on some pet portrait commissions.

Oil painting by Samara Doumnande

SF: Who are your artistic influences? 
SD: When I’m doing portraits, my influences are the late artists Mary Cassatt and Henry Ossawa Tanner. Like Cassatt, I love painting women and children, especially my own children.

Pastel by Samara Doumnande

Like Tanner, I try to capture the treasured scenes from every day African American life. I love his “The Thankful Poor” and “The Banjo Lesson”, two great and humbling paintings that everyone should know about.

 When painting a still life, I really admire the work of Dutch artist Simon Luttichuys. I love his rich colors, dark backgrounds, shadows, and glistening reflections. He made his objects pop out from the canvas, and I seek to do the same in my work.

Oil painting by Samara Doumnande

SF: Have you always been a creative person? 
SD: Yes. Besides art, I also enjoy writing. I’ve published several of my own children’s books and poetry books. One of them is called Bible Tales: The First Five Books in Rhyme (For Children and Adults), which paraphrases the first five books of the Bible.

Oil painting by Samara Doumnande

SF: How has being an artist changed or affected your life?
SD: I have mental illness and suffer from paranoid schizophrenia. Having to live inside of a sometimes tortured mind can be very overwhelming. However, painting is a release for me.  It is my "exhale". When I get to see what I create on canvas, and breathe it all back in, that is my "inhale". Painting allows me to breathe fresh air inside of myself. It cleans out my soul, rejuvenates it, and brightens up my internal world, beautifully offsetting some of my internal struggles.

Painting is also something that the voices I hear, as a schizophrenic, can never take away. I’ve been so tortured, in my past, that I have had difficulty with not just reading and writing, but also prayer.  I can remember those times crying, with tears in my eyes, looking up to the heavens crying out, “Dear Lord, You won’t even let me pray to You!”

Those were tough times, but I got past them. What helped me to get through them was my art. It’s one thing the voices have never succeeded in taking away from me—no matter how sick I got.

Oil painting by Samara Doumnande

SF: What is your favorite art-related experience in life so far?
SD: My greatest art experience is seeing the love and pride in the eyes of my children when they see my work. They think it is so cool having a mommy who is an artist. Occasionally we’ll have small painting parties where we all paint together, dancing, eating, and listening to music. It’s a lot of fun!

Samara and her girls


SF: What is your ultimate goal as an artist?
SD: To create beauty. Not just for myself, but for those who will enjoy my works after they have left the studio. With my art I hope to brighten up someone’s day, rejuvenate someone's soul and take their mind away from the struggles of everyday life.

I believe that all artists have one shared goal. That is to create harmony, whether it be someone’s voice over a melody, someone’s rhythmic rhyme over a poem, or someone’s brushstrokes over a painting.

Oil painting by Samara Doumnande



SF: Is Rochester a good place to be for artists? 
SD: I think Rochester is doing a terrific job with helping to shape the careers of artists through such events as FirstFriday and Second Saturday. There is a lot of opportunity here in Rochester and we, as artists, just have to take advantage of it.

Rochester is also a great place to network with other artists. I can be shy and nervous at times, but despite this I’ve been able to meet some really kind hearted, caring artists who do not hesitate in sharing helpful information.

Samara Doumnande with husband Ramadji

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