Sam Smith

Interview with the Artist

This is Sam Smith. She is a pop illustrator, founder of the Pop Heirloom studio, and co-founder of the Manhattan Love Salon. She also designed the cover of Existentialism and Romantic Love by Skye Cleary – in press with Palgrave Macmillan (March 2015).

In an exclusive interview, Sam Smith describes the inspiration behind her creation.While she can’t reveal the final design just yet, below are a couple of the runners-up.


How would you describe the design?

The design is based on the themes of Skye’s book.  Her concept of freeing oneself from the preconceived notion about how romantic lovers ought to behave really stood out for me during design.  The hearts are not symmetrical or ‘perfect’, they overlap each other (as relationships sometimes do), the sizes of the hearts vary to show overbearing love, the sole use of red and white indicates the tendency to merge when one is in love, and finally, I wanted a ‘popping’ effervescent, excited feeling, just like the rush of love in the early days, by drawing the hearts rising like bubbles.


What can you tell me about the ideas behind your design?

When Skye commissioned the design I explored a variety of ideas.  Skye had pointed me in the direction of some art and illustration that she liked, she also told me about her favorite sculptures and color palettes.  It was great fun to create the various themes that I presented to Skye.  Anyone who has met Skye knows she is bursting with enthusiasm, passion, and originality.  What really draws me to Skye is that she is such a heavyweight academic with such a cool and modern approach.  She is also a lot of fun.  This gave me much freedom with my design.


What was your understanding of the brief and how did you approach it?

Skye knows my design style.  She knows my work is pop and colorful and fun, so she knew what she was proposing when she suggested I design the artwork for Existentialism and Romantic Love.  That said, I wanted to give Skye several options to go from.  It being first and foremost an academic title, I wanted to ensure the print could be work with academia, yet be certain to include Skye’s sense of fun and adventure.

I begin all briefs by conducting research. The internet is a great tool for research as you can be anywhere in the world (almost!) in seconds. I scour books, compose color schemes – for Skye’s cover I also researched the meanings of color and color therapy while considering the palette.


What do you think makes this design unique?

There must be many heart-based designs out there.  This one is unique in the way a family recipe is unique.  It is a collaborative effort between Skye’s philosophy and personality and research, and my own vision as an illustrator and brand consultant and the Pop Heirloom (my studio) house style.


What do you believe is the key element in creating great art?

A great question given the subject!  I believe great art comes from the heart.  The success of many modern day artists is based on their affiliation to the great branded dealers.  Our access to and awareness of art has increased because of the internet based media and the celebrity of the YBAs (Young British Artists) and mega dealers, and record sales figures in the auction houses.  Many people still desire to be told what to like and have their preferences influenced by an artists presence within a major gallery or auction house, which is human nature I suppose.  This means that modern great art has a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time and being liked by the right person.  This is certainly ‘great’ in the way of ‘greatness’.  On the other hand  ‘great’ art for me is art that comes from the heart.  Whatever strikes a chord with the person standing in front of it.

For more pop, visit Sam’s website Pop Heirloom or follow her on Twitter…


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