Meet Sam Kirk, local multi-disciplinary artist in Chicago. From paints to furniture, fashion, and carpentry, Sam uses a variety of mediums to express culture and stories of everyday people. 

1. When did you decide to work on your art full-time?
It's been a hobby since childhood, but I never thought I'd be able to be an artist full-time. Before this, I was working in advertising and picking up art jobs on the side. My art gigs kept expanding until it wasn't a hobby anymore. I had to truly choose between the two careers. In 2010, I left advertisement to pursue art full time.  

2. How would you describe your style?
Somebody once told me "Your work is beautiful, but not beautiful," and they were right. While my work is celebratory of culture, it also addresses social justice issues. The color pallet and initial visual reaction are always optimistic, even if the story I'm telling is a little deep or depressing.  I use vibrant, rich color with detailed line work. I don't have a desire to do realistic art or use colors we see in everyday life. I prefer my paint to represent an emotional place.

3. How does your art impact your life and confidence?
My art is meant to encourage people to be themselves. To celebrate their culture or identity and to be extremely happy about it! The more I create, the more knowledgeable I become about myself and the things I stand for. 

4. What inspires your art?
People! I'm fascinated with the everyday person. I like to hear community stories and how peoples struggles have lead them to success. I love culture, how people celebrate culture, and the value they place on it. It's interesting to see how discovering ourselves plays a role in who each of us are.

5. How has your work evolved?
At first, I would just paint something because I liked the way it looked. I was inspired by things that struck me, but nothing felt cohesive or completely me. Now, my style stems from what led me to the inspiration and how I am going to tell that story. If I paint a piece, I explore what it represents and why it matters to me. My style will continue to evolve, but the line work and color pallet will probably stay similar. 

6. What advice would you give to students about self-expression?
Don't hold anything back. Working creatively with any art is your opportunity to let your whole self go. Whatever you're feeling, put everything into your creative work!  

7. What advice would you give to aspiring artist?
Always put your work out there and see how people respond to it. People think all artists are starving, but we aren't. It's running a business. You have to put yourself out there to run the shop. Don't be afraid to take the risk and share your creations with the world. Just because art may not have been presented to you as a career choice doesn't mean you can't do it. We are often told to go into careers that are associated with success, like being a doctor or lawyer. It can discourage us from exploring our actual talents. If you have a strong talent or passion, then absolutely do it. Get an internship, shadow and artists, and ask questions! Put yourself into those shoes and see if you like it.

8. Do you have any female role models you admire? 
My twin sister works as an ER nurse and is one of the hardest working people I know. She loves her job immensely and was born to help people. When you see someone who puts so much into their work, it inspires you to do the same. Also, it may seem cliche, but my mom and grandmother inspire me. These women worked jobs that no one else wanted to paved the path for me to do what I am able to do.

I’m surrounded by female artists who inspire me for a lot of different reasons. Some because of their process or how long they have been in the game. I think it’d been a recent thing for women to get recognition in art, and we are still fighting the fight. But if it wasn’t for them, artist like me would have more difficult time.

9. What's your favorite outfit?
Maybe I am a midwesterner to the core, but my favorite thing is a good t-shirt and jeans. Hip hop was big in the 80's and 90's so I guess it stuck. I love my high top sneakers, Jordan's, t-shirts and jeans. I wear t-shirts with a good, solid message or a well thought out design. Some fashions trends fade as time passes, but I like to have things I can wear 5 years from now.

10. What other hobbies fulfill you outside of painting?
I love to just hang with friends. I value time highly and I enjoy simple pleasures like BBQs, camping, bike rides and exercise. I particularly like to box. I've been boxing since I was in my teens.