Тhe Limit Is Out There
All artwork by Samantha Muljat
Samantha Muljat is the visual artist behind Bloodbankdesign where she is mixing different techniques and materials in her work. Apart from that, she is an art director at the Southern Lord Records music label, assuring that all cover art looks impeccable. Born and raised in Germany, she has been living in Los Angeles for 4 years now.
Can you tell us a little about your background and how did you decide to move to the USA?
I went to art school in the early 00’s to become a painter. I quickly developed an interest in other forms of art such as photography and film. Later on I got interested in typography and layouts so I started exploring graphic design. After 8 years of studying all over, I finally managed to get a master’s in fine arts and design.
Moving to the States was not a professional decision. I started dating someone who lived in Seattle while I was still in college. We were both in touring bands at that time and that’s how we met. After two years of having this very, very long distance relationship we decided to do something about that. Since my now-husband does not speak any German and wanted to go back to school, it seemed only fair to me to move overseas. We’ve been living and working in Los Angeles for four years now.
How did you start making illustrations, does it go back to your childhood?
Absolutely! My mom always talks about how it was easy for her to make me be quiet by handing me paper and crayons. I would draw for hours and hours and totally get lost in my own world. Later оn, my parents gave me oil and acrylic paint and I started painting. While they encouraged art as a hobby, being a professional artist wasn’t really supported by my family, mostly my father. He wanted me to do something more traditional. He thought I wouldn’t be able to make a living off my art, which is actually an understandable concern. Now they are totally into what I’m doing and I send packages full of records that I made the art for over to Germany regularly. I also think making album art is easier to grasp than just doing fine art. As of right now I mostly do photography and graphic design. I work at Southern Lord Recordings 4 days a week as art director and on the other 3 days I work as a freelance artist, which hardly leaves any time to illustrate or paint anymore.
Is it necessary for a young artist to have a relevant education or one can rely on talent only?
I think going to a good and renowned college is the way to go but I understand that is not affordable for everyone. College in Germany is free, so it’s easy for me to say that.
There are other ways though.
I always draw the connection to music and being a musician: еven someone who is incredibly musical needs to learn and practice their instrument(s).
That being said, I do believe that there are certain artists that can get away with just talent. I think very few will last over time, however, if they don’t know enough tools. I see it all the time. For example, if I meet a very talented photographer, way more talented than I am, and they hand me a self-designed business card and the typography and composition is totally off — that, in my opinion, is not something you can get away with.
You are doing album artwork, can you tell us more about the process of coming up with an idea? We guess that loving the band’s music is a must.
It certainly helps. I definitely think the more I like the music, the better is the visual outcome. I usually start with asking the band what they want because in the end I do commissioned work. For me that means that I weave my ideas together with the musician’s idea. Then, besides listening to their music, I ask for an album title. I really like to work with album/song titles and have them be reflected in the visual. Lyrics work great for that as well. I don’t want to just create a pretty picture: ideally, I want the artwork and the music to have a connection.
Which are the most inspiring projects you have worked on?
I can’t pinpoint it to a certain project — everything is so different every time. I can safely say that I like a challenge. Something I haven’t done before or an idea that’s new to me. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean smooth sailing is bad: it’s a very good thing, in fact. I need to have projects that go easy otherwise I would go nuts. I think a good mix is what keeps the inspiration up.
Can you list some of your favourite artists, as well as some up-and-coming ones that we need to check?
I like the paintings of Kay Sage and Rene Margritte. I love the music artwork of Hipgnosis and Storm Thorgerson. I really like the collages of Jim Harter. Cindy Sherman is probably my favorite photographer.
Even in art it is hard to get away from trends — what is trending now and what is going to be the next big thing?
I’m actually bad at predicting stuff. I’m so wrapped up in what I’m doing at the moment, I couldn’t even name a painter that is hot right now, let alone predict who or what is going to be the next big thing.
Which technique are you most comfortable with?
My techniques change quite often, which makes it hard to say. Sometimes I’m just experimenting and breaking things down, which I’m not sure are techniques. When working with Photoshop I often use tools in ways you’re not supposed to, this is where it gets most interesting for me. I also often use watercolor in my photos.
The States are a huge and competitive market. How does one stay relevant as an artist and does it get more and more difficult to have a “brand”?
It is difficult.
Those people that get popular overnight are probably a rare exception or they have a really good network of influential people who help pushing and promoting their stuff.
A few years back I got a fortune cookie and it said “be patient and optimistic.” I’m not superstitious or anything but I thought it was a good motto to live by as an aspiring artist. I still keep it in my wallet and try to remind myself of that every so often.
Apart from creating art, do you have any other hobbies?
I’m a singer and I love singing. I don’t know if I’m particularly good at it, but besides doing visual art it’s probably the thing that brings me the most joy. I always used to be in bands. I really miss playing live and being on tour, so I hope that’ll change next year.
For a long time I thought you had to be either/or, a fine artist or a computer artist. Sometimes people go “I do analog only” and in my head I go “wow, that sounds very limiting.” Not that there’s anything wrong with people who use just one medium at a time. Quite the contrary,
I like to explore everything and suck it all in. I’m then going to spit it out and whatever this is will probably have all colors of the spectrum.