The Q&A: Sam Kalda

By Peggy Roalf   Monday July 31, 2017

Q: Originally from South Dakota, what are some of your favorite things about living and working in Greenpoint, Brooklyn?

A: The number of artists and designers in the neighborhood is incredible. I live on a busy street that is always bustling with shoppers and deliveries---there are a lot of dollar stores and thrift shops, which are fun to explore.

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between art you create on paper [or other analog medium] versus in the computer?

A: I do, though it’s often filled with thumbnails and lists/notes. I go through phases of keeping more of a “proper” sketchbook. In general, the sketchbooks lead to ideas for paintings and drawings. That personal work feeds my commissioned work, which is mostly digital.


Q: What is the most important item in your studio?

A: Probably my bookshelf. I’m a book lover and ephemera collector, so it serves as a bit of a cabinet of curiosities. It’s a great place to find inspiration.

Q: How do you know when the art is finished?

A: Often it’s hard to tell! Very infrequently, a piece reaches a comfortable, natural conclusion, but most often, it’s ambiguous. That’s why deadlines are useful.

Q: What was your favorite book as a child?

A: I loved The Three Little KittensandThe Headless Horseman Rides Tonight when I was very young. When I was a bit older, The Hobbit.

Q: What is the best book you’ve recently read?

A: I’m currently reading and enjoying The Memory Palace: A Book of Lost Interiors by Edward Hollis.


Q: If you had to choose one medium to work in for an entire year, eliminating all others, what medium would you

A: Yarn. I started rug hooking this past year and have become kind of obsessed with textiles. I’d like to experiment with larger tapestries.

Q: What elements of daily life exert the most influence on your work practice?

A: I like to read in the morning and have a couple cups of coffee before I head to the studio. It’s been very difficult not to be bogged down by the news lately, so I try to wait to listen to the radio until after I start working. If I’m writing, I like to work from home.

Q: What was the [Thunderbolt] painting or drawing or film or otherwise that most affected your approach to art?

A: I remember seeing a show of Neo Rauch paintings at the Met years ago and was so drawn to the narrative quality in them. I had been painting and sculpting abstractly until that point, so it was a pivoting point really. Reading Maira Kalman helped me think more broadly about what an illustrated book could be.

Q: Who was the [Thunderbolt] teacher or mentor or visiting artist who most influenced you early in your training or career?

A: My design professor freshman year of college had a huge effect on me. I’ve had many important teachers and artists I’ve been lucky enough to work with, but she really changed the way I thought about seeing. She had a curiosity about the world of ideas that was so contagious.

Q: What would be your last supper?

A: A selection of chocolate chip cookies. Soft, chewy, maybe some oatmeal, but absolutely no raisins.


Sam Kalda is an illustrator currently living in Brooklyn. His first book, “Of Cats and Men: History’s Great Cat-loving Artists, Writers, Thinkers and Statesmen,” was published by Ten Speed Press this past April. His work has been exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Berlin and London. Clients include The New York Times, Penguin Random House, West Elm,, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, among others. His work has been recognized by American Illustration and has received a gold medal from The Society of Illustrators.
Instagram: sam_kalda
Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend Talk: Furry Friends Welcome Info
Panel discussion with Gemma Correll and Aaron Meshon, moderated by Debra Ziss.
Time: Wednesday, Sept. 13th from 7-8:30pm
Location: Grumpy Bert, 82 Bond St., Brooklyn, NY  Info


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