A ceramist, a potter or a painter are names one would call Andrew Sampson but ‘Samo’ as he’s often called sees himself as an artist who can master all that he endeavours.
His work covers painting, ceramics and graphic design. Although Andrew has been doing art professionally for 12 years now, he remembers well the formative years that led him to where he is now.
“I’ve been drawing since nursery school and my nursery school teacher, Monette Lewong, would always say ‘Andrew you’re good at art, keep drawing.’ When my mother came to the school she’d tell her to keep encouraging me. Then when I attended Soesdyke Primary, during phonics the teacher would draw an object, a fruit or plant; any object before writing the name under it. Only seven years old at that time, I was tasked with drawing the objects,” Andrew said.
For the next few years he was a favourite and recalls designing the different blackboards for upcoming Christmas parties, with drawings of Christmas trees, candy canes, stars and Santa Claus among other seasonal things. His final two years in primary school boiled down to less art and more school work as he prepared for Common Entrance. However upon graduating primary school he was awarded ‘Best Art Student’.
He gained a place at Alleyne’s High School in Georgetown. “Attending Alleyne’s I don’t think I lived up to my potential there. It was challenging to recognize one’s potential. You didn’t have the materials or facilities. But Mr Brian Elcock was our art teacher at that time and he tried grooming five of us in the art department. …only one of us took up art. He was one of the first persons to encourage me to attend Burrowes School of Art,” Andrew said.
“Art to me is life. Art brings meaning to everything around you. Art is a way people can express themselves. Art tells your story. If a child is crying and you give that child a crayon and say put how you feel on this paper; they’d draw it. They’d also use colours that identify their emotions,” he added.
“Burrowes is where I found myself. I saw all of my potential. I discovered everything,” Andrew told The Scene. “That was where I launched out. When you’re interacting with other students it helps you to see what you’re missing. Burrowes was my stepping stone. My biggest challenge attending there though was finance. It was difficult many times to be travelling from Soesdyke every day and back. It was, however, a great experience …. Interacting with others helped me to see the other aspects of art. But you always try to be the best. Everybody wants to be the best so you always want to come out on top.
“There were times when Ms Josefa Valz [a teacher at Burrowes] told us to take a break and walk around and see the others work. We’d sit on stools or what we’d call ‘donkeys’ in front of our easels and paint a still life object, maybe a bowl of fruits or a model posing for us. When we’d take a break we’d be anxious to see if other persons were better. Sometimes she told them to come take a look at Sampson’s work. She used to always tell me, ‘Don’t be a Jack of all trades and master of none’. But I didn’t just want to master painting. I wanted to be an artist. If somebody asks me to touch up a sign or draw an individual sitting or make something, I must be able to do it.
“During the first two years at Burrowes we touched on about 12 subject areas but in the final year we were only allowed to specialize in two. It was challenging during the final year because we were working day-in/day-out to prepare for graduation, exams and reviews. Another challenge was having batch mates steal your ideas, but you’ve always got to stay a step ahead.
“…They gave you a whole long list to finish for graduation and graduation is like two months away and you’ve got to get it done. So there have been times when you’re up all night working on something and then the sun comes up.
“Another teacher who was always behind me was Ms Volda Ramsammy. She was always this teacher who’d come to a few of us and give us extra lessons so whenever I needed a little help, I’d go find her.”
Andrew was the Best Graduating Student of 2008. He majored in ceramics and minored in graphic design and was presented with a token by the school for ‘Best Graphic Design Student’.
He said he was inspired by seeing a former teacher work. “When OJ [Oliver Smith] works he has such great composure. He always seems laid back not just in his art but his life as well. He’s not this boastful type. If you’re doing portrait you’ve got to be really good because any slight mistake can be picked up but he’s very good at it. Another inspiration would be Guyanese famous artist, Professor Stanley Greaves. When you look at his work you see a story. His art goes really deep. You may look at his work and wonder what he’s really painted. Although you can tell what it looks like, you’ll stand therestaring and wondering what it really means but many times when you do grasp the meaning you realize there couldn’t have been a better way to put it over.”
For some time, Andrew designed banners and logos for companies like Digicel, Banks DIH and Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry.
He left Guyana and for over six years, taught ceramics and art in the British Virgin Islands. He taught from children as little as three years old up to adults. During that time also he managed a gallery and did art sales.
In 2014, he returned to Guyana to participate in the Guyana National Art Competition and Exhibition. Although he didn’t place he did qualify to make the wall. His paintings were exhibited at the National Art Gallery, Castellani House. Later, he participated in the Creativity Art Festival in the British Virgin Islands.
“A challenge faced is some of these big artists not allowing the younger artists to share the spotlight. They’re not giving younger artists a chance. Yes, we appreciate their encouragement and advice but we’d also appreciate to have that push from them,” he said.
“Another challenge… is exposure. Ministries and these other influential persons in society can also help by purchasing our work. We need them to advertise our work in their buildings and offices. Take our pieces and put them up in your buildings.
“I believe if Guyana should have a cruise ship terminal it will boost not just tourism but also the art arena. When these tourists come off these ships they go looking for museums and art galleries. These tourists crave art. When I was in BVI somebody saw a painting and asked ‘who did this? You did this?’ Then they asked for a picture with me and asked me to autograph it after.
That’s how it was. They were always asking about my work whether it be a painting or ceramics. So having cruise ships come is one way of boosting the art industry.”
It has been just two months since the artist returned and he said it’s his love for Guyana that brought him back. Currently he works from home but plans to open a studio. His business ‘Craftech’ takes care of paintings, creating logos on t-shirts, banners, personalizing gift sets, tinting and vinyl decal, glass engraving and etching, signboards, and ceramics.
Once his studio is finished Andrew hopes he can include a library where children from the nearby schools and other interested persons can research the history of art and our beloved country. This will be a free service he’ll render to his community, in what he says is part of giving back.
His free time would see him indulging in hobbies such as photography, travelling, site seeing, singing and discovering and experimenting on computers and other gadgets.
“I want to be successful in my business and become an art teacher before eventually pursuing becoming an art professor; that is my dream,” he said.
Andrew expects to participate in this year’s National Art Competition and Exhibition; an event that is hosted every two years.