Samantha Williams-Chapelsky — Artist in Residence

7 min readFeb 27


“Deep down inside, every artist knows what they’re good at and where to push it.”

Meet Samantha Williams-Chapelsky, this month’s Artist in Residence.

From her studio in St. Albert, AB, Samantha works with acrylic paints to produce large-scale abstractions exploring emotions found in the untouched landscapes of Western Canada. We spoke about the magic of human-free spaces, trusting your artistic voice, and finding calm in atypical rituals.

Imprimo: You’re answering me from your studio in St. Albert. What’s your view like?

Samantha Williams-Chapelsky: It’s a basement, it’s cold, and there’s very little natural light.

I: Some artists think creating a space of complete emptiness makes it easier to tap into their creativity. Do you prefer working with minimal distractions, and has this led you to choose basement studios?

SW-C: I’ve worked in a lot of different studio spaces, including shared spaces during my time at university and when doing residencies. But I prefer working alone with minimal distractions. A basement studio isn’t especially pretty or clean, and I’ve always sort of resented spaces that are too clean. I don’t feel like I can create my best work in them, I’m too nervous about it.

I: What was the “moment of no return” for you, when pursuing a career in art? That tipping point where you knew it was what you were going to do professionally, and that there was no looking back?

SW-C: When I was applying to university, I had two options: engineering and fine arts. I was accepted to both programs and had to make a decision. My mom sat me down and said “Why don’t you try something you love first? You can always go back to engineering if you want to. But why don’t you just see where this goes, because if you don’t at least try, you’ll never know what could happen.”

And I think that’s always led me to believe that, if I didn’t try with every inch of my being to pursue this passion to its fullest extent, then I’d always wonder if I’d have made it into something amazing had I pushed just a little bit further. And now there’s no turning back. I’m in it for the marathon race that it is, and wouldn’t change anything.

We watch the rising sun
Samantha Williams-Chapelsky, 2022

I: In looking at your work, there’s a recurring theme of space and your position within it. You describe yourself as a Western Canadian artist. I think that influence comes through in the vast, dreamlike landscapes depicted in your work. Can you tell me more about how you arrived at this vision?

SW-C: I actually started out as a figurative painter during my time at university, where I created a lot of pieces featuring nude figures within spaces that were quite similar to what I depict in my current work. And I noticed throughout the years, the figures kept getting smaller and smaller and kept becoming less and less relevant to the whole piece. Instead, I became increasingly drawn to natural spaces that were untouched by human influence. Luckily, my province, as well as other areas in BC, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, have so many vast spaces that have no human element to them, and I live for those spaces because they just feel so empty. There’s absolutely nothing there, and I find so much magic in that.

I: You’ve built a following on Instagram, posting frequently and selling your work on the platform. Do you feel that social media has influenced your artistic practice beyond its use as a business tool?

SW-C: The art world isn’t what it used to be — it’s not a case of getting one gallery and being set for life. Whether you’re an emerging artist or a mid-career artist, the onus is on you, to get yourself out there and to get noticed. In order for this career to work for me, I’ve had to develop a multifaceted approach to being a working artist, and Instagram is part of that.

Early in my career, I got this great quote from an artist who was friends with one of the Group of Seven. She said to me, “Paint what you love first, then the sales will come.” At the time I resented her, thinking, “I just want to make money from this,” but when I thought about it more, I realized she was probably right. The abstracted landscapes were not my most popular works in the beginning. People didn’t seem to connect with them. And that was interesting because I knew those were the best ones.

So I think I think as much as Instagram gives you the likes and the comments and all this immediate feedback, you have to take it with a grain of salt because deep down inside, every artist knows what they’re good at and where to push it. I would be lying if I said Instagram wasn’t a big part of my career. It has made my job and my work more noticed across the board and though it’s a great tool, it’s ultimately just a tool.

Fait Accompli
Samantha Williams-Chapelsky, 2022

I: What artist, living or dead, would you most like to meet for coffee?

SW-C: She didn’t like a lot of people — and I think she would absolutely hate me — but I would love to have met Georgia O’Keeffe. I admire her so much, and she has been such a strong influence on me for the past few years.

I think it’s incredible how successful she was in the male-dominated art industry, especially at a time when female artists were not widely recognized. There’s a new retrospective of her work in New York this year that recognizes her as a key figure in the expressionistic art movement. So I would love to meet her. But yeah, I think she’d hate me.

I: {Laughs} Why do you think she would hate you? Is it something personal, or was she just a notoriously prickly character?

SW-C: On her property in New Mexico, she had a house for her guests. And her house was separate. She was in a wholly different area of the property, so she wouldn’t have to be around her guests for too long. She had these dogs that were notorious for biting people, and she loved these dogs, and everyone just had to kind of deal with it. And I love that. That’s gonna be me when I’m older.

I: Maybe that speaks to your attraction to these human-free spaces!

SW-C: I’m an only child too. We tend to be a little bit more solitary.

I: Is there an unlikely skill you’ve acquired in service of your art?

S-WC: Definitely my overall business acumen. In University, I learned how to do web design, networking, promotion… All of these things that I didn’t think would be taking up 75% of my time, but are. You learn a lot by dealing with this as a business. And I know a lot of people don’t see it as that but it definitely is. It’s no different than any other business.

I can see light
Samantha Williams-Chapelsky, 2022

I: What is the last gallery you visited?

SW-C: Peter Robertson gallery in Edmonton. It’s a really good gallery, one of the few that’s remained in Edmonton. I wanted to see one of my favorite Saskatchewan artists, he’s a clay sculptor named Victor, and he does these beautiful little ceramic jars of preserves. They’re very, very Saskatchewan, which I think is phenomenal, and they’re just beautiful. I bought one, and I love it.

I: Our last two questions are from Imprimo’s previous Artist in Residence, Denise Tierney. First question: “Do you work in silence? If not, what is going on around you?”

S-WC: So I don’t work in silence. I work with music, as most artists do. However, when I’m creating a painting, usually from start to finish, that painting needs to be done to the same song. So if the painting is done over an eight-hour session, that same song is on repeat.

I: Is it the same song every time or does it change?

SW-C: A different song every time and I don’t usually go back to the same song ever again. It varies from folk music to classical to pop music. There’s no telling which song it is. But yeah, for some odd reason, that’s the way I’ve always worked. My brain doesn’t really even acknowledge it anymore; I find it calming. Working that way has inspired some of the best pieces that I’ve done. It’s a weird practice, but that’s what I do.

I: Last question: “What is the last book about art you read?”

SW-C: I’m a strong believer in reading about art. Two that have been influential for me are “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, which is about accepting yourself as an artist and embracing the struggles that come with it, and “How to Be an Artist” by Jerry Saltz, a weird, strange man who is now a top art critic despite admittedly in his own art career. I recommend them to anyone looking to advance their artistic career. Those two are great, but I’ve got tons of art books that I’ve been going through.




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