Different Strokes - An Interview With Sam Edwards

When someone sees my football related artwork I want them to connect with it, to know it. Beyond this though, I like people to relate to my creation, to recognise the environment in front of them and (hopefully) ignite some sort of emotional connection.
— Sam Edwards

Interview by J.S. Leatherbarrow

What do you get when you mix art and football?

Normally you’d say something like “Johan Cruijff” or “Eric Cantona” in reply.

Meet Sam Edwards. Artist. Football lover. A man who is doing exactly this - merging the two spheres together.

He is glorious vinyl analogue in a digital world - and yet works quickly in a risky medium. I like this kind of fearlessness. He is passionate about exploring working class culture through art - much like one of his idols - L.S. Lowry. Football has always been such a huge part of this - perhaps it was inevitable that he would end up here.

I get this. I grew up in a council house & football was life. Our artists growing up were people like Paul Gascoigne, Eric Cantona & Ronaldo. I love seeing the romance of the game expressed through creative mediums. We need story-tellers, now more than ever, in an increasingly monochromatic, stats-driven game. It breaks my heart to see this beautiful thing reduced to nothing more than a series of numbers.

And so Sam Edwards is a perfect tonic for this. I spoke with him about how he came to paint football. The crowds. The passion. The glory. The romance.

Analogue? Fuck yes.

FATC: What inspired you to combine art and football?

SE: Ever since I can remember I have been drawing and ever since I can remember I have been into football, both of these. I would consider them to be my two main passions in life.

I’m a bit of a football romantic and I’ve always loved the atmosphere at football and the rivalry created by the fans as well as the pre-match build up. Ever since my first proper experience of live football stepping out into White Hart Lane in the 90s to watch us scrape a hard fought draw against Leicester, hearing the roar of the crowd, there was nothing else quite like it. Magic.

I have only recently (in the last year or two) begun working on the football ground drawings and I wish I had started earlier. Life moves in mysterious way (I think the saying goes), and strangely enough I found myself at a Mansfield Town game having recently moved to the area. I took a few photos from behind the goal where I was sitting and one stuck out to me; on old bloke in a flat cap sitting in front of me ready to watch his team play Accrington Stanley on a drizzly November afternoon. I’m not sure what it was about it but I had to paint it.

I posted it to Social Media and got a decent reception from the fans of the club. I think that as a football fan and a creative, there’s not much better feeling than something you’ve made being enjoyed by people that love their club, very satisfying.

Next stop was the City ground, for a Forest FA cup match against Stoke in a night game. Again I took a photo from the stands, making sure that the fans were in view and went on to paint it, posting it to Twitter where, to my delight, FATC picked up on it and got in touch…and here we are. I have just finished one of Charlton and have more in the pipeline.

FATC: What common ground have you found between the medium and the subject?

SE: I’m not sure the medium and the subject matter have any particular common ground; I just like to work in watercolour as a preference. It makes me work quickly and can’t make many mistakes, so I enjoy the challenge. I can also be a bit impatient so don’t like to wait around. Aesthetically, I think black ink with watercolour is a brilliant mix for this type of work, nothing like a bold line on a watercolour painting to bring it to life.

FATC: Who are your main artistic influences or inspirations?

SE: Quite a few have influenced me, in particular; L.S Lowry with his dreamlike stick men scenes in their brutal industrial settings; George Shaw’s contemporary painting of housing estates; Grayson Perry’s work depicting social classes on big tapestries have always been a favourite of mine. Anything with a bit of grit and with a story, basically.

FATC: What are you trying to capture in the game through your creations?

SE: An atmosphere and familiarity that people (in this case football fans) can relate to. For me, the fans are the most important part of the beautiful game, as without fans coming through the gates every weekend, a club would cease to exist. When someone sees my football related artwork I want them to connect with it, to know it. Beyond this though, I like people to relate to my creation, to recognise the environment in front of them and (hopefully) ignite some sort of emotional connection.

FATC: What would you consider success through your work? And furthermore - what are your plans, longer term, for your art?

In the modern world, success in the arts is measured through social media interest, so I think there is certain amount of 'success' in online popularity. Obviously I want people to like what I create when it’s posted online, not just to please myself, but also to gauge someone else's interest, get them relating to it. I would also see success to be consistently creating work that I enjoy, and if I can do this and leave something for the world to see then I would consider myself a success.

The next steps are to continue down the football route, a book of my work is definitely on the cards, so that would be a great thing for me to achieve; maybe even the 92 grounds...or more. The dream is to be illustrating full time, its a tough and competitive world out there - but you've got to keep at it to stand a chance!

FATC: If you could have one player or manager sit for you - from the entire history of the game - who would it be?

SE: David Ginola, with the old hair do! It would be worth it...

Interview by J.S. Leatherbarrow. Original artwork by Sam Edwards, cover artwork by FATC - all rights reserved

J.S. Leatherbarrow