Sam Marett in her studio, photographs by Isadora Pennington

The corner of a rather nondescript warehouse in West Midtown is positively pulsing with color. A long workspace and desk along one wall is home to artwork in various stages of completion. Bottles and tubes of paint stand at the ready. Music playing from a small bluetooth speaker fills the air with songs by a wide array of artists including Childish Gambino, Outkast, Lucius, Sammy Rae and the Friends, and Jungle and Queen. The couch just inside the open garage door has not escaped the reach of the artist’s brush. Swirls of color across its surface integrate it into the space.

This is the studio of painter Samantha Louise Marett. With infectious joy she greeted me enthusiastically at the front door and showed me around as she told me about the twelve other artists who have studios there. Her outfit and glasses – like her workspace – were colorful and vibrant. I later learned that she painted her coveralls herself.

Marett is an Atlanta native who recently moved back after a six year stint living and working on the sunny shores of San Diego, California. Her work hasn’t always been as bright and cheery as it appears today. That is at least in part due to the healing role of artwork in her life especially within the last few years.

Deep Blue Something, a series featuring fluid and amorphous shapes in soothing blue washes, is one of her most popular commissioned painting series. Marett developed the works while grieving the loss of one of her dearest friends, Gregory Pearson. “Grief kind of tore a hole in my heart in a way that I didn’t really understand that it could,” she told me. Working on these pieces helped her to move through the pain. 

“Whatever is speaking to me at the current time comes out,” Marett explained. In 2018, when she had a breakdown that she now lovingly refers to as ‘The Big Wakeup’ and was consequently diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, she began using her artwork and her platform as an artist to demystify the disorder and work through her own feelings. 

For Marett, bringing color to emotion is of the utmost importance. “Translating my emotions into colors and shapes, lines and textures, and moving anything that feels like stuck energy with my art is extremely cathartic.” Many of the stories she tells in her work are vulnerable and deeply personal such as We Lost Our House which was created in response to the loss of her childhood home when she was a teen.

“I don’t think that healing happens in a vacuum. You can only do so much healing on your own, and healing in community is such a beautiful process. I’ve done a lot of intense therapy and I’ve been really invested in working on myself and my art process over the years. It has been rocky and hard; living and working as an artist is not always easy and it can be difficult to live with the mental illness.”

Using heavy body acrylics, acrylic ink, high flow acrylics, matte medium, modeling paste, watercolors, pumice gel, and even San Diego’s sand mixed with modeling paste are what lend Marett’s work depth and body. “It is an experiment, I never know how it’s going to dry. Seeing how everything landed is always really exciting.” The process goes from loose and free to more meticulous and thoughtful as these multi-layered pieces come together. The finishing touches, such as her ‘happy dots’ add the perfect amount of whimsy and playfulness to the compositions.

Today, Marett’s art is mostly bright and colorful with shades that include a lot of pinks, yellows, and neons. “I’ve been in a really good, happy place since I got back from San Diego. I have a lot of coping mechanisms in my toolkit, and I have art as this healing and creative outlet. It’s something I’m so grateful for.” 

The majority of Marett’s works are available for sale on Instagram while on her website you can find clothing, bags, masks, and more that have been printed with her fun and vibrant designs. 

Isadora Pennington is a freelance writer and photographer based in Atlanta. She is the editor of Sketchbook by Rough Draft, a weekly Arts newsletter.