Creative people rarely have only one avenue for expressing their artistic talents. Samuel Fleming Lewis and Stephen Kladder were full-time interior designers and part-time exhibiting artists when they lived in San Francisco. After moving to Palm Springs, the partners flipped that equation and are now full-time artists who occasionally work with interior architecture and design clients.
In the process, they’ve also developed a concept that is unique to Palm Springs. Their open art studio — located in the Antique Galleries of Palm Springs collective — allows collectors to talk to the artists, watch art being made, view recently completed works, and purchase contemporary, original art all in one space.
“Before we knew each other, Stephen and I both began to purchase original art for our homes from artist studio/galleries or seasonal, open studio events,” says Lewis. “We saw the benefits of collecting this way as we formed a bond with both the art and the artist. Later, with our interior design clients, we would often visit seasonal, open studio events, or make appointments with artists to visit their studios to view and find original, local art.”
The couple also exhibited their own works in their interior design studios in San Francisco and had “unofficial open studio” events a few times a year to showcase new works. “We’ve both thought for more than a decade about having an open studio to create, exhibit, and sell our original art,” says Lewis. “Our Palm Springs studio allowed our idea to come to life.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY JIM POWERS
Samuel Fleming Lewis explains one of his pieces to a couple who visited the art studio.
It’s easy to see why their desert studio has become the couple’s creative hub. It’s a light-filled, loft-like space with an inspirational view of the mountains. It stands in stark contrast to the dark garage the couple worked in while living in San Francisco. The dramatic shift in their work environment has also transformed the art they create.
“The intensity of natural light allows colors to be fully experienced in the desert,” says Lewis. “I often think globally of hot climates while I’m creating art and I find that there is an unusual visual connection in pattern, form, and colors from hot locations. I don’t create art especially for the desert, but my creative process and interests are definitely influenced by where I live.”
“I’ve been drawn to nature all my life, and it naturally became an inspiration for my paintings,” adds Kladder. “Prior to moving to the desert, I painted a series of semi-surreal botanicals in acrylic on stretched canvas using the foliage and plants I observed in the parks and landscape in the city as my inspiration. After setting up our Palm Springs art studio, what developed from smaller, semi-surreal botanicals to larger, semi-surreal landscapes, began with the incorporation of texture —inspired by the textures, canyons, and fissures of the Palm Springs mountains and my exploration of increasingly bold and intense colors. [This] led to my current work of an almost Dada school of imagining horizon lines and landscapes and the exploration of perspective, blurring vista, and bird’s eye views.”
When they lived in San Francisco, artists Samuel Fleming Lewis and Stephen Kladder shared a studio in a dark garage. Their light-filled, loft-like studio in Palm Springs is now the couple’s creative hub and the dramatic shift in their work environment has also transformed the artwork they create.
Stephen Kladder, Birth (2018), acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48 inches: “Semi-surreal, apocalyptic landscape still holding out hope for a new horizon. A comment on the chaotic, mind-boggling, current political landscape.”
Samuel Fleming Lewis, Silver Screen 3 (2018), mixed media on canvas, 48 x 48 inches: “I often use pages from Warhol’s Interview as the foundation of my mixed media works. Here, the magazine’s bold graphics and photographs are painted with silver and neon colors to create my new Pop Art-inspired contemporary collage series.”
Both artists agree that a collector’s ability to interact with them can affect their appreciation, interest, and understanding of the artists’ work and the creation of artwork in general. “Making or creating art, or things, is something that is seldom seen,” says Lewis. “We want to lift the veil of mystery, and visiting our studio instantly shows our passion for art, our tools, our materials, our inspirations, and our artistic journey. When potential collectors meet and talk to us about our art it allows them to learn the creative process and perhaps see and feel new meaning in a work that they like.”
And it turns out some people like to do a bit more than talk. “It can be rather strange having people make suggestions or give advice on work while it’s in progress,” says Lewis. “The first time that happened I thought, ‘I don’t know if I like this.’ Then I realized, with an open studio this is what I signed up for. Once I remembered who the artist is — me — I got used to it and the interaction can be kind of fun.”
Samuel Fleming Lewis, Hand Drafting (2018), architectural drawings, Indigo Blue ink, graphite pencil, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 inches: “This work is a celebration of the lost art of hand drafting. My own graphite on vellum interior architectural drawings are superimposed by a tracing of my arms and hands.”
Stephen Kladder, Earth Currents (2018), acrylic on canvas, 48 x 60 inches: “Semi-surreal landscape reflective of the planet’s veins of life—volcanic lava flows, rivers, and waterfalls.”
Since they’re not always in the studio — which is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. — they’ve devised a color-coded pricing system to make the space an easy, simple place to shop for original art. “As far as we know, we are the only artists who work and sell in a space that is open daily,” says Lewis.
Prices for their work range from $150 to $1,500 (with no discounts). If two or more works are purchased at the same time the collector gets a 20 percent discount.