Like most illustrators, Samantha Weerawardane has been drawing since she could hold a crayon. At the tender age of ‘too young to understand what is or isn’t a socially acceptable canvas’, she began her artistic journey by adorning the pristine white walls of the family TV room with her art, which received mixed reviews at [...]


Pets and plants have stories to tell

From drawing on walls as a child, Samantha Weerawardane’s creative flair has come a long way with many of her illustrations and art work appearing on multiple platforms

Who stole the biriyani: A Twinky-inspired cartoon strip done during the Bawa workshop

Like most illustrators, Samantha Weerawardane has been drawing since she could hold a crayon. At the tender age of ‘too young to understand what is or isn’t a socially acceptable canvas’, she began her artistic journey by adorning the pristine white walls of the family TV room with her art, which received mixed reviews at the time.

Samantha: Donning several occupational hats

“After I drew a blue whale on it in ‘Ultramarine’, my dad explained to me that we could instead draw things on paper and then stick them on the wall. And so began my foray into rental-friendly art,” she says.

Since then, Sam has donned a variety of occupational hats throughout her life and worn them well, from a long-running career as a creative writer/copywriter to her self-professed favourite post as a radio personality on TNL, where she presented an alternative music show once a week for 13 years up until 2019.

How does one manage to stay so creatively diverse? “I think the secret is to just be a bit directionless for a few months and see where desperation gets you,” Sam says in all honesty.

Despite being known for her doodles and cartoons while growing up, and then graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design from Northumbria University in 2010, Sam found that she wasn’t able to do much drawing at all for a long time, other than a few one-off illustrations.

But when she took up the role of Visiting Lecturer, most recently at AOD, she was inspired by the “weird arty things” that came up when planning lessons, as well as the creativity of her students. The enriching experience allowed her to break through the creative block and get sucked back into the world of art and design.

Since then, Sam’s illustration and design work has appeared on multiple platforms. Some of her favourites that boosted her confidence as an illustrator include her illustrations for a story by Deshan Tennekoon for ThinkEqual, a personal project where she illustrated a storybook for her friend’s daughter, as well as quite a few projects during her time at the radio station.

Doggy muse: Her pet Twinky (inset) comes alive in many of her illustrations

These days, between lesson plans, lectures, and various consultancy work, Sam makes the time to just sit down and draw. As someone who likes the challenge of drawing living things, her favourite subjects are her plants and her dogs.

 “I see dogs as characters and anthropomorphise them in my mind for fun, even though they think very differently to us, of course,” she explains. She even found her muse in her dog Twinky, and has tried to capture her likeness over the years using various media and ended up creating a lot of artwork based on her shenanigans.

Just last month, Sam got the opportunity to combine her teaching skills with her love for illustrating doggie antics through the Geoffrey Bawa Trust, that contacted her about running a virtual workshop on ‘Illustrating Canine Personalities’ where attendees worked on creating their own short comic strip. Though she admits that the imposter syndrome made her hesitate, she had a great group to work with and felt it went well.

 “It was a workshop on how to draw out the character of your dog, so it was great fun getting everyone to share anecdotes about their pooches,” Sam explains, adding that through experience with virtual illustration workshops she incorporated things attendees might enjoy, like timed exercises, interaction and live demonstrations. Her own comic strip featured Twinky stealing her husband’s biriyani, based on a true story.

Sketches from Sam’s life: Her husband in “Crocs”, a crazy tuk ride and her growing passion

When Sam isn’t drawing her dogs, she dotes on them. And in between doing both of those, she focuses on her other (quite literally) growing obsession — namely her collection of indoor plants that are slowly taking over her house. Barring a few casualties (because who amongst us isn’t guilty of some criminally negligent plant slaughter) she enjoys watching how they grow and admires how their contrasting forms look next to each other.

 Though Sam isn’t quite sure if she has a consistent art style yet, her childhood influences have unequivocally had a massive impact on her. Inspired by the illustrations by Quentin Blake, Beatrix Potter and Maurice Sendak in children’s books, along with Disney’s classic 2D animation style, Sam has spent countless hours studying the details, trying to recreate facial expressions, and making up her own stories.

Even now, her idea of a fun Saturday night is popping on a true crime podcast and painting with actual paint, and is currently working on an acrylic painting inspired by the depth of texture that is characteristic of Shyama Golden’s work.

Sam’s illustrations, which she regularly posts on her Instagram page @3mongrels, are always received with a lot of joy, as the comments can attest to. “I try to make people laugh or at least smile, mostly because of Facebook’s ‘Memories’ feature,” she tells us, adding that she enjoys sharing the amusing, thoughtful or heart-warming posts that pop up, and believes this translates into her drawings.

As the popularity of her work continues to grow, Sam appreciates that none of this artistic exploration would have happened if it wasn’t for her extremely supportive mum, her dad (who she says is the real artist of the family disguised as a banker), as well as her husband, a talented artist and designer in his own right, “who always cheers me on and helps me overcome my silly moments of self-doubt” and is forever immortalised in her cartoons through cameos of his “grotesque Crocs.”

Currently, one of Sam’s pieces is purchasable on The Local Forecast’s website to raise funds for COVID-19 relief. The rest of her work is regularly updated to her Instagram account @3mongrels.

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