Sam Kearney

Sam Kearney is an illustrator who makes clothes. She makes illustrations that combine her love for nature and pop culture.Once the illustration is made she prints them up on t-shirts, stickers, and patches. Each design helps out a different eco-non-profit! Sam lives in Asheville where she works hard at building her business Fox & Fir Design

photos by: Chelsea Lane Photography

How did you get started? With art in general? I really loved watching Saturday Morning Cartoons and drawing along. By the time I hit middle school, my sketchbooks were filled with drawings of Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z characters.

With this iteration of my art, it actually came at a time where I was the lowest. I had just dissolved my carbon-neutral web design business and felt incredibly lost. After picking up a job at the screen printing shop, I was asked when I was gonna finally make a shirt. I NEVER thought about printing my stuff before, but decided to give it a shot! The first design was the Bee Mandala, which helps out the Honeybee Conservancy and their Sponsor-a-Hive program.

Is it your full-time gig? Not yet, but Iʼm hopeful that April is the month that it happens. Until then I work part-time as an office manager for Asheville Screen Printing.

What is your morning practice? It starts out with a brief but brisk walk around the block with my dog. Then itʼs 10 minutes on the yoga mat. I mean, it might just be 10 minutes of corpse pose, but Iʼm on the mat and thatʼs what counts. After that, I like to dive into a 5 minute daily guided meditation (highly recommend Simple Habit), and then turn on my laptop for a nice, healthy brain dump.

Why did you choose illustration?Is it cliché to say it chose me? Haha, Iʼm not gonna say that because honestly I really like illustration. It brings me a lot of joy. In fact, I used to get in trouble in art classes for my style being “too cartoony” and that Iʼd never find success as an artist with my approach. Now I sell cartoony shirts off of a folding table, so whoʼs successful now? Haha.

How long have you been doing your work? Oh my, well, professionally just a couple of years, but Iʼve been a doodler all of my life!

Here you can create the content that will be used within the module.

“I used to get in trouble in art classes for my style being ‘too cartoony’ and that Iʼd never find success as an artist with my approach. Now I sell cartoony shirts off of a folding table, so whoʼs successful now? Haha.”

Favorite tools, materials, or gadgets? 1. Adobe Illustrator/Photoshop (but mainly Illustrator) 2. Wacom Intuos Drawing Tablet 3. Pencil and sketchbook 4. Shopify (artists who sell online! If youʼre not using Shopify, youʼre robbing yourself of some pretty sweet tools to help build your online sales) and 5. My bullet journal (which is a Leuchtturm1917, some Sharpie pens, some pastel highlighters, and a pack of Steadtler Fineliners).

What do you most love about illustration? I love the freedom it offers. You can illustrate and hone in all of the details of a subject, getting it as close to real life as possible. You can reduce it to a handful of lines and a couple of colors. You can shift the proportions, add in elements that werenʼt there, flatten it, bring it off the page, whatever you want!

Biggest lesson learned so far? It’s never that serious.

Where do you turn for inspiration and/or how do you stay inspired? I find inspiration everywhere! Certain social media platforms like Instagram and Reddit, books, movies, music videos, games, walking around in nature, walking around the city. Itʼs almost easier to say where I donʼt find inspiration (the DMV, maybe?).

What is your daily routine? Once the morning routine is finished, Iʼll get some water, say good morning to my partner, and dive into some daily admin (inbox zero, Instagram engagement, logging expenses, gathering any items to ship out). Once the boring stuff is out of the way, I like to dive back into something more fun, like sketching out new ideas, or strumming (horribly) on the ukulele. If no one is home, Iʼll sing for a bit, it really gets my blood flowing, releases any lingering tension, and psyches me up for the rest of the day!

What do you want to say to the world with your art? That itʼs okay to be nerdy and stupidly optimistic, and can make a difference by putting yourself out there and sharing your passion with others. Yes, environmental matters are looking a bit bleak, but itʼs not going to change if we resign to what is. We can always make it better, in even the smallest of ways.

How do you stay focused in a world of the internet, social media, and other distractions? Itʼs a challenge! But Iʼll turn my phone on “do not disturb”, try to disconnect from the internet when Iʼm working exclusively in art programs, but lately itʼs just ignoring that those distractions exist for now, knowing that I can fully indulge in them when the work is done.

How do you deal with the ebbs and flows of creativity? Donʼt. Stop. Creating. Seriously, that old saying of “inspiration finds you working” is so true it hurts. Some of my best ideas have come out of doodling because I told myself to do it. Most of my forced sketches suck, donʼt get me wrong! Whatʼs nice about working when uninspired is that it usually ends up inspiring me and pushing me into a completely unexpected direction. I mean, worst thatʼs gonna happen is you up your skills in the meantime.

How do you share your work? Mostly online. Instagram has been a huge avenue to share my work and get to talk with fans and other creators. Iʼve also got a Facebook page and website, but letʼs be honest, do it for the ‘gram haha!

What’s hardest for you about sharing your work? Are people gonna get it? Will they look at it and nod along, or think itʼs too weird, childish, boring, or just like everything else out there.

What makes it easier? People coming out of the woodwork and saying literally the opposite of my fears, people getting it, enjoying it, sharing it with their friends. Itʼs the most wonderfully supportive feeling!

How do you get creatively unstuck? Drugs. No no no, Iʼm just kidding! Seriously, Iʼll walk away, either figuratively or literally. If Iʼm flooring the gas and just spinning tires in the mud, what good is going to come from continuing to floor it? Itʼs just gonna deplete me. So Iʼll do something else for a little bit and come back.


“Donʼt. Stop. Creating. Seriously, that old saying of ‘inspiration finds you working’ is so true it hurts.

Best advice received? Lean into what makes you happy, and the rest will fall into place.

What do you hold as true? You really get what you put out there. So if you believe in community and building each other up, youʼll never feel as though youʼre in competition. If you believe that everyone is out for themselves, maybe take a beat and look inward.


What do you do when life gets hard (to make it less hard)? Thereʼs a great line from a show I love dearly (Firefly), “This is only a moment in time”. Life gets hard, itʼs part of the deal. If I can remember that itʼs not gonna be this way forever, that itʼs just a moment in time, itʼs a lot easier to get through.

What books do you turn to for inspiration? I love the worlds that Christopher Moore creates. I also love craft books. Currently Iʼm grazing through A Book That Takes Its Time, which is all about luxuriating in the creative process.



What makes you laugh out loud? Fail videos, Vines (RIP), memes, my dog failing to fetch the ball every. single. time. I find a lot of things funny, even when I maybe probably shouldnʼt.

Five interesting facts about you? 

  • 1. Karaoke is one of my favorite ways to blow off steam.
  • 2. While I love coffee, I rarely drink it, instead of saving it so itʼs like a superpower up when I finally indulge in all of its bitter, caffeinated glory.

  • 3. Iʼm originally from the Jersey shore, but have lived all over the east coast.
  • 4. I deal with anxiety and depression on the daily, thanks to my atypically formulated brain meats.

  • 5. I love ginger anything! Ginger beer, gingerbread, ginger people, all of it!

If you had a tattoo on your forehead what would it say? Beauty fades, dumb is forever (itʼs okay, Iʼve got a big forehead).

How do you take risks in your art? Itʼs a risk to put out anything thatʼs a reference to some other body of work, because people havenʼt always consumed the same media as others. So when people donʼt get it I totally understand. When people do get it though, itʼs the best feeling in the world!

What’s the next step/level/leap for you in your work? Well now that Iʼve got some acrylics and canvases, Iʼm going to be working on a passion project involving recreating paintings from some of my favorite cartoons (think the Invader Zim green monkey, or the Sad Crying Clown in an Iron Lung from Rockoʼs Modern Life).

Evening ritual? Oh yeah, the last slice of bread for this ritual sandwich. I like to engage in a daily writing prompt (loving the ones from Journey Books), prep my lunch for the next day, brush my teeth, and then my partner and I give each other a nice relaxing massage to help wind down. If itʼs a particularly challenging day, Iʼll draw an almost unbearably hot bath, light some candles, and put on a chill beats station while turning into a prune. Iʼve been trying to read actual books before bed, instead of scrolling on my phone, but sometimes Iʼm a flawed human that just wants to fall asleep reading the RuPaulʼs Drag Race subreddit, okay!

Your advice? Donʼt take advice from fools! (Itʼs me, Iʼm the fool).


“You really get what you put out there. So if you believe in community and building each other up, youʼll never feel as though youʼre in competition.