We came across his work the other night when we were at The Pull & Pump near Churchill Square. Two quite unusual illustrations of a human molar, one transformed into a skull, the other one rather colorful. The man behind these illustrations is Sam ‘Molar’ John. We met him and asked what it is about teeth that fascinates him so much!
Having grown up in a little town in the midlands, Sam first stayed in his home area to study Graphic Design before moving to London where he entered an Illustration and Animation course at Kingston University.
For the 25-year-old illustrator, it was more or less clear from the beginning that he would get into arts. “I come from a family of artists and creatives. It’s always been around me and I have always taken a huge interest in it”, explains Sam.
Having finished his degree in London roughly two years ago, Sam finally moved down to Brighton, a place that was well-known to him before. “Whenever I would visit, I would have the best time and I always thought it had a really nice vibe. I have also always enjoyed how creative it is”, remembers the artist his early visits in the city.
Although he is a fully trained and passionate illustrator, he can’t just rely on his illustration works, at least not yet. As he tells us, he has always supported his art with bar work. At the moment, he is doing shifts at the Pull & Pump. That’s how his works ended up on the pub’s wall.
When he is not working at the bar, Sam works on his molar illustrations, a quite unusual motive as one might think, but for him, it was a choice out of interest: “I really enjoy anatomy, so I have always found teeth interesting.” The illustrator has even created his own brand, called ‘Molar’, selling t-shirts, stickers, badges and prints.
But there is more than Sam’s interest in anatomy behind his teeth illustrations and the slogan “for people with teeth or without teeth” he uses to advertise his brand. In fact, it was a bad personal experience that triggered off the molar trend in his work.
“I had a disagreement with some young men in greater London. The result of this was that my front teeth got shattered by a bottle. The trouble this caused inspired me to really put some time into creating lots of different teeth inspired by many different areas of life. I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Ideally, I want a big library of surreal molars!”, Sam jokes.
Luckily the illustrator didn’t take his damaged teeth too hard and can continue smiling, although at first, this wasn’t the case as he admits. “At first, I didn’t always smile because it was quite painful. But now I try to stay positive, I wouldn’t get anything done if I let things like that keep me down”.
Positive thinking, that is what Sam has learned from this experience, a message he wants to give to everyone being in the same situation as himself: “You can keep smiling even if that smile is broken!” The illustrator says his molar works are his way of turning this negative experience into something positive.
Although the molars definitely are Sam’s favorite and although he is looking to get them out into many more places all over Brighton, his illustrations are not only teeth related. On his website where he has published his personal works as well as the commissions he has done so far, you can also find other illustrations such as a punk cockatoo or an illustration of Theresa May in form of a vulture.
“The categories for my personal work give an insight into my interests. I’m a big fan of nature and not a fan of many politicians”, he comments on this last illustration. Other than ‘Theresa Prey’, as he titled his creation, the artist has also had a take on America’s new President Trump. The message behind his politically motivated illustrations is quite clear:
“I find it hard to trust a lot of politicians because they will lie to you so that you think they are helping. But in fact, all they do is help themselves. I make political illustrations to humanize the politicians who think they are better than us. A lot of them seem to forget that they are just human and will live and die like the rest of us!”
Other than the inspiration he gets from politicians mistaking their mandates for divinity, the bartender/illustrator likes to focus on what he calls “the marks and stains we see throughout our daily lives” and tries to incorporate that in his works.
“If I see an exciting reaction between two elements, I will try and recreate that process. Within my work, I try to mimic textures through a variety of techniques. I put a lot of physical energy into my illustrations and then I bring it all together through collage.”
The results of this interesting working process are on display at The Pull & Pump near Churchill Square, at the Brush hair studio in North Laine and at Studio 45 at The Old Market.