New Friends: Esther Samuels-Davis and “The Feel Good Gods”

New Friends: Esther Samuels-Davis and “The Feel Good Gods”

We’re getting ready for our July exhibitions including “Growing Under” with new works by Esther Samuels-Davis (Berlin) and Lea Zalinskis (Oakland). Even though Esther cannot make it across the pond this month, we wanted to get to know her better through some questions about herself, the Berlin art scene, her project “Feel Good Gods”, and the “Pussycat, NV” show in September.

ALANA BERGLUND: Tell us a bit about yourself: where you’re from, where you live now, and what you like to do.

ESTHER SAMUELS-DAVIS: I’m from a small town in upstate New York called Catskill, which is next to the Catskill mountain range. When I was 17 I went to art school in Oakland, California and worked there as a letterpress printer for four years after finishing a degree in printmaking. In 2013 I moved to Berlin, Germany and after trying out a silly amount of jobs, focused all my attention on illustration which has been my ultimate goal from the beginning…of time.  Besides drawing I have to say one of my favorite things is a good chat and a beer. Also dancing like a lunatic hahah

AB: Generally, what are some influences that drive your work?

ESD: I have always been really influenced by picture books and old art. I grew up across the river from the house of Frederic Church, a Hudson River school painter from the 1800’s, and I always feel like I have his paintings in the back of my brain. My mom collected an array of incredibly illustrated kids books so they were a huge part of my visual childhood- especially Chris Van Allsburg and Maurice Sendak. My bible growing up was Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee – in my opinion at age 10- ‘the real book of faeries- not that cutsie stuff.’ 😉 Humor and storytelling wise I think I was heavily influenced by Bread and Puppet theater and the Muppets.

AB: So how is the Berlin art scene? Do you think there are ample opportunities for emerging artists there? Women artists?

ESD: I’m not sure if it’s just the point in life that I’m at, but I’ve found the Berlin art scene incredibly welcoming and motivational. People seem really up for collaboration, and the more little things you’re part of the more people you meet and opportunities you find. It’s been a lot easier here for me to join and find art/critique groups and be part of group shows, markets and pop up shops. The one downside is that it can be harder to sell here than in the U.S. As for being a female artist, I have to say that a large majority of the people I work with are women. I’ve been in two group shows at a women run gallery and one of the art collectives I’m a part of is 90% women.

AB: Any Berlin art spaces or artists we should know about and follow?

ESD: Two of my favorite galleries are Graumalerei, run by illustrators Carolina Buzio, Anna Benner and Theresa Grieben, and MFI (Ministerium for Illustration) run By Henning Wagenbreth. My absolute favorite Zine shop is Schikkimikki which puts on great events and has a fantastic collection of zines and comics from international artists. Volta Press is an incredible new letterpress studio and stationary shop that also teaches workshops. Although it’s funny to choose, a couple of my favorite artists in Berlin are Karla Paloma , Adrian Rötzscher, Amy Alexander and Grégory Coursoux. Instagrams to follow:  @graumalerei    @schikkimikkizinedistro .   @voltapress .  @_karlapaloma_    @adrianrocksugar .   @itwillallbeok .   @gregorigorigo

AB: Let’s talk about The Feel Good Gods, where it all began, and what you would like audiences to take away.

ESD: The Feel Good gods started as a pet project last January when I didn’t have any work. Feeling pretty depressed from the lack of sunlight and continual ‘you’re a failure’ dialog in my head, I was trying to think of something new to make so I could stay productive. The last two self driven projects I had worked on were kids books, so I wanted to go in another direction. Sometimes kids books can feel really limiting in what you can say and how far you can take your images. I’ve focused on picture books for the last 6 years because I’ve always had the goal of making work that makes people feel good. The Feel Good Gods were my way of making something for adults that does what children’s books do for kids. Gives them a feeling of security, escape and some wonder on the side. I made them into a pocket sized deck so that you can always have a whole bunch of little buddies with you in case you need a helping hand or just someone to tell you everything’s alright.

AB: Have you been inspired by the growing self care movement?

ESD: I hadn’t consciously realized that there was a growing self care movement, but I’m sure it probably worked its way in there somehow since I am on instagram a fair amount. :=D

AB: Is there a Feel Good God that you identify with or gravitate towards the most?

ESD: That’s a tough question, but I think it would have to be Animus because when I told my husband what that god was for he said, ‘so- like you?’  I haven’t been around since the beginning of time and definitely haven’t seen, heard and smelled it all – but I do really enjoy talking people through problems and try really hard to put myself in other people’s shoes in order to understand situations I haven’t personally experienced.

AB: Let’s not forget about Pussycat, NV which is a collaboration between artists, curators, and the Nevada Humane Society (and cats!). We are so excited for it! What will your role be in that exhibition this September?

ESD: I’m so excited about the cat show too! I haven’t gotten to iron out the details yet, but I think I’ll be contributing a couple custom pet portraits for the Kickstarter and also sending over a few fun fantasyish cat drawings for the cafe 🙂

Growing Under will be on view July 10-July 29, 2018 at the Holland Project. Gallery hours are Tu-Fr 3pm-6pm or by appt. Keep up with gallery happenings on our Instagram page: @hp_galleries. You can also browse + buy artwork from this exhibition and others through our online store starting July 10th. PS: If there’s a feeling you’d like a special god for, you can write it to:, and if discovered it may be included in the next edition!