Ever since she could remember, Samantha Huthinson-Ouranos has always been into drawing and creating things. “I used to draw on every wall in my house when I was a kid. I would move the furniture, draw everything I wanted, and move the furniture back so my Mom wouldn’t know. Eventually she found out,” Samantha remembers.
She originally wanted to study visual arts, but ended up studying graphic design at Arte AC, Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Diseño, in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico—where she grew up. After she graduated and her family moved to Indianapolis, she worked in Latino marketing for a toy company, but she’d always had the dream of living in Europe.
While taking French classes, she met two friends from who were au pairs from Turkey and the Czech Republic, and they suggested she explore being an au pair. An au pair is typically a young person who cares for children in a family, in return for room and board and the opportunity to learn the family's language. So she traveled to Switzerland to work as one. And being around kids reminded her of how much she loved art.
It wasn’t until she returned to the United States, got married, and had twin girls—and her life started to settle down—that she realized art was her true, professional calling. She couldn’t see herself returning right away to a full-time career, especially while raising her daughters. Art, however, was something she could do on her own time. Now a mother, she is finally finding herself at a point where she can return to her art.
“I always knew I wanted to make art my main thing, that it would be something that could adapt to my motherhood; I wanted to have energy both for my kids and my creativity.”
It all began with Christmas cards she designed to send out to friends and family. They became a hit, and one of her husband’s friends encouraged her to sell them. Living in Colorado proved to be fortuitous, as the state is supportive of local artists. She now has products in stores both in Colorado, as well as in other states. Eventually, Samantha discovered that she wanted to do so much more than Christmas cards.
“When I was single, I was involved with volunteering in the community, but once I had twin girls, I had to stop,” Samantha said. “Ever since I moved to the United States, however, I took the elections seriously. I’ve always been outspoken. So after I had my daughters, I’d ask myself: How can I participate? How can I be part of something? Through my art work, I started finding my own personal voice and how I could take a stand.”
Life Inspires Art
Samantha’s inspiration comes from her experiences and the relationships she’s built. One of her first designs was the “Hola Sloth” sticker because one of her friends really liked sloths. At first, she thought it was odd, because who knows anything about sloths? She designed it anyway, because if it meant so much to her friend, then it meant a lot to her. Then Samantha found out everyone loves sloths! Her work comes out of the things that really matter to her.
“I want to normalize what our society doesn't consider ‘normal’,” Samantha explained. “I think these elections highlighted how different we are, even in our own families. My art is my way of saying ‘this is where I stand,’ and I want to show it to everyone. It began with a sloth sticker, but then came the other stickers. The ‘love is love’ sticker. The BLM sticker. It’s an expression of who I am, and who I connect with, and who I love.”
Samantha has been recently painting a large canvas for Museo de las Americas’ SOMOS / We Are, a collaborative exhibition on Domestic Violence, Survivorship, Resilience, and Community Response, curated by Carina Bañuelos-Harrison of Art and Color. The exhibition will open during the spring of 2021.
“At first, I was seeing it more as a project, but eventually I started seeing it as something more—I have stories, friends have stories. It comes from the people that I know, and even from my own life.”
Samantha is constantly pushing herself both as an artist and as a person. She has illustrated two children’s books for Jordanian-Palestinian writer, Suzanne Ghawi: The Three Elephants and Adventures of Liya. During her experience illustrating them, she thought to herself, “Can I actually do this?” Imposter’s syndrome is something many of us are familiar with, especially those of us who are creatives. Samantha would like to do more children’s books, and even write her own, particularly books that deal with growing up with diversity. Both of Samantha’s parents are from Nuevo León in Mexico, but her mother grew up in Chicago, and Samantha’s husband is Persian.
When Samantha’s mother and aunts were growing up in the 1950s, her parents (Samantha’s grandparents) moved to Chicago for father’s job. They ended up moving back to Monterrey, Nuevo León in the 1960s when the daughters were teenagers; that’s where Samantha’s parents met. Samantha remembers growing up in Monterrey, ashamed that her mother did not speak proper Spanish. She felt she wasn’t Mexican enough. Then moving to the United States after college, Samantha wasn’t “American” enough. It’s a common identity struggle for many Latinx, whether they are first, second, or third generation.
“I would like my girls to grow up proud of their cultures—Mexican, Persian, American. I want to be involved in projects that are meaningful to me.”
A New Generation of Artists
“There’s a lot of movement of ideas and beliefs, and energy shifting right now, between generations,” Samantha said. “And I’m happy that’s happening because I have daughters. Yeah, my world was better than my parents, but there’s still so much work to do.”
“I want to be part of all these movements through my art to help people,” Samantha added. “People tend to receive messages better when they can visualize them. And I think the pandemic has emphasized this as, people are consuming more information through social media.”
Samantha wants to be able to share her experiences with the new generation of artists—to give them all the tools they need to succeed, and not have to go through the same trial and error, and challenges, that she went through. She believes that setting them up for success is critical because we need them to be successful, if we want our communities to be successful. She loves that they are vocal and unapologetic and working to dismantle old systems.
“I feel the younger generation is really going to kick that door and say, ‘This is my voice and you’re going to listen to it!’”
About the Artist:
Samantha Hutchinson-Ouranos is a Mexican American full-time mother and artist. Visit her Etsy shop, and follow her on Instagram and Behance to check out her art. She currently lives in Colorado with her husband and daughters, but North Carolina, where she lived for several years, is one of her home bases. She hopes to return one day soon.
Artwork above by Samantha Hutchinson-Ouranos, commissioned for Poder NC Action's 2020 Latinx voter outreach campaign.