Mill Top virtuoso: Local painter gaining recognition through residency

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Artist Bobbi K. Samples is the artist in residence at The Mill Top in downtown Noblesville. (Photo by Sadie Hunter)

A career she started later in her life, local painter Bobbi K. Samples has gained recognition in the Indianapolis area in the past several years for her large-scale, semi-abstract, very colorful works.

As the artist in residence at The Mill Top Banquet and Conference Center in downtown Noblesville for the past three years, she’s transformed the blank brick walls of the historic building’s mostly brick interior to match its upscale events.

Bobbi K. Samples sits in front of one of her many works displayed at The Mill Top, all of which are for sale. (Photo by Sadie Hunter)

“Noblesville really lends itself as an arts community,” Samples said. “(Mill Top owner Rocky Shanehsaz) approached me about 3 1/2 years ago about hanging some art. We were looking for some office space as well, but even before that, he had been to my office to see my work in the Victorian House (1095 Conner St., Noblesville) before it was sold as a residence. Before that, we were at what we called the Little House Gallery, which is now Heavenly Sweets (293 S. Eighth St., Noblesville). Before that, my office was in my home, and I was just wherever I could show my work.”

Samples still keeps her studio in her home, about one mile north of downtown.

“I have an all-glass sunroom off the back of my house, so I get incredible light for painting,” she said. “Florals make me happy, and they make me feel good. I can get a lot of bright colors with florals, and it fits my semi-abstract, non-realistic style,” Samples said. “I’ll experiment with a few other things, roosters, landscapes, exotic birds.”

At around age 50, she began her career as an artist.

“I have a good friend who is a professional artist, Maggie Shively, who used to have a studio in Zionsville,” Samples said. “She has since moved out of the Indianapolis area, but she just approached me one day and said, ‘You need to come take a lesson. You can paint,’ and I thought, no, my stick figures aren’t straight. This isn’t going to happen, and then she said, ‘Oh, you don’t get it. Painting’s not about drawing. It can be, but it’s about color and light and shadow. You get this. I’ve seen your home, your makeup, the way you dress. Come take a lesson.’”

From there, the rest is history. Samples has been showing at The Penrod Arts Fair since 2004, the same year she began painting. In 2017, she was accepted into Penrod’s Friday Night Gala, a first for her since the VIP event began approximately five years ago.

“I painted 85 paintings in my first year. I just couldn’t put it down,” she said. “They weren’t all good, but that’s how you learn.

“People ask me what kind of artist I am, and so I made up a word for it. I call myself a colorist,” Samples added. “People say impressionism or realism, and it’s not really either one of those, so I’m a colorist because that’s the most common thing people have to say about my art is ‘Wow, I love those colors.’”

Samples said she considers herself a pretty prolific and fast painter when she sets her mind to it, and that one reason it takes her as long as it does to complete works is the drying time of oil paint and her use of palette knife over brush, which leaves paint much thicker on a canvas.

“I don’t paint more than two-hour sessions at a time,” said Samples, who typically completes a painting within three or four sessions. “The oil tends to get messy, plus I get a better perspective if I live with it, keep walking by it while I’m cooking or something. Then I get to a point where I think there’s nothing else I can do to it.”

Bobbi K. Samples at the 2017 Penrod Arts Fair.

MEET THE ARTIST

Born in Washington, Bobbi K. Samples’ father was in the U.S. Air Force, and her family lived all over the world.

“Most of my 43 years of marriage have been in Indiana and in the Indianapolis area,” Samples, 62, said. “We moved back in 2002.”

Samples is married to John, CEO of the Christian Holyland Foundation. Together they have two children. Son Shayne is married to Joelle. Together they have a 1 year old. Daugher Alain is in the Indiana National Guard. A major and former Blackhawk pilot, she is currently at command and general staff school in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.

Samples also is a real estate broker for F.C. Tucker and owns an OSHA compliance consulting company, The Safety Firm, which she began in 2009.

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