About Sam Lacombe

Sam Lacombe was born in 1966 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He studied painting with David Aronson and Robert D'Arista at Boston University, where he received a BFA in painting in 1988, and an MFA in painting in 1990. His work revolves around the issues of form, light, space, design, and process, and for the past twenty years his subject has been urban Americana, particularly mid to late twentieth century signage. His work is in several private collections and has been exhibited in group and solo shows nationally and abroad.

Lacombe lives in Baltimore with his wife, illustrator Rebecca Bradley and their two sons. He currently teaches drawing and painting at Maryland Institute College of Art and Towson University.



My goal is to make emotional art. Part of that is derived from my approach to representation, which owes as much to invention as it does to observation. I attempt to give the viewer all of the information observed in my subjects, without the presumption to edit, or take short cuts. However, it is not my intention to make trompe-l’oeil paintings that concentrate on superficial textural details. Instead, I idealize, reinvent, and attempt to organize my paintings in a highly formal matter to maximize their emotional impact, and to elevate the familiar to the unexpected. The richness of information is there to slow down the process of perception, to provide a sumptuous feast for the viewer’s eye, and as a challenge to myself.

Many paintings are based on my own analog and digital photographs, sketches, and pure invention.  I enjoy painting from life whenever possible. What inspires me in nature is the possibility to see inherent patterns, and hidden compositions. I choose and adjust subject matter to be rigorously formal, and I look for subjects that will be challenging to paint. What I have found in urban architecture and signage is the excuse for bold colors, massive volumes, pattern, and strong light and shadow. I strive to avoid the pitfalls of nostalgia and sentiment often associated with these subjects, and instead concentrate on transformation of these objects through context and design. I often think of my paintings as court portraits, some imbued with the haughty dignity of a Velazquez, some the merry camaraderie of a Hals.

Each of my paintings is designed to be like a unique piece of sculpture: self-contained, formal, and physical. The subjects and forms themselves must be elevated beyond their descriptive or literal qualities to create an object that is far greater than the sum of its parts.