It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.
Rebelling against her university fine arts background, Calgary, Alberta-based flight attendant, moto artist and vintage bike enthusiast Samantha Jarmasz has an eye for great detail and a penchant for miniature watercolors.
The 29-year-old currently specializes in creating commissioned reproductions of motorcycles and cars that are just slightly bigger than a large postage stamp (about two inches wide and tall).
We discovered her incredible work after seeing two pieces she did for NYC’s own off-road guru, Steve Kamrad, and felt compelled to explore further. We weren’t disappointed. Check out our Q & A interview with Jarmasz below, or enjoy a small collection of her work in the NYC Motorcyclist galleries.
1) Welcome Samantha ... Tell us a little about yourself, when you started riding, what your current ride is and what style of riding you prefer (street, off-road … etc., and why).
I started riding in the summer of 2015 when I bought my 1979 Suzuki DS125 dirt bike. I learned how to ride in the country back in Manitoba where all the trails were sandy and heavily whooped. It was a great way to learn how to balance and control the bike. The following year I purchased my street legal 1981 Kawasaki KE125. I loved riding off road, but with a street legal bike you can ride every day rather than just on occasion. I’m a pretty cautious rider by nature, definitely no speed demon! Riding for me transforms a commute into something enjoyable. I love to make that quick trip to the grocery store way more fun than it has to be.
2) Where were you born and raised in Canada?
I was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I moved (west) to Calgary, Alberta about two years ago. Calgary is one of the absolute best cities to drive in, which makes it absolutely terrifying to ride a 125cc vintage bike through. Busy, high-speed freeways are not where I belong when riding a two-stroke that starts to scream and vibrate at 80 km/h (50 mph). Winnipeg was actually a city better suited for my old gals, with much lower traffic speeds.
Small works require a small arts setup — Samantha Jarmasz
Riding for me transforms a commute into something enjoyable. I love to make that quick trip to the grocery store way more fun than it has to be.
3) What is the moto scene like in Calgary in terms of community, events, riding routes, events?
Sadly, I haven’t a clue. Since I moved out here it’s been hard to find the time to really get out there. Fortunately, though, one of the perks of having a small bike is how easily it can be thrown on the back of a truck. We took it camping this past summer -- and riding it around in the small communities in British Columbia was a highlight. Of course, credit must be given to my live-in, full-time mechanic Max, who is the reason someone like myself can own and ride vintage bikes. Also, I’ve been very lucky in that my artwork has connected me to moto lovers and their communities around the globe.
4) Are you a full-time artist? If not what’s your full-time gig? Did you study art and if so where … or were you self-taught?
I am not a full-time artist. My full-time job is being a flight attendant. I have a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the University of Manitoba, but I am mostly self-taught. Not only was watercolor never taught, miniatures were strongly discouraged at the university. There were only a couple of professors that supported my love of intricate detail. It was definitely a challenge being constantly pushed to make large-scale works that didn’t suit me or my style. Once I left, I was finally able to pursue something that I truly cared about.
5) Do you have a preference in terms of medium?
Definitely watercolor. I did a lot of acrylic painting before and during university, but I always preferred drawing. Watercolor turned out to be the perfect happy medium. It requires both drawing and painting skills and has the added benefit of needing minimal supplies and space.
2000 Kawasaki W650 — Samantha Jarmasz
It was definitely a challenge being constantly pushed to make large-scale works that didn’t suit me or my style (at university). Once I left, I was finally able to pursue something that I truly cared about.
6) Now to the subject which brought us to you … your miniature automotive watercolor series … tell us a bit about the collection and how it evolved.
First off, I don’t take myself seriously, especially in the art world. I wanted to create something that was aesthetically pleasing and would be easily marketable. I would say it evolved from my fixation on fine detail and miniatures. They’ve always been a fascination of mine, and no matter what, I had to include them in my work in some way. As I slowly developed an interest in the automotive world I came to the conclusion that people love their rides. One thing I’ve come to notice is that folks who appreciate both art and engines tend to have really good taste. This means I’m usually working on something cool like a vintage Toyota Land Cruiser or a custom Triumph.
7) Have you shown the work as a collection outside of the web?
No I haven’t. It’s all been on social media. However, I love thinking about all of the paintings that are hanging in people’s homes and offices.
8) What size are the images? Do you reference photos for the work? Do you sketch before turning to watercolors? How long does the average piece take? And the final pieces come already framed?
The image sits on a 6” x 6” sheet of watercolor paper … and the actual painting, it’s usually about two inches across. They always arrive in a 9” x 9” frame. Reference photos are crucial and are a requirement for every piece because they’re very detailed in focus. I always sketch them out beforehand because watercolor is very unforgiving, and there’s no turning back once it hits the page. Including the sketch, I would say each one takes about five hours of solid work.
Two of Steve Kamrad's off-road rides, immortalized in miniature watercolor — Samantha Jarmasz
Getting all of the detail in can be a challenge and although I can’t get all of it in there, I definitely try. Like I always say, they can never make a brush small enough.
9) On your IG (@moto__bone) you have a wide variety of cars and bikes … including our own Steve Kamrad’s off-road rides … as commissions … how do you get the word out and what are some of the favorite pieces you’ve worked on? How do you create all that detail on such a small scale?
Etsy was how I first got into the game, but Instagram has been an amazing tool to really get it out there. I couldn’t have asked for a better customer than Steve. He was so pumped and excited about the paintings. It was really fun for me to paint two very different bikes one after the other because it’s such a great way for me to gain experience on how to transition all types of motorcycles into watercolors. Getting all of the detail in can be a challenge and although I can’t get all of it in there, I definitely try. Like I always say, they can never make a brush small enough. Oh, and painting knobby tires is a favorite of mine!
Editor’s note: contact Samantha through her Etsy page or via email at email@example.com for commission rates.
10) What other personal art projects do you currently have in the works, moto or non-moto related?
Nothing at the moment; the watercolors keep me busy enough. Also, the old saying ‘practice makes perfect’ couldn’t be more true. The more of these I can make the better and faster I get. I love getting requests for a car or bike I’ve never done before … it’s a great challenge and valuable to have a varied portfolio.
11) What are your short-term and long-term ambitions as an artist?
Short-term would be to build a bigger profile, gain more followers and build a bigger ‘small’ business (pun intended). Long-term is to do this full-time.
Becoming a full-time artist is a tough thing to achieve and it makes me so happy to see that I’ve even come this far. So, let’s go people and order some paintings so I can quit my job!
We've put in our commission ... thank you so much for your time, and best of luck on your journey.
Thruxton999 miniature watercolor — Samantha Jarmasz
You can view more of Jarmasz' work on Etsy and Instagram: @moto__bone.