Samantha DeCarlo Now Showing on a Billboard Near You!

2012 Academy Illustration graduate is one busy artist.


Samantha DeCarlo’s dream for her work to reach many is one step closer to reality with the latest project she recently completed for PepsiCo brand Sierra Mist.

Earlier this year, Samantha was contracted by Sierra Mist’s NY-based ad agency NA Collective to be one of five artists to create the latest Sierra Mist outdoor campaign in Chicago.

Samantha was the first of the five artists who painted the exquisite collaboration mural in September. The method is also known as an exquisite corpse style. Each artist was given a day to create, with the next artist picking up where the last one left off.

The finished piece was reprinted on enormous billboards now on display at 15 high-visibility locations throughout Chicago.


“I wanted to keep it crisp and natural; I drew ice cubes, misty foam and lemons,” Samantha explains. “My work radiated yellow and had a nice glow. I think this helped to set the tone for the piece.

“They gave each artist the paint and colors they wanted us to use; but all of the ideas came entirely from us. There was great energy between everyone involved. I’m thrilled with how well the final piece turned out,” Samantha adds.

Detroit and Chicago are the only two U.S. cities Sierra Mist is currently doing the exquisite collaboration billboard campaign.


Building inspiration and connections via the Academy

Speaking about her early impressions of the Academy, Samantha says: “I knew the Academy was for me the second I walked in the door. The warmth and intensity of the instructors made me want to go there.”

Sharing her thoughts about the value of networking, Samantha explains: “The contacts and friends you meet there should last a lifetime if you nurture your relationships. I keep in contact, network and do shows with several of my old Academy friends. You never know who’s going to end up where and open another door for themselves and for you. The Academy also taught me how to run a business, not just how to draw. I simply loved and am a huge advocate for the Academy.”

Besides graduating second in her class, Samantha also received the Academy’s President’s Academic Achievement Award in 2012 and made the president’s list 2009-2012.


Successfully balancing three sides of her career

Samantha maintains a well-rounded and busy professional life, split among three areas.

First, she works full-time as a studio supervisor for Bottle & Bottega in La Grange. Samantha manages all marketing and instructs four to five times a week. “I love working there. It’s a franchise, but I have lots of freedom,” Samantha states.

Secondly, Samantha actively exhibits her work. She’s preparing to launch three new shows in Chicago this fall. One at Wicker Park’s Truborn Gallery, where she’ll exhibit nearly a dozen pieces as part of an all-girl, four-artist show. The exhibit debuts in mid-December.

She’ll also be showing one large painting at Fizz Bar in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. The show opens October 10. All featured artists are Academy friends of Samantha’s.

She will also exhibit six (mostly ink) drawings for a Halloween-themed show at Fortunate Discoveries gallery in Lincoln Park. The show began October 3.

And Samantha has two paintings currently showing at Leigh Gallery, in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood.

Thirdly, Samantha creates and sells commissioned works. She’s currently developing two, large-scale paintings for local clients.


Samantha with Chicago Bears Charles "Peanut" Tillman.


An artist’s aspirations

“I’m still working on learning to paint and tell a story through art; I practice painting everyday,” Samantha explains. “I hope to get a book of art or illustrated story published soon. I love traveling and would love to one day publish a drawn diary that incorporate my travel experiences into paintings.

“I would prefer to give more people access to my work through my work being printed, in books and so forth verses having fewer people see my work if it’s only in a gallery or in someone’s home,” Samantha adds. “Of course, I want to be known and respected in the art world.”


Samantha’s inspirations

“I absolutely love and am greatly inspired by James Jean, ” Samantha shares. “The overall Academy and specific instructors – such as Misha Goro, Tom Herzberg and Rich Kryczka – have been big inspirations of mine. These guys are fantastic and very honest with their criticism. They have played a huge role in my style and art. Overall, I feel very fortunate to be where I am today.”


Originally from Elmhurst, in Chicago’s western suburbs, Samantha now lives in Oak Park.

Learn more about the artist and her work here: and


Additional awards Samantha’s work has earned:

·    1st place Illustration Award: American Academy of Art (2011).

·    Juror’s Award & Student Choice Award for Mystery Show: American Academy of Art (2011).

·    Finalist for the Higher Learning Committee (HLC) Competition (2011).

·    “3rd Place Adult” in the NAVS Art for Animals competition.


Here’s a great article about the project




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