Sam Flores is a San Francisco-based artist and illustrator whose whimsical pieces have been shown in galleries all over the world. He’s represented by the Bay’s recognized Upper Playground, but the RFK Mural Festival brought him to LA.

He was working on a mural for a school and was pretty behind. We were in Korea Town and Sam was developing an appetite but he didn’t really want Korean. I just had an amazing veggie burger, and offered to get one for Sam in exchange for an interview.

Now that I know you’re a vegetarian and just brought you a veggie burger, I guess I’ll start with the sandwich question. What Sandwich best describes you?

Now that you put me on the spot, let’s see…Its definitely going to be a veggie sandwich but its going to be with a lot of jalapenos and spice. Maybe some sriracha sauce in there. ‘Cause I think its animal and earth friendly, but still packs a punch and has a little kick to it.

flores1Sam’s Mural at its beginning stages


You said you just visited your mom recently, what is the best advice she’s given you?

Always do what you want and follow your dreams. She was never the one to insist that I should be a doctor or something, because it makes more money or is a safe bet. She always wanted me to do what feels right and to never be fazed if things don’t aren’t going right. Pretty much just be true to yourself, which sounds easy, but sometimes it’s hard to stay on the right course.


I heard you don’t go to bed until like 6AM? 

Not really. I work late and I like to have a lot of projects going on, and so until they start adding more hours into a day I kind of need to stretch the night and burn the midnight oil. So now, around 3 to 4 is my normal.



Do you get your ideas better at night?

Sometimes your mind comes up with a lot of cool stuff in those wee hours. And then also at night, everything else kind of slows down, so you can focus and be clear when everything else is asleep so you don’t have as much distraction.

Guiding Light Print


The mural you’re doing now is at a Public School. How would you describe your work to a 10 year old?

My stuff is kind of like a darker world of ‘Where The Wild Things Are’. It’s a balance of light and dark, but it’s a little more aggressive.

Sketch of one of the Characters for the Mural


I have a book of yours where you had images of a shower curtain and some sexy girls posing and having a good time.

Oh that’s right!

I know you do a lot of homegoods too, do you think since your work is a little more ornate, that it translates better to that?

Sometimes it does. I want to get more into the houseware stuff, but it depends on the product or platform. We were going to start making chairs and lamps. It would be cool to do some full rugs, drapery, and blankets. Things that are a little more practical, where it’s not like we are printing over just random stuff and it gets a little overboard. Well it’s all, I guess, a little overboard.flores3


What is the significance of 12 in your work?

It is a number that I grew up with my group of friends from Albuquerque, New Mexico. And that was our number. We didn’t have 12 members or 12 people in the crew. A lot of them over the years have passed away or fell off, so it keeps a connection to my past and history alive. And at the same time it keeps them going. A lot of people are stuck in Albuquerque in a bad whirlpool and it’s hard for them to get out. So I put the number in my work and hide it in paintings as an homage and it shows them that one of the guys got out and it gives them hope and motivation.



So you got these high school kids as volunteers to help you out. When I was back in high school I actually replicated one of your pieces as a stencil. Did you have any artists you looked up to back then?

Most definitely. I moved to San Francisco in the graffiti days and I actually moved there because I saw Barry McGee/Twist had attended and painted at the (San Francisco) Art Institute and one of his walls was in a catalog. So seeing that actually made me want to move to San Francisco and attend a school that allowed and encouraged that kind of style. I ended up not going there, saving all my money, and teaching myself. I grew up with Mike Giant. He is also from Albuquerque and I was his little apprentice, and met a lot of people through him. But Barry was definitely a huge inspiration back in the old days.

IMG_8612My rendition of one of Flores’ pieces as a stencil in 2007 


Do you have any connections to Copenhagen?

I don’t but I’d like to.


My tattoo artist Mark Snor was also an apprentice under Mike Giant.

Actually, a good friend of mine Ronnie, who did a lot of mural projects with me in SF, just got back from there. Him and his friend put this put this bar together called Balderdash. He put together the menu and it just got top 5 bars in Copenhagen. It would be cool to get in a gallery over there. Do some walls and have a proper show.


You don’t listen to music when you paint?

I normally do. But there are two things. I think I lost my headphones on the plane. And then with the kids here, a lot of them are asking questions, and I wanted to be in the present to talk to them. Normally I do, I listen to punk and 90’s hip hop.



Last question. What Chinese character tattoo would you get tattooed on you? 

Family And/Or Tofu.


Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 6.43.40 PMFinished Mural taken by Flores on Instagram


The image encourages the highschoolers to follow their hearts and to choose their career paths, whether it be an architect, astronaut, or giant horse jockey.