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Jan18MonDesigner Carson Samson uses his God-given talents for good. January 18, 2016 by Ken Ramstead
"I used to attend church with my parents when I was seven or eight years old and, like many young kids, I'd get bored and start figiting,” says Carson Samson. “So my mother would pull whatever scrap paper she had out of her purse, and I'd begin to draw the people around me.”
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Even at that early age, Samson had an aptitude for portraiture. No stick figures for him.
“I'd draw everyone in great detail, right down to the lines around their eyes. Mom would look at my sketches.
“ 'Don't show these to anyone,' she'd gently scold me. 'They're too realistic! You've made them look old. You've made me look too old!' ”
Samson smiles. “Despite that, they encouraged me to embrace that and sent me to art courses and such. Who knows where I'd be or what I'd be doing now?”
Samson's parents were not yet officers when he was born in Newfoundland and Labrador but made the decision soon after. “I was two when my parents were commissioned at the training college in St. John's, N.L.,” observes Samson. “Growing up, all I knew was The Salvation Army.”
After a couple of appointments on the island, Samson's family moved to Toronto when he was five and spent nine years in the city, attending North Toronto Corps.
“Toronto was a huge part of my upbringing and youth,” Samson says. “I was immersed in big-city culture, and I was very involved in church life.”
From there, the family, which included Samson's older sister, Tracy, was posted to nearby St. Catharines, Ont. In their fourth year there, Majors Pearce and Fronie Samson received news that they were being transferred to Winnipeg.
“We weren't expecting that,” Samson says. “My sister was getting married in a couple of months. Nobody really wanted to move to Winnipeg just then. I was devastated.”
Home in Winnipeg
A few days after the wedding, a disgruntled 17-year-old Samson found himself in the Manitoba capital.
“I had my nose out of joint,” he remembers. “Winnipeg was the last place on earth I wanted to be, and I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder. I'd been displaced from my home and friends and even my sister, without anyone consulting me—my point of view was narrow back then. So despite the fact that there were lots of kids my age at the corps, I didn't plan to engage with anyone. And I had no intention of staying. I even had plans to go back and finish my education in southern Ontario!”
But as things worked out, a pretty young woman named Donna Lee Maye and her Salvation Army officer parents had just been transferred from St. John's to Winnipeg. The two met at Heritage Park Temple and before the week was out, they had become inseparable. When Samson's parents were transferred four years later in 1998, Samson stayed in Winnipeg, and he and Donna Lee were married one year later.
“And I've been here ever since,” he says proudly.
Building a Base
Now that Samson was in Winnipeg to stay, he needed to figure out what he was going to do with his life.
“I had a job at the thrift store, and thanks to Donna Lee, I'd met some good friends, but I was aimless.”
But at the University of Manitoba's School of Art, his childhood passion was reignited when he was exposed to painting, sculpture, print making and a number of other mediums. The graphic-design program particularly attracted him, and Samson graduated with an honour's degree in fine arts. With that, he started working for Bramwell Ryan at Tundra Lights Communications in Winnipeg.
“He was the first one to take a chance on me as a professional designer,” Samson recalls fondly. “I've been fortunate with the mentors in my life, and Bram's definitely one of them.”
Eventually, Samson decided to branch off on his own and created Samson Studios, working hard to develop a client base. While he enjoyed the work, he found the often-cyclical nature of the business to be problematic, especially as he was now a happily married father of two. So in 2014, when his clients at the Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba offered him the position of communications co-ordinator, he accepted, while continuing to provide services to his existing clients, including the Army's College for Officer Training (CFOT) in Winnipeg.
Furthering the Mission
Samson had stopped drawing after he became a graphic designer.
“You're working on a computer, with a mouse or a tablet of some kind, rather than a pen,” he explains. “You stop using those muscles, the muscle memory deteriorates and you forget how to do it.”
Then in March 2014, Samson's father passed away unexpectedly. “I was trying to hold things together for the family, for my sister and mother, and for me, too, but I needed some sort of therapy.”
It just so happened that at about the same time, Samson picked up a sketch book. He started small but was soon spending a couple of hours at a time creating masterpieces on paper. Now, not a week goes by where he is not drawing. Without planning it, returning to his artistic roots became part of his healing.
Perhaps because of his newfound passion, Samson's children—Caleb, 12, and Claire, eight—have also started to develop their own artistic skills.
“They're both incredible artists,” he says. “Donna Lee and I have always encouraged them to embrace their talents and take it at their own pace.”
As for Donna Lee, she's the songster leader at their corps and a program team manager at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg.
“What she does is worlds away from what I do,” Samson says. “But she's my rock. Without her love and support, I could never have grown as a graphic designer, let alone as a husband and father. I wouldn't be here if God hadn't put her in my path.
“And I know that my talents are a God-given blessing,” Samson concludes. “I feel that I have a responsibility to turn my gifts into something practical. Whether I'm helping to raise money at Christmastime on the kettles or I'm working on a commissioning book for CFOT, I'm furthering the mission of The Salvation Army.”
You can find more of Carson Samson's art on Instagram: @carsonsamson