Sam Hoskins poses in front of his work in his makeshift studio at Blanchet Catholic School (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

This profile is part of a series on Class of 2019 high school graduates. Salem Reporter asked high schools in Salem and Keizer to select an outstanding graduate – someone who accomplished something significant, whether through art, academics, advocacy or overcoming obstacles to graduate. We’ll be sharing their stories over the next week.

Sam Hoskins spent much of his senior year in a windowless room in the middle of Blanchet Catholic School.

With most of his required classes completed, Hoskins threw himself into the passion he hopes to turn into a career: oil painting. He spent roughly half his school day working on art.

“It was amazing to be able to have the space and time to do that here,” he said of his makeshift studio at school.

This fall, he’ll leave the U.S. to join about 100 students at the Florence Academy of Art in Florence, Italy, honing his skills in the city where Michelangelo once sculpted and painted.

The three-year program is intense. Students spend the first year drawing with charcoal, establishing basic skills before moving on to painting. They study anatomy and work from live models.

Hoskins said he’s up for the challenge ahead.

“I’m really excited to not have to worry about anything but art,” he said.

Hoskins grew up in Salem, attending Crosshill Christian School through eighth grade before coming to Blanchet for high school.

He’s played soccer at Blanchet for four years and is now learning guitar, but art has always been a passion.

As a kid, he drew comics and other stories. He took his first class in middle school, painting landscapes with acrylics.

“I loved it so much that I just kept going with it,” he said.

In 2016, he sold colored pencil drawings of superheroes at Portland ComicCon for money to buy art supplies. But he wanted to make his own art, not just copy other people’s work.

Hoskins joined a mentorship program through the Salem Art Association and was paired with Jim Richards, a Salem oil painter who focuses on “figurative realism.”

Richards helped Hoskins begin painting in oils, showing him how to use color theory and blending techniques to get the effects he wanted.

“It’s a lot easier to achieve that with oil because the paint doesn’t dry as quickly,” Hoskins said.

“He was pretty talented to start off with,” Richards said. “He has improved his brushwork and technique quite a bit. It’s a lot more refined and more detailed … able to achieve the effects that he’s looking for.”

Sam Hoskins was able to complete a still life painting thanks to his studio at Blanchet, where he could leave items set up for weeks (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Last summer, Hoskins traveled to the Florence academy for a month-long summer workshop where he painted from models and developed an appreciation for art history. Being surrounded by the works of Renaissance masters was inspiring, he said, and cemented his desire to return.

“It’s almost like an unofficial tryout for the school,” he said. He completed two oil portraits while there from models in class. One, Lorenzo, was an Italian DJ who spent days modeling after long nights in clubs.

“Sometimes you’d have to stomp to get him to keep his eyes open,” Hoskins said with a laugh.

As soon as he returned to Salem, he began working on his portfolio. The academy only allows five pieces, a relatively small number compared to some U.S. art schools.

Richards helped him select his pieces and finish his work to submit. He also spent the year mentoring Hoskins on the business side of art such record-keeping and marketing.

Bob Weber, the Blanchet principal, said he noticed a change in Hoskins after last summer.

“Talking to him this fall when he got back, you could tell how much more serious he was,” Weber said.

Richards said he was “elated” to learn Hoskins got into the Florence Academy.

“He is a young man who knows and has a vision for what he wants his life to be in the future,” Richards said. “He’s willing to put the work into getting there and he’s willing to listen and take advice. He’s kind of hungry for knowledge.”

Hoskins leaves for the academy in September. Lately, he’s been focusing on quick landscape paintings of scenes around Salem.

“I’m really trying to get the last little bit of color,” he said, knowing his early coursework will be all charcoal.

He’s been grateful to talk to professional artists in high school and learn you don’t have to be a “starving artist” to make a career out of painting. Hoskins said he’s interested in the business and entrepreneurship that comes with painting and is eager to turn it into a profession.

Richards, who began painting in his 30s, said he wishes he could have had a similar education.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” he said.

Other graduates

McKay senior graduating on time despite starting senior year with half the credits needed

Reporter Rachel Alexander: rachel@salemreporter.com or 503-575-1241.

JOIN US: FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

SUBSCRIBE AND DRIVE LOCAL REPORTING -- For $10 a month, you get breaking news alerts, emailed newsletters and around-the-clock access to our stories. We depend on subscribers to pay for in-depth, accurate news. Help us grow and get better with your subscription. Sign up HERE.