Jennifer Seeley’s portraits of animals delight viewers with their vibrant color and playful theme. I first experienced her works at the 2014 Urban Arts Festival at the Gateway Mall. Visitors crowded around her booth and begged for photographs of her paintings. They fell in love with the charm and whimsy of her style.
What first inspired this playful approach? Seeley responds, ” I think what first drew me to art is the idea of creation. I was always creating something ever since I can remember. I believe there is a deep desire within all of us to create. I also feel a had a bit of natural ability which helped me to stick with it.”
Seeley’s natural talent and interest led her to produce works in various media, including printmaking, photography, oil, watercolor, acrylic, drawing, and even ceramics. She creates portraits and scenes of nature, but she seems most well known for her images of animals. “There was really never a day when I decided to only paint animals; it evolved into that. I attribute it to a few things– my childhood as an animal lover and the artistic freedom I feel when I paint them. When I paint people, I am very critical, but with this animal series, I have really explored style and expression.”
How would the artist describe her working process in creating this series? “Lately, I have been working very quickly. A typical painting in this series takes one to three hours. I work from black and white photographs, so my color choice is not influenced. I take my own reference photos as much as I can. I frequent the zoo and take many walks.”
Creating studies and working from nature seems reminiscent of the old masters, who took their profession as artist very seriously. It meant their livelihood. Now, we have greater means to network art, but the economy still presents challenges. “This economy does make it difficult for an artist who makes a living off the sales of their work. With art being a luxury item, it is one of the first things to go and the first to get cut in schools. (I’m going into art education).”
Going into art education definitely provides a platform to share one’s love of art and to help students appreciate art’s presence in our everyday lives. Yet, neither art nor education offers tremendous financial gain. How does Seeley deal with such challenges? “Art comes first; money comes second. I never know when my next paycheck is coming, but it doesn’t matter to me. I’m doing what I want to do, so it’s worth it.”
Seeley’s passion definitely translates to her paintings. In a digital age, it’s always refreshing to find hand-made art. “I feel a greater connection to hand-made art. I don’t want to put down the skills of graphic designers because it isn’t easy, but it’s not the same to me.” Viewers appreciate the opportunity to own something made directly by the artist, from hand to brush to canvas.
Considering this interest in hand-made art and her interest in art education, what advice does Seeley have for burgeoning artists? “Never stop doing art. There will be times when the world puts you down and you will wonder why you’re still doing it. Do it for yourself first. Don’t change your art for the public.”
To view more of Jennifer Seeley’s work, and to have the opportunity to purchase one of her limited-edition t-shirts, visit https://www.etsy.com/listing/197413300/limited-edition-owl-t-shirt.