Harry Seymour – Artist

Harry Seymour, A Martha’s Vineyard Artist

“I do pastel, scratchboard and egg tempera paintings. I draw upon the beauty of Martha’s Vineyard and my African American cultural experiences for inspiration.”

Obama’s Little Patriots. There is much symbolism in this work, including the number 44 on one little boys shirt (Obama is the 44th President), the little dog is “Bo” the family dog, a daughter look-alike (Sasha), and a rainbow of children typifying the country’s mutli-ethnic populace and any President’s future constituency.

As a child, art was a diversion from schoolwork I did not want to do. When an adult it remained a diversion but then from the demands of my profession. Now without the work of school and a profession, art has become my life. It is my way of living –not my way of making a living. Producing art consumes my time and energy and fills what otherwise could be a void of empty time and space.

The ways in which I produce art has taken many forms over the years and continues to evolve. However, one fact remains constant, and that is that my work is unique. Sure, all artists think their work is unique but that uniqueness is driven largely by the idiosyncratic nature of artists. My work differs from most because of two factors: 1) an allergy to paints, and 2) a strong desire to experiment with methods. Allergies have prevented me from painting in the most popular of media, i.e., oils, acrylics and watercolors. As a consequence I discovered media I could tolerate and not get sick as long as I wore gloves and a mask. The two that have worked best for me in recent years have been scratchboard art and egg tempera, neither of which are common among artists. Moreover, my experimentation has led me away from the traditional practices of both media.

Scratchboard art is in and of itself quite different from all other painting media in that it is the only art painting form that is subtractive and not additive. The black board is the medium and the artist scratches the art image into the board. The board consists of three layers; a masonite board, a layer of white clay coating the surface of the board, and a layer of black ink covering the white clay. Images are created by “scratching” with sharp etching tools such as knives, pins or even fiber glass brushes. I prefer the straight pin. My etchings reflect both the typical black and white format as well as the use of colored india ink to enhance particular works.   The completed work is treated with a fixative that protects the surface and allows the etching to be framed without glass.

I do not follow the classical egg tempera procedures. Rather than layering small brush strokes with very fine sable brushes I use a variety of brushes from sable to synthetic to bristle. My brush action is more of a “pat” than a stroke, similar to “pointillism.” In this way I can achieve soft edges and blending properties not easily achieved with the traditional methods. The resulting work yields the illuminating beauty for which temperas are known, but also has a glowing pastel-like quality.

In the past couple of  years I have been experimenting with pastel wax and pan pastel as ways to color my blackboards and white clayboards. Most recent works have been done this way. I apply pastel wax to the board surface, scratch with various fine needles, including tattoo needles, burnish with woods differing in hardness, and glaze with pan pastel for highlights. I fix the surface with Dorland wax or a spray fixative. This method is evolving but I am excited about outcomes and the capacity to synchronize tools, paints, surface to form a work of art that is as much about the doing of art as the doer.

Currently, my work may be viewed at my Martha’s Vineyard studio, Harry Seymour Studio , Oak Bluffs, MA.  My web site is–hseymour.artspan.com. For private showings contact me by phone at 413-531-1084 or by email –hnseymour@gmail.com.