Sean Chappell, Eclectix Interview 22

“It’s the kind of work that you’d love to put your hands all over -

 but won’t,  for fear of being cut..”


Sean was born in Oshawa, Ontario, the first first-generation Canadian to be born to English immigrants. He now lives in Toronto, Ontario. Sean’s work is a surreal and fantastic trip through his imagination. Warped and globular pieces of brain matter float and twist themselves into various scenarios and landscapes of the mind. Pumpkins, anatomy, monsters, organic life forms and fantastic explosions of color unfold in shadowed desert tableaus.

We first discovered Sean’s work while searching for artists for our Halloween “Dementions” exhibit and were blown away by the scope of his dementia ( a good thing)  and his excellent painterly skills. His older works are based on alcoholism and the dehumanizing effects of addiction. Sean’s art is strong, opinionated and hard hitting, a welcome oasis in the current oatmeal art catalog of semi-nude, pretty little girls – Intense and emotional works that drive thought and contemplation of our humanity.

My favorite art memory from my childhood is …

My favorite memory would have to be the time I won an award for drawing the new local old age home (I don’t care much for that kind of thing anymore but at the time, it was important). I always did battle with another kid in my class, Marcel. He was an artist too and he was light years ahead of me from day one. He was always considered better than me and, in our society of obsessive competition, I felt slighted to be second best. So, when we got the opportunity to truly compete (for a prize no less) I put on my drawing hat, outlined my drawing of the old age home that friday afternoon and then spent all weekend filling in the details. At the end of the battle I had come out on top (take that Marcel!) with my drawing taking top honors and the prize, a fifteen dollar gift certificate for the local art supply shop. I remember buying a bunch of Pigma drawing pens. The ninja turtles I continued to draw never looked so good!

My interest in art/painting started … 

I was born an artist. Since I could hold a crayon, I’ve been drawing. According to my parents, I ruined the basement of our first house (it was unfinished, so no big loss) with all my drawing shenanigans. Art has always been my personal form of self-expression and communication. When I was 16 I was introduced to acrylic painting by my art teacher. It was love at first sight. I’d only ever used garbage tempura paint or watercolor pucks, the kind of crap that little kids use. Acrylics opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities.

I am often inspired and motivated by …

My lack of ability to express myself properly. I’m in constant competition with myself. I see Art as the doorway to expressing my truest self, as such, the better I am at depicting who I truly am, the more deeply I can communicate with viewers of my work. Every time I see an artwork that has a better technique or is going down a path of depiction that resonates better with me than my own work, it pushes me to improve my own techniques and themes so that I might align my painting more with my true self.

If I could spend the day with any artist (dead or alive) it would be …

Francis Bacon (the painter not the philosopher) (below)  

And we would…  Get totally ripped while crawling from pub to pub in London, England. His artwork is so genuine and expressive that I find it impossible not to love. He was a man of vision and will power and I’d love to hang out with that for a day. I wouldn’t bother asking him about his work or trying to pry techniques out of him. I think the day would be better spent having meaningful conversations about other topics while getting staggeringly drunk with the man. By the end of the day he’d probably tell me to “piss-off” and that I’d been “a  horrible drinking partner” (followed by a string of British expletives) while picking my pocket for as many free drinks as he could get. I could live with that.

The tip or art technique (a specific tidbit of craft, advice or mechanical expertise) that has helped me the most is ….

The use of gloss mediums in my work. When I was at school I wanted to learn how to make sharp lines on my paintings. I used tape for this but for some reason my colors would always creep under its edges leaving me to do hours of touch ups. When I asked my TA (teachers assistant) how to get crisp lines she wouldn’t tell me! Apparently she used this technique herself and, like a magician, would not reveal her secrets. Well, I eventually wheedled it out of her and the ingredient that made it all work was gloss medium. By sealing the edge of the tape with a clear coat of gloss medium, my colors could no longer creep underneath it. Problem solved! Now I use it to thin or extend my colors, to do washes and make my paintings pop with a nice low lustre sheen. It really is magic!

If I could own one piece of art, out of the world’s collections, it would be …

Autumn Cannibalism” by Salvador Dali. (below)

We had a big book of his work in the library at my high school . I used to look at it a lot and “Autumn Cannibalism” always struck me on a deeper level than any of his other work. It’s a beautiful piece, fluid and poignant, loving yet self-destructive. I appreciate the dichotomies that he depicts. It’s the kind of work that you’d love to put your hands all over but won’t for fear of being cut.

My favorite piece of my own art is …

“Vignette #1: Skies and Eyes”(see image below) It was a return to a form of painting that I was involved in when I was at University, a more unconscious form of working that allowed the real me to shine through. I’ve been laboring under the pretense of conscious communication with my work for a long time. This involves coming up with a specific theme for a painting and then planning out the details so that the theme can be properly expressed. In retrospect, through this procedure I’ve denied myself the opportunity to truly communicate the most relevant parts of my inner-self. I’ve been stifling my creative impulses all the while dictating to my viewers exactly what they should be seeing. “Vignette #1: Skies and Eyes” is a partial return to that unconscious realm of Art production that will see me producing stronger, more truthful and better artworks. In this way, viewers of my work will be able to approach it with open minds, bring to it what they will and take from it what they will.

My ultimate project or fantasy is …

To put together an artists commune. There are so many artists out there like me who are struggling to put together even one day a week in which to get on to their true calling. I’d love to put together a commune where artists who work in the surreal arts could come together and paint, sculpt, draw or print to their hearts content without the ever present threat of financial necessity hanging over them. There would be room for their families to join them, a school close by for their kids, a studio space where all their needs could be met and it would all be supplied by me. No more need for a day job. When I win the lottery, it’s a done deal.

The last song I chose to listen to was …

“Stranger in a Strange Land” by 30 Seconds to Mars. I’ve recently introduced a whole bunch of hard rock and punk albums into my collection; Linkin Park, Green Day and Billy Talent just to name a few. Punk and hard rock has the right type energy that I’m looking for at the moment. I’m big into shaking up the status quo and I syphon a lot of energy from other peoples righteous anger. It moves me to action.

I can’t live without …

My wife Cath. With her, all things are possible. She is the raging yang to my raging yang but she keeps me grounded when the frustrations of the daily grind start to overwhelm me. She is my sounding board, my best friend, my tormentor and my movie going buddy. Spending any amount of time with her makes everything better. She fought to wrangle me and now I can’t imagine life any other way. The world would certainly be paler without her.

My favorite word is …

I don’t know, I’ve never really thought about it. Chances are it’s probably a swear word and not really mentionable in this forum! I’m trying to hold myself to a higher standard these days. Sorry.

It’s not hip, but I really love …

The pursuit of personal growth.I’m currently working in an industry where people couldn’t care less about themselves. They’re either grotesquely obese, avid smokers or slowly drowning themselves in alcohol and drug abuse. Through the disuse of personal protective equipment they’re also slowly going deaf, risking the loss of an eye or even their lives. They all know the outcome of these behaviors but seem to turn a blind eye to their coming derailments.

I see this type of behavior outside of my workplace as well; people running as hard as they can toward self-destruction. I don’t get it. While I’m here I’m going to do my damndest to be the best possible me  that I can be. The longer I can continue on, the more chances I give myself to express myself through the mediums of my artwork. By training myself physically, mentally and spiritually, upgrading my skills as an artist, I hope to make my mark in the world, not become a casualty of it. It’s not very popular, but then again, I’ve never been either. Sounds like synchronicity to me!

Sean’s – Website 

(This entry was  originally posted on 6/30/11 )

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