I was born into a family of artists, my parents having met as students at the Art Institute of Chicago. My father, James E. Seward, a freelance illustrator and historical and portrait painter, worked at home, enabling him to teach me to paint from an early age in an arrangement comparable to the old master/apprentice system. He passed away in 2011. Three of my four siblings have also become professional artists.
After high school, I went to a prestigious art school where I learned virtually nothing (!) and dropped out after a year-and-a-half. Then followed a short career teaching community art classes and an even shorter career at American Greetings Corporation, where I was abruptly fired after three months. This apparent set-back, paradoxically, allowed me to concentrate on my first passion, portrait painting, which I have now been doing independently for over 30 years.
Although I am a traditional portrait painter, I prefer to paint people either involved in an activity or in an environment that is significant and reflective of their lives. This may be partly due to my father's influence as an illustrator, as well as my admiration for 16th Century Flemish painting. This period of art often exhibited vivid coloring and a strong sense of design.
My favorite painters - the ones from whom I learned the most - are Rubens, Vermeer, Rembrandt, and the slightly under-appreciated Frans Hals. I also had the good fortune of early exposure at the Cleveland Museum of Art to an excellent painting by William Bouguereau, an artist unknown to most, but whose popularity is gaining every day (thanks in part to the Art Renewal Center).
I began as a direct, alla prima painter, but have developed a multi-layered (indirect or "transparent") approach after studying the techniques of Peter Paul Rubens and of Bouguereau's mature works. I use only archival materials, including laboriously home-ground oil paints made to suit my brushing preferences and specifications.
I live with my wife, Caryn, a research scientist, and our four cats in a big old Victorian house in Cleveland Ohio.