Interview with Seth Michael Forman
q) Well, first of all please tell us a little about yourself.
a)I’m a middle-aged atheist American with glasses and absolutely no fashion sense. And I’m pretty boring most of the time, but never bored.
q) Had you always planned on being an artist [or had you other hopes]?
a)My major career goal in life ever since I was a child was to never wear a suit to work when I grew up. Since I don’t require myself to wear a suit in my studio, and its not appropriate to wear a suit in the college classrooms where I teach, I’ve been 100% successful in this goal.
q) Do you have a preferred medium to work on? Why?
a)I love oil paint. I am in love with the smell of the oils, balsams and solvents, and the feeling I get from spreading them around.
q) How would you describe your style?
a)That’s a tough question, but I’ll try. Some people see humor in my paintings, and many find them disturbing too. But I think of my work as really very traditional. There is rarely any physical violence or blood depicted, and compared to pictures of torture, like guys nailed to pieces of wood or other unpleasantries found in a lot of Christian paintings, my imagery is downright bland. My people usually have all of their limbs and both of their ears. So perhaps my style is a mix of gothic, primitive, and American folksiness, with a touch of dark humor inspired by the Bugs Bunny Roadrunner Hour.
q) Do you go through any certain processes while trying to produce your work?
a)My paintings have become increasingly time consuming over the years. I often begin with small sketches in a sketchbook, sometimes followed by graphite figure drawings from my imagination. If I need more information, I take photos of myself and friends, and begin by drawing with graphite or paint directly on a prepared panel or canvas. After that, its months of repeated layers of painting, repainting, and glazing with transparent color, until I get what I’m after. This slow method is not about an accumulation of descriptive detail, but it helps me get at a certain articulation of surface and depth of color that is only possible with many layers of pigment.
q) What are you working on at present?
a)I just started a very small piece which will be part of a mini series I call “Snow Days”. It’s an image of a pink, rubbery, naked man disrobing in a cold snowy landscape, and it involves full frontal nudity- a novelty in my work of the past decade. Quite charming really.
q) What about recent sources of inspirations?
a)Drives in the rural countryside of New England, Russell Shorto’s “Descartes’ Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason”, “Throw Down Your Heart” (the documentary and the music), and John Adams’ “The Dharma at
q) What are some of your obsessions?
a)American politics, talk radio, and podcasts. I also enjoy human evolution, but I’m not really obsessed with it and its pretty much inevitable anyway.
q) Which galleries have you shown at and which galleries would you like to show at?
a)Penine Hart Gallery, Adam Baumgold Gallery,
q) If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?
a)The best way is via email, at email@example.com. Depending where people are in relation to me, shouting can be very effective too.
q) Do you have any suggestions or advice for artists that are just starting out?
a)My advice is to avoid censoring yourself for the sake of finding a “style”. Artists who are too concerned with style over content end up making work that seems superficial instead of truly personal.
q) Who are your favorite artists?
a)I like so many artists, but here is a short list in no particular order of importance: Grandma Moses, Rembrandt, Kiki Smith, Albert Pinkham Ryder, Pieter Breugel the Elder, Willem DeKooning, Van Eyck, Horace Pippin, Sassetta, Nicolas Africano, Vermeer. One of my all time favorites is Philip Guston, because I love the mix of humor and horror, the exuberant energy, and above all the overwhelming imagination in his paintings.
q) What books are on your nightstand?
a)Actually, I don’t have a nightstand. But behind my bed is a bookshelf which includes two volumes of Proust’s “Remembrance of things Past”, and Pam Johnson-Bennett’s “Cat vs. Cat: Keeping Peace When You Have More Than One Cat”. They are all just collecting dust now. And the bookshelf mainly provides a launching pad for my cats when they leap down on me to wake me up for breakfast. No peace was ever kept and I have increasing difficulty remembering “Remembrance of Things Past”.
q) To what weaknesses are you most indulgent?