“The basics bore me.”
We met Sean Christopher Ward at Superfine Art Fair in Los Angeles, and instantly was drawn to his work. Five of Sean’s paintings are now part of our Stardust & Satisfaction, Art & Music exhibition – on view until September 11. We’re super stoked to have the artist here in September for a one day trunk show featuring more vibrant pop art paintings. Go ahead and mark your calendars for September 10th. You’ll have the opportunity to meet the artist in person, drink wine, and chat about the artistic processes that make up his intriguing artistic projects.
Glenn Dallas intern Hali Galloway reached out to Sean Christopher Ward to learn more about his work and process. Keep reading for the exclusive interview.
Hali Galloway: What led/ influenced/ molded you to become an artist?
Sean Christopher Ward: Ever since I was a young child, probably 4 or 5 years old, I had an affixation on these geometric clear plastic rulers that had shapes cut out of them. I would spend hours every day making patterns, creatures, designs and more with them. I filled notebook after notebook. Shapes fascinated me. Fast forward thirteen years later- I ended up in art school at Wichita State University and was taking general education courses where I had to create still lives, portraits, the basics. That bored me. I switched to a degree in Graphic Design. Suddenly, I was back to using shapes in repetition to create flyers, business cards and marketing materials. The joys of my childhood came back and I gained insight on how to build a career with my talents. However, graphic design was just repetition of the same boring things, once again. I decided to double major in graphic design AND painting. This is when I realized, there is place for me in the world to continue repeating shapes and so much more. Upon graduating from Wichita State University with a bachelors of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and (3 courses away) from a second Bachelors of Fine Arts in Studio Arts, I opened my first gallery and it was all upwards from there!
HG: How do those influences manifest themselves in your work? (if they do at all)
SW: My influences are that of nostalgia and they influence my work every single day. I create patterns and portraits of things I miss, of things other people miss. I paint designs that were utilized throughout history and can pinpoint a memory for you or me. It’s all about remembering the days of before and combining that with the modern day world. Classical and technological, it’s a mixture of two generations coming together as one.
HG: How have you seen your work evolve from when you first became an artist to present day?
SW: My portraits specifically have evolved over time. For five years I’ve been making “striped shutter” portraits. They went from unrecognizable to more and more realistic. Suddenly, I flipped the booked and went on to dots and circles, instead of lines. The work has gained a level of realism. I’m not sure if I can ever go back to my previous methods.
HG: What are some techniques, mediums, or ideas that you want to explore further in your career that you have not yet had the chance to explore?
SW: Projection mapping and augmented reality are two factors I’m currently exploring, but have only a basic knowledge of. I’m currently creating “The WunderCube” which is an installation project utilizing both of these factors on top of my paintings, stretching from wall to wall. It’s going to be a great experiment and I can’t wait to see where it leads into the future!
HG: What is your artistic process for your optical illusion works? Truly, your ability to create people that are recognizable using shapes and colors is amazing and I would love to understand the process better.
SW: My process is slightly complicated to those who haven’t experienced it in person, but it’s a long history of maximizing my time and becoming more efficient as an artist. I’ll start with describing the basics of the works from the ground up. Initially, they are all created as vector art in Adobe Illustrator. I go, point by point, line by line, and create an outline of the shapes overlayed over a photograph. This allows me to decide which portions of the figure/facial structure to be dominant in the designs and which parts can be forgotten (hence, the series name, Fading Identities) and once the design is completed… I transfer that vector art to an AutoCAD machine that cuts out huge stencils for me, much like street artists tend to do with cardboard and spray paint cans. Once the stencil is completed, I transfer the design onto a wood panel and start painting away with palette knives, adding different colors, light to dark, to not only emphasize the positive space, but also to allow darks to lights push the designs forward and backwards in your optics, much like 3D glasses do with blues and red, red being dominant and blue being submissive. I have a huge background in color theory, as I’ve been writing a “guidebook” on it, much like Pantone has for its colors, but rather, focusing on the history and usage of 100,000+ different colors throughout history and modern day. Through all this busy work, it has given me a strong control over how colors are utilized in design and to manipulate the eyes to see what I want them to see. Like graphic design, you can control your viewers by adding these subliminal like touches to your works.
HG: Tell me a little about the works featured here at the gallery, Bowie, Dylan, Taylor Swift, Kanye, and Snoop Dog. Why these particular people? Why are Kanye and Snoop dog the only two portraits that are black and white with benday dots (in contrast to Bowie, Dylan, and Taylor)?
SW: When I’m choosing color palettes for the different celebrities chosen in these portraits, I try my best to choose colors that best represent every quality of the chosen celebrity. For Snoop and Kanye, I chose these dark tones because throughout my time of viewing them on tv and web, I always found they had very serious attire on, that wasn’t overly gaudy or extreme. Yet, they also typically added hidden touches to their “look” and that’s why when you examine the works closely, you will see silvers through Kanye’s portrait and green throughout Snoop’s. It’s all about expressing their personality within the color palette.
Now, in contrast to appearance and attire, I found the color palettes of Taylor and Bowie to be much more vibrant and showy, as that is what their personality characteristics exhibit. Bowie has always been known to be one of the most vibrant people in music and Taylor Swift knows exactly how to be noticed when entering a room.
Lastly, for a more conservative figure like Bob Dylan, I stuck to a monochromatic palette of blues, as it not only speaks to his style of music, but also his fashion choices I have noticed. I never see him in a rainbow clad outfit or anything of the like, but rather in darker, more neutral color palettes. I found the blue to fit him perfectly.
In regards to style, dots versus stripes, Kanye and Snoop are actually my most recent works, where all my portraits are transitioning to dots, rather than stripes. It’s just an evolution of my movement, “Fading Identities ”
HG: What is your intended response from the viewer?
SW: I always want the viewer to make their own interpretation, but the entire point of the “Fading Identities” series is about losing the details within the works, much like the identities of the celebrities over time. These individuals will always be remembered, generally, for who they are and what they look like (and what they accomplish) but exactly how deep and exact do we remember these traits of them? Do you remember which side the mole is on Marilyn Monroe? Do you remember what color eyes Mila Kunis has, because they are actually slightly different from each other due to chronic iritis! I wouldn’t expect anyone to remember these small details, hence the gaps within the design, about how the overall, exact, image of the celebrities is not there, but rather, they are there by connecting the dots (or implied lines) together to form the image we all cherish and remember. I’ll always remember Marilyn as one of the beautiful blondes of humanity, because she has a look that will always be remembered and for that simplistic ideal, it makes me joyful to have experienced small aspects of them in my life. I hope these “Fading Identities” bring small joys to any viewer from remembering the times they associated with these celebrities, whether it’s their favorite movie, concert or simply meeting one of these individuals in an airport by happenstance. It’s also why I do commissioned portraits of your loved ones, because this artwork is meant to represent nothing but love for the ones you care about in life.
Sean Christopher Ward, Interviewed by Hali Galloway
Visit Glenn Dallas Gallery at 927 State St., or email firstname.lastname@example.org for information about Sean C. Ward, or any artist featured in this online publication.