While I was formally trained in photography, I had much more of an interest in handmade images. My focus in school was in antique/19th century photo processes- specifically the Wet Collodion Process- for which I received two Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship Grants. Though I really saw wet-plate/collodion photography more as painting with light rather than capturing an image I still felt constrained by the limitations of size and subject matter. Gradually I dropped the camera altogether and focused first on printmaking and now almost exclusively on painting.

detail 01 of maddening pink haze an original painting on canvas by mj seal
The abdomen of a green figure has cracked open revealing a soft pink lake inhabited by a red-eyed monster in this detail of “Maddening Pink Haze”

I have been influenced by a wide variety of artists and art periods. I’ve been an avid reader of art and art history books since I was a child and I could easily spend all day in a museum just as happy as a clam. Medieval manuscript illustrations, Tibetan iconography, Indian miniatures, Early Modernist painting and Surrealist art are probably my greatest influences. Note that I have no real formal training in painting and very little formal training with drawing.

BFA- Photography and Film

Virginia Commonwealth University 2005

full view of figure on a beach an original painting on paper by mj seal
“Figure on a Beach” began as splash of pink on a water soaked piece of paper

My Work: 

I generally do not work from sketches or from life- the figures and shapes come from my own imagination and memory. My work could be called expressionist in a sense. It’s often completely unplanned and if I do have a vague idea of what I want -the final result bears absolutely no semblance to what I originally had in mind. Most of my paintings seem allegorical- even though they are usually open ended and I’m often not quite sure what they mean.

Color is very important in my work. Most of my paintings are intensely colored and I prefer to work with paints straight out of the tube. Reds symbolize anger. fear and  excitement; pinks and burgundy specifically amorous excitement.  Violets feel more subdued, perhaps representing compassion. Blues symbolize contemplation and self awareness. Gold and yellow tones seem to relate to truth and honesty.  Green to me represents primitiveness and unconsciousness. Black and grays represent numbness, detachment and death. Caput mortuum (or violet oxide) for me represents grief- it is gray and red/hot and cold at the same time.


Detail 02 of containment well for caput mortuum an original painting by mj seal
A blue, prostrate man balances a bucket of caput mortuum on his back in this detail of “Containment Well for Caput Mortuum”



My Process:

Often paintings begin as little more than splashes of paint or a flat background hue. I begin with whatever an accidental shape suggests to me or I simply begin painting a recurrent mental image. I do not start with under drawings, and usually I only do a few (if any) quick preliminary sketches in my notebooks. Usually I block in large masses of color that quickly evolve into figures. I prefer to complete paintings in one session- preferably as quickly as possible- as I can always tell when I’m fussing with a piece to much.

Pieces start at one point and change rapidly as I work. I often feel like I am creating and putting together a  puzzle at the same time.

detail 01 of soft pink oasis an original painting on paper by mj seal
Mysterious cloaked figures gather pink liquid from an oasis in this detail of “Soft Pink Oasis”





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s