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artist quotes and matt sesow - american painter
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American Artist Matt Sesow Matt Sesow
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"Painting is very hard. Challenge yourself to paint badly. Shock yourself. Don't tell people you are an artist. Get rid of all unnecessary expenses. Sell your car, cancel cable. You'll only be able to keep one or two good friends. You'll never retire. Buy a good fan, ventilate."
Matt Sesow

American Artist - Matt Sesow Artist Probe - Interview with an Artist

Matt Sesow - Self-taught expressionist painter

Matt Sesow - August 2003

+1 ::: Why are you an artist?
Thanks for calling me an artist. I suppose everybody does something in their life that can be considered art. I think I paint because I can't sing or play an instrument. I would rather be in an 80's type hardcore band, but I suppose I'm having more success as a painter. I'm lucky that painting is paying my bills, and I plan on doing it all the way down into the ground... I'm an 'artist 'because it keeps me from being a modern-day corporate indentured servant. I live small, don't drive, don't over-consume... just paint.
+2 ::: Tell me about your art.
I want to try to chronicle the day's events in a way that nobody else is doing, or doesn't have the stamina to keep it up for 50 years. Being a Washington, DC American painter is important to me. I think the rest of the world has a fairly accurate impression of 'the American way' and its intentions. I want to make sure our actions (good and bad), as a society, are documented.
My art is one man's take on what has happened to him, those around him, and what the future seems to hold.
The paintings have been called raw by a lot of people. but a lot people also call them crap. I think as long as what I do is not 'expected' I will be doing the right thing.

+3 ::: A lot of the people in your works seem to be filled with pain and fear, could you share some more about these works?
I suppose everybody has experienced some pain and fear in their lives. Just as paintings of pretty flowers and sunsets with horsies make us smile and feel content, I want to paint emotionally charged intense works that cause discomfort or inspire people to challenge themselves. I had some unique physical trauma as a child that got me started on this path... I'm a generally happy person, but I have taught myself to channel anger and intensity in art. The best musicians and painters have done it, those are my heroes.

+4 ::: What artists have influenced you and why?
I am my favorite artist, but growing up I was lucky to be exposed to the work of Sue Coe*. She's an artist from the UK that does a lot of politically charged work and challenges widely accepted societal beliefs and behaviors. I also enjoy the work of Francis Bacon*, and Jean Michel Basquiat*. DeKooning's* women series are great and I never get tired of the very old portrayals of traumatic scenes from the bible. The movies about Warhol, Pollock and Picasso are fun... Basquiat has the best movie created about him*.
+5 ::: What do you do for fun (besides art)?
I play a lot of games on my dreamcast. Sometimes I run around the block.

+6 ::: What inspires you to paint?
Still being alive is all I need. We are here for such a short time, it's like we've never lived.
My studio/apartment is very small. I have around 2000 works in the 600 square feet I call home. The paintings are three deep on my walls in some places. I can't escape it and the floors are already ruined, so why stop I suppose.

+7 ::: How have you handled the business side of being an artist?
When I sold my first painting about 10 years ago, I was gainfully employed in the world of software development. So back then, it wasn't financially 'necessary' to paint. At about that time, an art agent got me to sign an exclusive contract and handled my 'promotion' for 5 years or so, encouraged high pricing and pigeonholed me into a specific type of art and collector base. When I realized my friends and people making less than $40K a year couldn't afford my work, I figured it was time for a change. So I fired my agent and now I do it all myself. I'm doing much better now and selling hundreds of works a year, rather than 20 or so. I have a BS in computer science and a minor business degree. I have no formal art training.

I am in a lot of galleries, but they typically buy the pieces outright from me (and they can sell them for whatever they want), or they handle the large more significant pieces and take a commission if they sell. I price my work from $20 or so all the way up to $5,000. If somebody likes my work, I want them to be able to afford an original piece. Since I am a full-time artist, unmarried, and no kids I have a lot of time to paint and experiment... I don't rush or cookie-cutter out my work like a factory... each piece gets my full attention. I am a prolific artist, and I never run out of material... I feel my style will change and evolve over time.

I do my own website* and have found that people tend to visit weekly to see the new works. I typically post most of the new work, although several pieces I don't post, so there is incentive for people to visit my studio. Studio visits can be useful, but sometimes people flake out and never show up. I have to drop everything (painting) waiting for them to arrive, so if they flake on me, they don't get invited back.
+8 ::: Where do you see youself in 10 years?
Being regarded as the most diverse, prolific, affordable, and important painter of the last 20 years.
It would be nice to have a larger space to paint in, but i'll get by just fine with my current setup.

+9 ::: Tell me more about your latest series of paintings and where you are going with them.
I just completed a project I came up with called '31 days in july'*. I did a 30" x 40" piece (mostly oil) on chipboard each day influenced by the top news stories in the washington post during july. It wasn't necessarily more painting than I usually do, but I found the restriction of being limited to just the top news stories to be a bit constrictive. I did works dealing with the disclosure of false intelligence reports on Iraq's uranium purchase, the bloodshed in Liberia, the Middle East 'peace' process, the Iraq war, and redskin's training camp... to name a few. they are all on my website at* if you want to take a look.

The next time I do a similar project (likely next year), I'll take the daily news but do a painting about a story that wasn't covered on the front page. I tend to watch BBC news each night and am amazed at the stories the American media doesn't cover.... that is, if you can watch the US news long enough past the car and drug company commercials to figure what wasn't covered.
+10 ::: What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Painting is very hard. Challenge yourself to paint badly. Shock yourself. Don't tell people you are an artist. Get rid of all unnecessary expenses. Sell your car, cancel cable. You'll only be able to keep one or two good friends. You'll never retire. Buy a good fan, ventilate.

Information - related websites

Personal website of Matt Sesow

+4 ::: Sue Coe : - Sue Coe

+4 ::: Francis Bacon : - Francis Bacon
::: Jean Michel Basquiat: - Basquiat
::: Willem de Kooning : - de Kooning
::: Basquiat Movie : - Basquiat
::: Matt Sesow's website :
::: "31 Days in July" Paintings:


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