Artist Spotlight: Gwenn Seemel

Patern Kervinio, 2001, round brushstrokes
"I definitely steal technique ideas from almost every painting I see, but I wouldn't say that I found inspiration for my style in another artist's work.  That came from doing intaglio print-making when I was a teenager.  In that medium, cross-hatching is a primary means for creating a tonal area.  I simply translated my new-found love of cross-hatching into color as I painted.  The more brushes I added to my repertoire, the more interesting the cross-hatching became." ~Gwenn Seemel

Portland, Oregon artist Gwenn Seemel popped out at me from amongst the many artists I see on a regular basis online.  Her work is not only technically amazing, but her choice of color, understanding of design, and interesting application make her art stand out in the world of portraiture.  

Guillaume (Folded Paper), 2005, flat brushes
Gwenn's artwork has been overwhelming guided by her choice of materials, both media and brushes.  She chose acrylic early on for its quick drying time, versatility and "immediate layering of distinct brushstrokes".  However, as her work has evolved and her budget expanded, Gwenn has been able to choose the quality of brushes, paints and surfaces she prefers.  

As far as brushes, she began working in mostly rounds, using flats only for laying in the background.  "I would start a portrait by laying down structural lines and crosshatching with the larger rounds.  Eventually, I would use 00 size round brushes to complete the painting, and their small brushstrokes are obvious.  My brush collection was limited and it's reflected in the rather uniform finish of the paintings I was making at the time," she shares.  

Molly, 2011
"Besides the rounds, in 2003, the only other brush in my toolbox was this large house painting one.  A hardware store find, I was lured in by the affordable price and the rough look that it gave my marks.  In 2004, I discovered the three centimeter wide flat brush, and I began to use it a bit like a house painting brush.  It helped me tame my obsessive crosshatching here and there, and it did so in a more controlled manner than the hardware store brush had done."  Soon after, Gwenn came across other sizes in the flat washes, 4 and 6 centimeter brushes.  She enjoyed the "blockiness" that these brushes gave her work, and as she became accustomed to them, she toned it down.  "The wider array of brushes was making for a broader language of brushstrokes and a lot more dynamism in the finished work," Gwenn explains.

The Buccas, 2009
"This is one of my favorite portraits that I've ever made.  While that probably has a lot to do with the subjects, it is also a matter of seeing all my marks united in one painting.  In that sense, it's a recored of how my tools have raised me up as a painter over the last ten years.  Of course, the portrait of the Buccas is not the last painting that I've made, and my style continues to evolve right along with my tool box."
Gwenn Seemel self portrait process
Every single brushstroke is a significant design choice, and Gween needs the right brush for each move.  Gwenn explains, "If anything, my use of the wide flat brushes is unique.  I'm not usually interested in them for blending or varnishing: I love the shapes they make when I allow them to be themselves."

Gwenn writes frequently on her blog about her own process as an artist and how her personal journey inspire her paintings and books.  Gwenn also vlogs about her work and you can learn more about both her materials and portraits on her YouTube channel.

Keep Painting,

For more brush information, check out the Dynasty Brush website.