Q&A with Artist Matt Sesow
Matt Sesow was raised in Nebraska and is currently living and painting in Washington, DC. At aged 8 he was struck by the propeller of a landing airplane. The accident resulted in his left arm being severed and the loss of his left hand. In his own words he says “Painting has healed me. I found painting at the age of 28 as a cure to the emotional pain I felt from losing my left hand as a child”. This month we caught up with Matt Sesow for a Q&A.
1. Tell us about which artists influenced your work and how you started as an artist.
The first artists I liked as a child were Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso. I liked the craziness of Dali and the sometimes simplicity and playfulness of Picasso. When I started to enjoy painting, and wanting to make it my life pursuit, I was drawn to Francis Bacon, Willem DeKooning, and Basquiat. I started to study the lifestyles, inspirations, and work habits of artists in order to ‘learn from the masters’ and how to avoid some of the mistakes that they may have made.
I started painting in 1994 and am “self-taught.” Initially, I painted for fun and kicks as a hobby while working full-time as a salaried employee as a software developer. I painted at night and weekends in my tiny studio apartment in Washington, DC. I created my own painting space in the apartment and made time to create and develop my skills. I left my last job as a software engineer in 2001 and have since then lived entirely off the sales of my paintings. Primarily from my website at http://www.sesow.com
2. What is your favourite medium and why?
My favorite medium is oil paint. I love the way the colors mix and subtleties of layering. Because I enjoy using oil paint, I need to respect the amount of time the paintings require to dry fully, so a large accessible drying rack/shelving is essential in my studio. It enables me to work on several paintings at once without sacrificing work space.
3. What drives you to create a piece of art?
My favorite part of painting is the creation of the work and the process to reach completion. When I paint, I am happy. Oftentimes there is a message I want to convey in my paintings or I might want to have a reaction to a current event. Since I paint to make my living/salary, it is important for me to sell the work. Thankfully I enjoy the process of marketing and selling my work almost as much as I do making it.
4. How do you begin your work? Do you have a set method or does your technique vary from piece to piece?
Most of my paintings begin with a simple idea or a huge burst of energy. As I paint, my mood changes, my intentions might vary, in the end, I want my painting to be recognized as an original Matt Sesow. Every painting is different and the process varies from me painting on the floor, using an easel, or on the studio wall. I am a messy painter and try to bring my best effort to every piece of art.
5. What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?
If you want to create art, just do it and see if it makes you happy. If you’re happy and want to do it for a lifetime, be original and don’t copy other artist’s work. Give credit to those who influenced you. If you are original and your friends and family like it, see if they will buy it from you for a low price. If that works, do more, stay true to your original style, take some risks and see if complete strangers will want to buy your art for an affordable price. Give yourself an “hourly wage” when you paint and don’t overprice your work. Use the internet to sell your paintings and try to expand your reach. You may never be able to quit your day job to become a full-time artist, but at least you’ll have a great hobby that makes you happy and you can make a little extra spending cash.
6. Which piece of yours are you most proud of, or consider a particular favourite?
I think my favorite painting is “A Choice”. It is part of the permanent collection at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.
7. Can you talk us through your thought process or story behind one of your pieces of art?
For the painting “A Choice”, I wanted to portray the moment in my life at age 8 that I was struck by the propeller of a landing airplane in 1975. While laying in intensive care in the hospital after coming through the near death experience, I had the experience, whether real or imagined from the influence of morphine being pumped into my eight year old body, I was visited by a guardian angel or “guide” that offered me a choice: “either lay here in pain and to die, or you fight, get up and live an interesting life.” My choice was to fight and live an interesting life.
8. What achievement are you most proud of?
My greatest achievement as an artist was my year long solo exhibition of around 150 of my paintings at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. Now the museum has around 30 of my paintings as part of their permanent collection.
9. What would be your dream art commission? Why?
I realize my paintings don’t appeal to everybody, so I’d hate to do something via a commission that was forced onto a large number of people (public art or advertising). So my dream commission is that I can get some more people to sign up to be my ‘art patron’ at http://patron.sesow.com It is a monthly subscription that people can sign up to support me, cancel anytime, and get original art from me every month in the mail. I ship anywhere in the world!
Another dream of mine would be to have the opportunity to give an in-depth interview that would be made into a high quality movie or documentary that would cover my choices, challenges, and accomplishments that could be used to inspire others to get through and conquer their hardships and emerge stronger and healed. I have already had many interviews and a documentary about my art/life however, I would love to do a “beginning to near end” story of my journey. I realize this will never happen, so I’ll continue to create little blips and blurbs through my paintings that give small and brief insights to my life and experiences.
To see more of Matt Sesow’s work visit his website: https://www.sesow.com