E very face is a work of art to Seth Weber, who sees people as the beautiful creation of God — in his opinion, God’s best creation. When he paints, he feels like he’s capturing a little piece of God on canvas, that little bit of His character that’s in every one of us.
“That’s what makes art so special to me,” he says. “I’ll do anything, but portraits are really my passion.”
Raised in Arizona, Seth started drawing as soon as he could pick up a pencil. His father was a jeweler; his mother was a sculptor. They always encouraged his creativity, even when he drew on the walls. “They’re kind of eccentric like me,” he says. “But it was nice because they were always really supportive of my art.”
His homeschooling included extensive travel and exposure to the arts through museums, but he hasn’t had a lot of formal training. One course he took, however, has left a lasting impression.
When Seth arrived in class with an 8x10 canvas and a small brush, the soft-spoken instructor quickly convinced him he should change his approach. He handed Seth a 2” wide brush and stood him at arm’s length in front of a huge canvas.
“I want you to cover the whole canvas with paint as fast as you can,” he urged Seth. “I want you to look at the model, close one eye and squint the other till all you see are the shapes of dark and light on her face.”
“That was foreign to me,” Seth says, “but I started painting that way and it’s worked.” He begins every portrait by laying down a foundation quickly and fluidly.
“One of the biggest mistakes people make is that they look at the face and go straight to a detail like the eye or the nose or the mouth. They end up with great looking eyes and mouths, but they’re in the wrong places. The portrait doesn’t have the foundation and the depth that it really needs to be a good portrait.
“That tool the instructor gave me was revolutionary because it totally changed the way I thought about painting.
“Not to say I’ve perfected it — every portrait I’m learning and learning and learning.”
After laying down the foundation of the painting, Seth works with the tones and the colors and the shadow and the light until it’s just right. Only then does he focus on the details. When he works in oil, the portraits have deep, rich tones which can be modified as needed. Watercolors let the light shine through, but there’s no covering up basic washes once they’ve been laid down. He also does sketches with conté pencil.
Shortly after he and his wife Chelsea were married they traveled to El Salvador to work in a children’s home. Enthralled by the faces of the children, many of whom had survived horrible conditions, Seth was inspired to capture their stories on canvas.
One young girl became a prostitute to survive; another child once lived in a garbage dump. Art, Seth discovered, is like life. Sometimes it seems as though we’re surrounded by darkness — then a little bit of light shines through and we’re surrounded by beauty.
“Art for me is really a neat way to look at life. Every face is such an amazing piece of work. Every portrait I do I learn something from it, like the one of Art [Briggs]. I came away with so much from that painting.”
The mural of Art Briggs is one of three Seth has completed in Delta, but it’s his favorite. “It’s humanity,” he says.
In many ways, Seth is a lot like Art, who lived humbly. He recognizes that people who are pursuing the American dream often drive themselves into the ground in their quest for material goods. “It’s sad to me. I don’t want anything to do with it.”
While Seth works part-time at Lamborn Vision School, he and his family primarily get by on whatever art commissions come in. In Paonia, he finds that he can also barter for food or car repairs.
“It’s not like we don’t like to work,” Seth adds. “We work hard. We really trust God with what He’s given us.”
His artistic talent is just one of the gifts for which Seth is thankful. He looks at the mountains surrounding his home, at his wife and kids, and recognizes that he has truly been blessed.
“I look with awe at the creativity that spills out of my hands. I don’t know how it works. I just feel like my entire life, everything I have and everything I do, is a gift from God. I want to give that gift back to Him in some way — painting His kids, loving everyone in His world.”
Seth believes he’s been given a good set of skills — now it’s just a matter of developing those skills by painting more and more interesting people.
“Like the portraits of the kids in El Salvador. They drew so much out of me that I didn’t even know I had. I’m so inspired by people’s faces, that the more people I meet, the more I can draw out of my art.”
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