Bert Seabourn is a legend. His work revolves around the universality of the human face and story. His greatest achievement is having one of his paintings displayed at the modern wing of the Vatican Museum of Modern Realistic Art. He is a living Oklahoma treasure.
Mr. Seabourn has painted for many years and continues to paint today. He also generously donates his time to teaching others at the Oklahoma Contemporary Museum of Art. I recently took his class and learned much about portraiture. He kindly took the time to answer a few questions that I asked him about his life and work.
Describe your path to becoming an artist. Did you always paint?
In high school in Purcell, Oklahoma from 1947-1950. I did art work for the school newspaper and the school's yearly annual. I also painted a few store windows with Rodeo Scenes during Rodeo season.
I joined the Navy in 1951 and while stationed at Camp Elliot, which is near San Diego, a friend and I painted a large mural in the mess hall, eighty foot long and eight foot tall. Later, my duty station was with Navy Air Squadron Eight (VR8) on Hickam Air Force Base, Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii. I became a Journalist Third Class, but worked as an artist illustrating the Squadron newsletter, base magazine and many brochures the Navy put out, plus a comic trip titled Gedunk. I also did work for the Trans-Pacifican magazine, an Air Force publication, and had works published in the Navy Base at Barbers Point newspaper, the highly popular Navy Times, All Hands Magazine, and the Naval Aviation News. I still liked doing cartoons and I was selling to several magazines in the USA. A local publication, Hawaii Beverage Guide, was using at least 15 cartoons each issue.
My next duty station was at the Sub Base, Pearl Harbour, assigned to CINC-PAC Fleet where I was one of two illustrators. We did features such as YOUR FIGHTING SHIPS, LITTLE KNOWN FACTS ABOUT YOUR NAVY, NAVY HEROS AND NAVY RELATED CARTOONS. Our work was published in over 15 hundred weekly newspapers in the United States.
After 4 years of the Navy, Bonnie and I returned to Oklahoma where I worked at OG&E for 23 years, first as a Draftsman then as Artist and Art Director. A also started night school at Oklahoma City University majoring in art in the fall of 1955 continuing through 1962.
You have been called a "Modern Expressionist". What does that mean to you?
I see things as they exist, but I paint from the image they have left on my mind rather than how they appear in reality.
Much of your work revolves around Native American portraiture. Is there something about the Native American culture that you are seeking to explain or explore in your work? Are these portraits of friends or family?
For a time, I did realistic faces of real Indians based on old photos, photos that I took, and actual sittings. That was when I realized the universality of the faces and legends. I began to blend the characteristics of several faces into a composite face... the master story and legend teller, or the medicine person.
Which of your many paintings are you most proud of and why?
"Legend of Kicking Bear", watercolor, 22 x 30, in the collection of the Vatican's Museum of Modern Realistic Art.
What advice can you give to someone who would like to pursue an artistic professional path?
Paint, paint, paint.
Thank you Mr. Seabourn for contributing these responses to Chic Travels and for your outstanding work in the field of painting.