Design & Painting

Andrew Sechin is Seedhouse’s Creative Director. After he’s done for the day—designing packaging, creating razor-tight illustrations or building complex mechanicals—he picks up a different set of creative tools. Andrew is a fine artist who paints luminous, gorgeous scenes of sea and sky. We took some time to talk with him about his process, inspiration and why craft matters.

SH: In a world of digital tablets, CGI, and interactive installations, why traditional painting? It’s such an analog process and experience. Why do you do it?

AS: Let’s begin with the fact that I started painting way before the digital era. Yes, I’m that old. I graduated with a master’s degree in painting and visual communication arts in 1984. Wow!

I like the feeling of the oil paints mixing, of getting your fingers dirty—literally! Sometimes I use my fingers when painting. It feels more personal to me than when I’m creating something digitally—with this glass barrier between me and the creation.

SH: Your work really seems to capture something about the essence of light. Often you utilize contrasting horizons and warm gradations of color. Where do those colors come from? What do you see in your mind’s eye when you’re painting these?

AS: Water, fire and large skies have an incredibly calming quality. In life, we are running way too fast with no time to stop and relax a bit. I want my paintings to give the viewer that time to pause. Stop the running. Relax and recharge. We are being hammered by bright, loud colors all around us—and that’s why I use mornings or sunsets as my themes—those times when the colors are softer and more saturated.

SH: What is your artistic background? Where did you go to school, and how did your professional history lead you to this place of graphic design and fine art?

AS: My alma mater is the Moscow Academic Art College, where I learned both graphic design and classic painting. But my story began earlier. Before that, I lived in northern Estonia, a country with more ties to the contemporary western arts. Moscow and St. Petersburg have some of the greatest museums with classic art from around the world, while the small Baltic republics were more on the frontiers of the modern art. For me, it seemed natural to be shaped by both things.

SH: Do you work from photos or other inspiration? 

AS: I like to start by sitting down to do a few quick drawings in one of my old sketchbooks, then adding colors and notes, so I can reference them later when painting in the studio.

SH: What types of paints do you use and why? And why do you work on such large canvases? 

AS: Classic oils are my favorite medium. I like the liquidity and boldness of good, quality oils. Their longer drying time also allows me to paint longer and blend layer over layer. Sometimes I experiment with watercolor and pastels to freshen up my process, but I always end up returning to oils as my medium of choice. I use palette knives as painting tools and work in very dynamic strokes, which requires larger canvases. The bigger canvases also fit better in a contemporary environment. For many people hanging art, it’s less about fine art and more about finding the right decorative pieces.

SH: Who is the audience for these pieces? What do you hope people feel when they buy one of your paintings and hang it on a wall at home or in an office?

AS: The most important thing for me is that my painting connects with the viewer. It’s less about age or gender or income. All I want is for my paintings to resonate with people.

SH: How do you think this painting informs your design work, and vice versa? How are the two related?

AS: The colors, rich textures and my love for details and visual layering all feed into my design work, and applying design to my art helps me consider new angles for composition, the best art sizes and also a bit about marketing. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned during my career in design is the value of being flexible in my art and truly listening to other people. Commercial design pushes me into new territories and continues to force me to learn new styles.

SH: This is clearly laborious hand work. What are you thinking about when you’re working on a piece? Do you listen to music to get you into “the flow,” or are you consuming something else like a podcast? What are you ingesting while you’re exhaling this work?

AS: I prefer to work when it’s quiet. Music has its own color and can easily influence my process, so I appreciate the silence. But when I do need some music, I gravitate towards classical music like Vivaldi or Liszt.

SH: Looking closely at some of your pieces, it looks like you occasionally use metallic materials. Is it gold leaf and metallic flake? Can you describe that process for us?

AS: My inspiration for using metal gilding came from both the Byzantine art of icon painting and the Vienna Secession art movement, where gold became a key part of the visual language. To get that seamless look on a large size canvas, I first need to make the surface as smooth as paper. This takes three or four layers of gesso, and I sand and wash each one before applying the next layer. After that, I often apply as many as six metal leaf layers, where each layer is made from pieces no bigger than two inches wide. It’s an incredibly time-consuming process.

SH: Where can people buy a piece of your art? Do you accept commissions?

AS: My art is on display and available for purchase at my website or Saatchi Art. People can also buy my art in person at any of the art shows I attend during the year, like the Gold Coast Art Fair in Grant Park, which is one of the city’s oldest and most renowned art shows. I also accept commissions.

Cover photo: Summer Wind, Oil on canvas, 48” x 48”

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