The Story Behind the Artist – Seth Apter

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This article was written by Michelle G. Brown

While the true definition of “mixed media art” is extremely broad, there are three main categories in abundance on the internet at the moment – mixed media painting / collage, journals / books and mixed media assemblage. The artwork of Seth Apter may well be one of the most recognisable in the mixed media community, with his pieces crossing between these main categories. Many of his pieces are dark, rich and full of layers and elements of interest, put together in such a way as to engage the brain as well as the visual feats presented to our eyes.

Seth Apter New York City mixed media artist

I was very excited to meet Seth in person during the CHA Winter Show 2014 and jumped at the chance to chat further to get an understanding of the story behind the artist. I have followed Seth’s work via his blog ~ The Altered Page ~ which has been around for many years and celebrates and shares Seth’s mixed media adventures.

Seth Apter New York City mixed media artist creates wonderful pieces of assemblage and collage

You might be mistaken to think that with the richness and depth of Seth’s pieces, that he has been gluing bits together since he was a small boy but this wasn’t the case. Seth’s introduction to mixed media art was during vacation in 2000 to Washington and Vancouver when he wandered into a gallery, “like one you’d find in New York” and discovered this new and wonderful type of art. It turned out to be encaustic and collage mixed media, and Seth began talking to the gallery owner who happened to be the artist of these pieces that Seth was admiring. A month after buying a few pieces and returning home, Seth received a handmade postcard from the artist, just checking in that Seth was happy with his purchases. Seth wanted to return the thank-you but felt a store bought card would be inadequate to post in return, so he set about creating his own postcard. This “mail art” went back and forth, and Seth was captivated and leaped into the world of mixed media, through looking online at what other people were doing and through taking classes.

Now over 10 years later, Seth has written and curated several books, teaches extensively and continues to share his love for mixed media. Seth has a home-based studio, allowing him to work when he pleases, most often when he gets his second wind at 11pm. Having a separate studio space would make this kind of work much harder to do.

Seth Apter New York City mixed media artist creates wonderful pieces of assemblage and collage

In April 2014, Seth has extended his repertoire to a gallery exhibition as part of the New York City Art Expo, a juried show that has been going for many years. Seth was finding through all of his obligations with writing, developing products and preparing for workshops, he was having less time for his “own art”. Committing to the exhibition allowed him to change focus to make artwork outside of his “job” tasks. It was also a great chance to meet other artists and get exposure to the broader art community. When I asked Seth what had surprised him about the exhibition and the process of preparing for it, Seth replied that it was an amazing education. Seth created and submitted three separate series for the exhibition. The series that got the most attention and had the best sales was the series that Seth actually liked the best himself. He had not expected this. It was a great reminder for Seth to create work that appeals to him and that will also then resonate with the audience. The exhibition also helped Seth to set the direction for further work and he will continue to “do what comes to you, do your heart”. He wants to remind all of us that when we do what we are passionate about, others will relate to it.

With Seth living and working in New York, he finds he is surrounded by inspiration every time he steps out of his front door – the energy of the city, the architecture, the culture and the shops, all provide a dose of daily inspiration. Even the found objects that Seth picks up can spark a new piece. Seth finds that working on more than one piece at a time is a way to keep his work fresh and moving. Often working on three or four pieces, he will leave them and then return to them with fresh eyes to decide if the piece is finished or not. Another way of assessing his own work is for Seth to take photos of works in progress and the view them on the computer. This allows Seth to see his work differently and what may have appeared finished at first glance actually needs more work.

Layers are a key part of Seth’s mixed media work. He suggests that we experiment and use products and colours we don’t like or usually use in the lower layers. It gives us a chance to use up product we have bought or experiment with colour combinations that are outside our usual comfort zone. In these base layers, they are often covered up, so we are free to play and see what we can come up with. I love this tip from Seth – it allows us to give ourselves permission to play and experiment. And you just never know which product or combination will spark a new idea or move your interests in a new direction. And there are always new products to try. Seth says he is a self confessed “product fiend” who loves getting new stuff to play with.

Seth Apter New York City mixed media artist creates wonderful pieces of assemblage and collage

“The wonderful or not so wonderful thing about the craft industry is there is always something new” Seth says. And that leads to trying new things and evolving his process but he always comes back to the basics; gesso, acrylic paints and glazes. Seth will then use the new products, like inks and sprays as adjuncts to the core of his designs. Of course, he loves stencils (his latest stencil designs can be seen over at Stencil Girl Products) and enjoys playing with Gelli plats to create prints to use in backgrounds or in small pieces in collage. Seth also loves bookmaking and likes to use Gelli printed papers to cover book board, either to create a book or to use as a layer in his collage.

Seth Apter New York City mixed media artist creates wonderful pieces of assemblage and collage

We got onto the topic of helping people expand their crafting into the freeing space of mixed media, where anything goes. Seth suggest finding other creative people on line and taking classes to move you out of your comfort zone. And consider the art supplies you have and might buy – which ones give you freedom to use in a number of different ways.

If you wanted to take a class with Seth, you can see where he will be on his website www.sethapter.com. Seth finds teaching so inspiring and learns as much from his students as they learn from him. it gives everyone a chance to become part of the community. “I love seeing excited and happy students” Seth says “and seeing the impact I have with students who start less than confident, then let go”.

Seth Apter New York City mixed media artist creates wonderful pieces of assemblage and collage

One of his upcoming teaching engagements will be part of the Art Is You team heading to Australia in August 2014.

“I’ve always wanted to visit Australia” Seth says and he will have his chance to combine the trip and teaching with an a amazing group of instructors in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. You can read all about the Art is You Down Under tour of their website www.art-is-you.com.au Seth is very keen to see what the mixed media community is like in Australia

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Michelle G. Brown is passionate about mixed media art and enjoys sharing her knowledge and techniques with you to allow you to express your own creativity. Michelle understands that many of us have an inner need to create. By learning a few basic techniques the amazing world of mixed media art is accessible to everyone!

Michelle lives with her husband and two boys in Melbourne, Australia.

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Comments

  1. Kelly Boler says:

    I always enjoy reading about Seth Apter and seeing his work is constantly inspiring. Thanks for this piece.

  2. Terri Sproul says:

    I got his DVD.. love them

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