Lucas Seaward is a Canadian painter, photographer and graphic designer who has always been fascinated with the complex relationship between man and nature. Inspired by his journey to Fort McMurray in 2008, Lucas discovered the immense scale of the industrial development happening in remote Northern Alberta.
Conflicted with mixed emotions from the experience Lucas has since been on a mission to advocate responsible development while encouraging awareness of man’s growing impact on the planet.
Today, out of his studio in Alberta, Lucas pursues a reconnection between humanity and nature. His paintings combined naturally occurring 100 million year old organic material known as Bitumen ( a.k.a. Oil Sands which is used to produce thousands of everyday items ranging from plastics to perfume ) with modern day subject matter.
His recent works challenge us to observe the inner workings of our way of life and the balance we have to maintain with our surroundings.In 2012 Lucas gained national exposure as he was awarded a place within Ducks Unlimited National Art Portfolio and has since become an internationally sought after artist.
Carrie: When did you first realize your love of art?
I discovered a love for art at a really early age Influenced primarily by my brother Jason (Jay . You see, Jay is six years older so as he was developing his art techniques in high school/university I was in elementary school.
Watching my brother from a young age create works of art beyond my comprehension was very inspiring to say the least. I became a bit of a sponge, absorbing as much knowledge from my brothers’ art lessons as I could. A love for the arts was born.
Carrie: How did you discover your unique medium of bitumen?
For as long as I can remember I’ve always had concern for the environment. Growing up hearing stories of the rain forest being cleared at unprecedented rates, or the bleaching of coral reefs due to ocean acidification I’ve tried to stay informed on global environmental challenges while whenever possible sharing insight to those uninformed on such complex issues. So growing-up in the Edmonton area the Athabasca Oil Sands has always been a sensitive subject.
Globally the Oil Sands tends to have a terrible reputation for its environmental footprint and in 2008 I went up Fort McMurray to see for myself firsthand what is really happening in the region. I went in expecting one thing and came out experiencing another. I spend countless hours learning about industry production and its surrounding impact, land reclamation and new technologies that it was a surprising realization how little I knew prior to arriving in the region.
This new understanding inspired me to act in the only way I know how, through the arts. I set out to create works of art utilizing Bitumen to encourage dialog and appreciation for all living things we share this planet with. I believe the more we understand our impact on the planet individually as well as collectively the more likely we will make responsible decisions on development for the future.
Carrie: What is working with bitumen like?
Bitumen as a medium comes with a number of challenges. The main being its unforgiving nature, once the bitumen has been applied to the canvas it cannot be removed (at least not entirely). This certainly makes things interesting but ultimately means I have to plan and prepare a piece with precision.
In order to have the bitumen dry properly it’s mixed with a transparent binding agent. Discovering what agent to use and how to use it was a six-month experimental endeavor and at times seemed impossible. The process of mixing the bitumen and binding agent creates a toxic odor so in order to utilize it I have wear a fresh air fed respirator for safety from long-term exposure.
Bitumen also cannibalizes paint brushes, each brush only lasts one use and in some cases that’s only a few minutes. In order to create a piece thinly diluted layers of bitumen is applied, dried, and reapplied in succession to create depth and tonal variation. This sequence means each piece takes a few weeks to create and can’t be rushed.
Carrie: How do you know when an artwork is finished?
I know when I’ve finished a piece when I can step away from it for a few days and when I come back I am reaffirmed that there is nothing else that needs to be done. I’m of the belief that a piece of art will tell you when it’s done, you will know when you see it…it’s important not to force it.
Carrie: What does your workspace look like?
My workspace couldn’t be more basic, it’s a simple double detached garage. As I mentioned earlier about the odor created from using bitumen as a medium I must keep the smell away from my living space. So a garage seemed like the easiest solution.
I don’t concern myself with needing any decorations nor attempt to create any particular atmosphere within studio space. All I require is music in my ears and I am good to go. I do however have a lot of drop sheets within my studio to protect from spills and splatters, as bitumen is the last thing you want cleaning off your floor or walls.
Carrie: What do you do when you feel stuck?
When I’m having a creative block I spend time outdoors doing photography, these days it’s mostly macro stuff. I find nature to be very inspiring so it never takes long before I break the low and get excited to develop something new.
Of late I’ve been working on a series of photographs of naturally occurring oil from the Fort McMurray region, beautiful iridescent spectrum of colours has been a nice relief from the monochromatic limitations of bitumen.
I find its important to constantly be expanding yourself artistically, this practice can often reduce the likelihood of having a creative block in the first place.
Carrie: What advice do you have for artists still searching for their unique voice?
My advice would be to not rush it, let things evolve. I believe as creative individuals discover themselves, what speaks to them, what motivates them, the artistic directional voice they have been looking for will naturally present itself.
A unique artistic voice is real not fabricated. If I had been asked ten years ago “what’s the likelihood I would be painting with bitumen in distant future” I would say next to zero…but here I am.
Carrie: Can you speak a bit to the balance of marketing and making your art?
For me it’s pretty straight forward, my focus is almost entirely on creating new art. As each piece I paint takes an average of 2-4 weeks to complete its difficult to develop a body of work to market. I’m playing catchup at the moment as there is a 6 month waiting list on new works.
I’ve actually put little effort into self-promotion, it’s not that I don’t believe it’s important. For me, when I started out using bitumen as a medium it wasn’t in pursuit to make a living from it, I aimed to develop an exhibition but what I had not expected though was that it would take nearly 10 years to create.
Carrie: What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
I whenever possible like to photograph my subject matter, but in cases where this is impossible I love online photography stock licensing websites like “Getty Images” or “iStock”. Priceless in times of need.
Carrie: Who/what inspires you?
The boundless limitations of nature, housing incalculable artistry is my inspiration. From taking my drone out getting a bird’s eye view of the world to shooting the smallest of living creatures with my macro lens I’m never without inspiration.
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
Creativity is inventive self-expression.
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