Born to be an Artist – Leah Seaman
The gift of imagination is one thing, however the gift of creating a work of art, right on the spot as the scene plays out, is another. Artist Leah Seaman – also known as ArtaBella – residing in Philippi, West Virginia, delivers her artistry straight to clients by capturing their special moments in time, such as a wedding kiss, champagne toast or first dance, expertly painted before events end.
“I discovered the live event painting industry about a year ago. I stumbled across a few live wedding painters who seemed to be living my dream life, getting paid to travel to beautiful destinations, meet new people and paint amazing scenery on site. I immediately knew this was an opportunity I wanted to pursue. So about a month before I left college, I reached out to a few friends who I knew were getting married soon and offered my services as a wedding painter. Luckily, my first couple quickly accepted my offer and let me paint their beautiful first dance. This was my first time ever painting in front of other people, and I was ridiculously nervous. I constantly second guesses myself and fretted over what other people would think of my work the entire evening. Little did I know how much of a game-changer that beginning piece would be for me.”
Seaman explained that as the night and her painting progressed, several vendors at this wedding saw what she was doing and shared that they had not heard of anyone in the State of West Virginia currently creating this type of work. “They quickly shared my work on their social media with their brides and fellow vendors. That night, I came home to over 16 brides asking to book me for their weddings. Forty-eight hours later, I had over 28 events/weddings booked for painting over the next year. In seemingly the blink of an eye, one of my long-held dreams came true. Not only would I have the opportunity to be an event painter, but I felt as though I could breathe for the first time since I started my journey as a full-time artist because each booking meant one step closer to financial stability,” Seaman smiles. “Nowadays, when I doubt or get overwhelmed by anxiety, I will re-read my journal entry describing that crazy time. I try to remind myself that success comes in waves, but dedication to my craft must be constant. The story is proof to my doubts and worries that I can be successful as a full-time artist.”
“As a kid, I didn’t thrive or fail in my art classes – we did lots of crafting, which was not my artistic forte at the time, so I never excelled in the ‘arts’ field”, Seaman recounts. “However, in the eighth grade everything changed for me when my parents gifted me an art kit and drawing tutorial book for Christmas. Bored one day in class, I attempted to draw one of the images in the book, following its step-by-step guidelines as meticulously as possible. When finished, I remember so vividly looking down at this creation I had just made and realizing that there might actually be some talent within me that I had not previously known existed. From that moment onward, I started to draw as frequently as I read books (all the time), posting my pieces on social media and gradually getting more and more comfortable with my craft.”
Seaman considers herself a multi-media artist who specializes in acrylics, oils, pens and graphite but is trying to expand into digital and watercolor as well. Her favorite medium is Bic pens. “I enjoy losing myself in the intricate detail that this medium allows me to produce because of how small and maneuverable the nib of the pen is. I also enjoy the slight thrill that using a permanent pen can bring about, because I never know if I am going to make an irreversible mistake or if I am going to continue to enhance the piece’s quality,” proclaims Seaman. “This creates an extra caution and meticulousness about my work that results in an even more impressive finished piece.” She says that for ease of use on larger works and live-painting, the vibrancy of acrylics is more convenient.
Encouragement to continue on a chosen path for one’s craft can come from anywhere. Asked if there were any living or deceased artists that struck an “awe” chord with her and why, Seaman shares that, “In college, I had the opportunity to write an honors thesis about the work of the Italian Renaissance artist Artemisia Gentileschi. The more I learned of her story and the obstacles she faced as a woman and a woman artist during her time, the more inspired and in awe I was of her determination and artwork. The powerful narratives Gentileschi reflected in her work inspires me when I approach my own artistic voice. She taught me cling tightly to my artistic dream, as she did with hers. I hope to be as good of a visual storyteller and as skilled of an artist as she was when the time comes that I can begin producing more of my own pieces.”
While Leah Seaman may be new to the artistic scene as a budding full-time artist and having recently graduated from college, she affirms the keys to her success include:
- Having mentors who were willing to speak wisdom, advice, and encouragement into my life.
- Having a network of supportive family and friends who are willing to lift me up, call me on my weaknesses, and listen to my ideas when I fix things myself.
- Possessing an almost obsessive dedication to my craft. My art and my business are both my passion project and my dream. If I did not feel so powerfully invested and determined to succeed as an artist, then I wouldn’t have the dedication and motivation to reach my defined metrics of artistic success and financial stability.
With a growing resume of clients for live-painting and businesses that have commissioned her for murals or pet portraits, Leah Seaman continues to stretch her wings to eventually include subject matters that are close to her heart. “When I do produce my own pieces, I am generally motivated by a desire to speak on social justice/religious issues that have deeply impacted my life, including purity culture, bodily autonomy for women, and racism within the Christian church. For the few personal pieces that I have had the chance to produce, I drew inspiration from social justice narratives.” She pauses, “As a young woman from an impoverished Appalachian community with two parents in ministry, I developed a heart for social justice work from an early age. One of the best ways to speak truth to power and begin unraveling unhealthy ideas for me is through artistic storytelling, and I hope to continue to use my work to deconstruct unhealthy mindsets in my own life. I intend to continue to do this work with the hopes that others will resonate with my messaging and that they will find the motivation and connection they needed to help them in their own self-discovery journey. When I am not trying to touch on such heavy topics, I enjoy exploring the world of fantasy by stretching my imagination and bringing to life the fantastical scenes from my imaginations or daydreams.”
“It is my hope to eventually find a nice balance between live painting, murals, and personal work, only taking on other kinds of commissions if I truly want to do them. This is something I see as perfectly plausible, if I remain intentional about building my networks, connecting with potential patrons, and practicing my skills. I would love to also begin mentoring other up-and-coming artists, providing access to apprenticeships, workshops and mentoring opportunities to help grow the arts community in my home state. I hope to one day become the artist that I could have really needed for a role model as a child,” she professes.
We are excited as you confidently take your next steps into the artistic world around us as you create your art, thank you Leah Seaman for allowing ArtBeat Magazine to share your artistic story.
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