This Summer – With Seth Bastian

Seth Bastian is a 21-year old emerging artist and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia (PAFA) sophomore pursuing studies in sculpture and painting. Although born into a family of artists, notably his grandfather Bahamian sculptor Stephen Burrows, it was only until the summer of 2013 that Bastian realised his gift in fine art.

His interest soon grew into a decision to pursue a career as a visual artist when he enrolled in the Fine Art programme at The College of The Bahamas (COB) that fall. “COB was a good foundation in helping to develop certain skills and techniques. I became very interested in painting like the masters. When I learned that PAFA focused on the traditional method of painting I was keen to join their programme.”

PAFA holds national prestige for being the first and oldest art school in the United States and home to a historical cast collection and museum internationally known for its collection of 19th and 20th-century American paintings and sculptures. Bastian fell in love with the campus, and the cultural vibrancy of its city adorned with one of the country’s largest public art collections. “The first thing I noted about PAFA’s campus was its cast hall which is atypical of modern art schools. I never truly understood how classical antiquity could help me as an artist until I visited the museum to study and sketch the sculptures.“

Bastian consumed in his pursuit to excel dedicated his first year to improving his creative technique. He became intrigued by the human form and engrossed in his ability to communicate the figure using traditional and unconventional practices. “It was exciting to be introduced to so many techniques and academic methods. I have seen major improvements in my ability to draw and paint figures from observation. This took a lot of discipline and practice both in and out of studio classes.” His oil painting “Nude Woman Lying Down” represents a special moment in his learning process where he enjoyed learning classical oil painting techniques something he had always been in awe of.

Produced during his life painting class, it was in this piece that he grew particularly fond of glazing and scumbling, methods that he as carried over to his recent work. Sketching and revisiting techniques also became crucial to his methodology, but he soon learned that his training was not solely about repetition. “After reading Geoff Colvin’s book “Talent is Overrated” where he speaks about the importance of deliberate practice, I adapted my approach, so it was less about repetition and more focused on correcting mistakes.”

After a successful term, Bastian returned to Nassau eager to make a connection between his creative practice and the place he called home. “ I realised I was at a stage where I could thrive artistically, but culturally I was not connecting.” He chose to use this summer as an opportunity to explore and create a new body of work, which speaks to the relationship of his artistic and personal journey by revisiting experiences that are key to his upbringing and Bahamian traditions.

Bastian has a great appreciation for family and feels blessed to have their support in his creative endeavours, an opportunity not afforded to many young Bahamians today. His spiritual and moral foundation stems from his parents who are invested in the sustainability of his future practice. His father, Antoine Bastian was initially worried about his choice to pursue art. “In the financial sector where I work, there are clear paths to success. Art being somewhat nebulous in terms of exact future goals. Nonetheless, I immersed myself into understanding art and the business of art so I would be able to help my son attain long- term goals.”

Bastian has devoted his summer to developing his professional creative practice in establishing and maintaining a studio space and producing a new collection of work he plans to exhibit this December.