Inside the Mind of the Mixed-Media Artist – Q&A with Seth Apter

What goes on in the mind of the mixed-media artist? Seth Apter wants to know.

mixed media art by seth apter
“Shadow Side” mixed-media self-portrait by Seth Apter.

So Seth, a mixed-media artist himself, has hosted an ongoing, online artist survey since 2008. His first book, The Pulse of Mixed-Media: Secrets and Passions of 100 Artists Revealed, grew out of that survey and explored a cross-section of the mixed-media community. His new book, The Mixed-Media Artist: Tips, Tricks, Secrets and Dreams from Over 40 Amazing Artists delves deeper into the mind and mixed-media art processes of a smaller number of artists. Some you have probably heard of, others you may be encountering for the first time.

I found the book fascinating on many levels and decided to get into Seth’s mind with a few questions.

CP: Why do you “take the pulse” of artists and how is this meaningful to other artists?

SA: I personally have an endless curiosity about the artistic process, not only with regard to technique but also with respect to the artist’s creative mind. Being an artist is by nature a solitary activity and “taking the pulse” of other creatives can connect us to a greater community. Collectively I think there is a great deal of inspiration to be discovered.

CP: Of course, every artist is unique. But what are some of the common threads you’ve discovered?

SA: I think the most common thread is that all artists–even those that appear to have it all together–struggle in one way or another. Challenges include finding time to create, handling the business side of art, losing confidence, feeling vulnerable, successfully selling their work, questioning their talent, fearing failure, or finding their artistic voice, just to name a few. That being said, another common thread is that creating art is an absolute necessity for most artists, which generally speaking makes the struggles worth fighting through.

CP: In writing this book, what were you surprised to discover?

SA: Despite the variety in choice of medium, home country, age, gender, etc., I was surprised that the contributing artists seemed to have more commonalities than differences. Also, as was the case with my first book, I was surprised by the level of honesty and vulnerability that these artists freely shared within both their artwork and their words. And on a very different note, as part of this book I went on a hunt through the Internet to find artists new to me. I was very surprised at just how difficult it was to track down contact information on so many.


mixed media artist seth apter
Mixed-media artist Seth Apter

CP: I was struck by the answers given in response to the question, “What is the best piece of advice you have ever received with respect to being an artist?” Most of the quotes refer to being true to yourself. Why is that so hard to do?

SA: I think at heart, we all share a desire to be encouraged, embraced, and accepted for who we really are–the good and the not so good. But I think that many people carry around the fear that this will not be the case and as a result wear a mask that shields and protects them. Deep down though the hope remains and I think this is what is being reflected in so many of the “best advice” quotes shared by the artists in the book.

CP: As the author of my own mixed-media self-portrait book, I was not surprised to see that the self-portraits in your book rarely actually look like–or even make an attempt to depict–the physical artist. What are your thoughts on that phenomenon?

SA: Perhaps the simplest answer to this question is that many artists do not work representationally and therefore created their self-portrait in abstract form. But I think there is more to it than this. I believe that every piece of art comes from within and is a manifestation of the artist themselves, no matter what medium they may be working with. In that way, every piece that is created is a self-portrait of sorts.

As you can see from his own self-portrait, above, Seth loves working with metal. Insider info: One of his favorite art supplies is Jax Green Patina, a solution that safely creates a beautiful patina on many metal surfaces.

P.S. What is the best advice you’ve ever received with respect to being an artist? Leave a comment below.


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