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PDX Authors and Artists

Gwenn Seemel – Artist

Born in Saudi Arabia in 1981, Gwenn Seemel was raised by her parents all over the world before they eventually settled in Oregon.

Gwenn Seemel’s upbringing is almost as colorful as her portrait work. Born in Saudi Arabia, she moved to Oregon with her parents when she was still a baby, lived on and off in France, and is now residing in Surf City.

“I could have actually become a citizen of Saudi Arabia, but with a French citizenship from my mom and an American citizenship from my dad, I figured that was enough,” she laughs.

After she graduated from high school, Gween would eventually go to college at Willamette University in Salem, earning her BA summa cum laude.

Following her graduating from college in 2003, Gwenn would launch her career as an artist in the Portland Oregon area and today she splits her time between Portland and Surf City NJ.

About Gweenn Seemel’s Art

For the last 15 years, Gwenn has become well known for her vibrant portraits which at first glance will make any art lover automatically think of the portraits painted by Vincent Van Gogh.

When she paints a portrait, she takes photographs, for an hour, of the sitter before painting them. The sitter is asked to talk about themselves during the photography session. Seemel creates the painting from the photographs. The paintings consist of “geometric patterns and layers of color.” Seemel cites printmaking as an inspiration for her painting technique. Seemel painted a portrait of Randy Leonard in 2009, which was displayed in the Portland City Hall. Campaign money was used to buy the painting. Her 2009 exhibition, “Apple Pie,” featured portraits of SupermanSusan B. Anthony and Elvis Presley. In 2010, Seemel partnered with artist Becca Bernstein to create their version of portraits of ten subjects. Subjects included family members and the artists themselves. A 2012 exhibition called “Crime Against Nature” includes paintings of animals that don’t fit into the gender binary such as dolphins and squirrels.

Seemel releases her work under a free license, and encourages the remixing, use, and sharing of her work

Multi-Talented

Like many great artists before her, Gwenn is multi-talented and also excels at writing and video production as well.

Since 2010 she’s been making videos which teach other artists how to create great artwork and market it online.

Since becoming well-known online, Gwenn has also become a proponent of sharing and since she doesn’t copyright her work the artist encourages others to share her work online or use the images when they find them.

Her book titled “You Share Good” details why she believes in sharing her work openly online and how imitation actually benefits her as an artist.

Since she started her career in Portland, Gwenn has played a major part in helping to keep Portland eclectic and the “weird” city that people know and love.

One of her major contributions to the city’s art scene was painting a mural of the late Kirk Reeves. The “working Kirk” mural is now known around the world because It’s vibrant colors capture the essence of Reeves and the joy that he brought to thousands of people who passed him on Hawthorne Bridge on a daily basis.

Reeves endured health problems — including diabetes and vision trouble — for years before he died, and lived on and off the streets. Seemel was one of several friends and acquaintances who noticed Reeves’ email bulletins taking a frustrated and sorrowful turn in the months before his death. When Seemel was working with Reeves on the 2007 portrait, she took notes on what he’d said to her.

“He told me a lot about being lonely and also about how important his art was to him; how important it was to him to be something for people — a moment of happiness. He also was really proud of the fact he’d saved people from suicide, being on the bridge and being a cheerful presence. That was really important to him.”

Seemel’s mural — a broad, vibrantly-colored expressionist portrait with references to Reeves’ life and music — is the first permanent tribute to Reeves on Portland’s streets. But it’s not the only one.

Reminding People That They Are Beautiful

As artists grow their styles change over the years but for Gwenn Seemel her mission has always remained the same over the years. She likes using each Portrait session to remind people that they are beautiful both on the inside and outside.

To learn more about Gwenn visit her website at http://www.gwennseemel.com

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