Emerging Artists | Seth Haverkamp

All in the family

Seth Haverkamp, Blue Eyes, oil, 24 x 18.

Seth Haverkamp, Blue Eyes, oil, 24 x 18.

This story was featured in the April 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art April 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!

Early in his art career, Seth Haverkamp began painting portraits of his family for practical reasons: the models posed free of charge, and the pieces offered him the chance to experiment with style and technique. Haverkamp would also create what he calls “real paintings,” which featured friends or paid models. But he soon realized that he felt an important emotional connection with his family that was lacking when he painted other people. “So the experiments turned into ‘real’ paintings, and things just kind of took off from there,” Haverkamp says. “I finally felt like I was painting something that had meaning for me.”

Today, the Tennessee-based artist’s family approach has reaped its rewards. Last year ESSIE’S HEADDRESS, a portrait of his daughter, won a top award at the Portrait Society of America’s prestigious annual competition. It was the second time Haverkamp had received a PSA award for a portrait of a family member.

There is usually a give-and-take of ideas with his subjects during the creative process, he says. One of his daughters may strike an engaging pose or expression, or one of them might create an object, like a toy giraffe, that ends up in the portrait. For ESSIE’S HEADDRESS Haverkamp collaborated with his wife, Catherine, who is also an artist. He envisioned a large, round object encircling his daughter’s head like a halo, so his wife constructed a “halo headdress” out of forsythia branches. For Haverkamp the painting signifies the growth of a child who is on the cusp of adolescence and “growing into herself.”

Haverkamp describes his style as expressive realism with the backgrounds often inspired by Gustav Klimt’s paintings. His technique and style have evolved over the years: Initially he produced a drawing and then painstakingly transferred it to the canvas, thus becoming “a slave to the drawing,” he says. After studying with Nelson Shanks at Studio Incamminati in Philadelphia, PA, everything changed. These days Haverkamp paints directly onto the canvas in a loose and painterly style, often incorporating four or five layers of paint. “It’s liberating to not stress about getting it right all at once,” he says. —Bonnie Gangelhoff

Haynes Galleries, Nashville, TN, and Thomaston, ME, and Rutledge Gallery, Camden, SC.

Featured in the April 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art April 2015 print issue or digital download Or subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story!

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