Combining Obsession with the Seven Deadly Sins ~ Jamie Wyeth!

One evening years ago, I found myself sitting next to Jamie Wyeth at a dinner table.  The host of the evening was a collector of my art, and more recently Jamie Wyeth’s art.  Jamie was a fascinating conversationalist, whom I found charming and inquisitive.  One of his good friends, Andy Warhol, described him though as “peculiar”.  

Jamie’s hair was long, he was appropriately wearing a jacket and tie, but he peculiarly had red high-top Converse All-Star “Chucks” on.  I also noticed some cobalt blue paint under his fingernails.  I thought to myself “this guy is the real deal”.  He’s the guy that painted JFK when he was only 20.  He’s the son of Andrew Wyeth, and the grandson of NC Wyeth.  He is an artist’s artist.  

Jamie Wyeth describes himself as “boring”, “all he wants to do is paint”.  Well, he has devoted his life, now 68 years of age, to his craft and he has produced an awe inspiring body of work.  

When we lived in Maine, we were fortunate enough to be around for the opening of the Wyeth wing of the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine.  We attended several significant events at the museum where we were treated to seeing many of Jamie’s masterpieces up close.  

Being very familiar with Jamie’s work, now that I’m into painting Aviary art, I thought I’d look back at his many paintings of Seagulls.  I’ve been back and forth on whether or not to paint the common bird.  I’ve only produced one painting of seagulls, entitled Baywatch, but I find them fascinating and beautiful at the same time.  

There are many ordinary paintings out there of Seagulls by many artists.  Jamie believes too many artists paint them “looking like white doves”, as pretty birds, when in reality they are “nasty birds filled with their own jealousies and rivalries”.  

Jamie lives on an island part of the year, off the coast of Maine.  Gulls day in and day out surround him, allowing him to study and paint them for hours on end.  If anybody knows how to paint a seagull, it would be Jamie Wyeth!

Years ago, a vivid dream about Seagulls woke Jamie up.  Startled by the unusual dream he started sketching down the images that were in his head.  He awakened in the morning with sketches scattered everywhere.  His brainstorm in the middle of the night was to depict the Seven Deadly Sins (greed, sloth, lust, gluttony, anger, pride and envy) in a series of Seagull paintings, all characteristics he believes gulls exhibit.

One of the paintings entitled Inferno was recorded on video as he painted it.  I thought I would include the link to this video because it gives valuable insight into what it takes to become a successful artist.  It shows Jamie’s obsession with painting, his obsession with his subject, and his tremendous work ethic.  He has said that when he paints a portrait he becomes that person.  His intimacy with his subjects is what makes his work so believable and lifelike.  

I think you’ll find this video fascinating.  Notice the blue paint under the fingernails!  ☺

Now, as I write, the Boston Museum of Fine Art is having a Jamie Wyeth retrospective of his paintings.  Within the impressive collection is his Seven Deadly Sins series of Seagull Paintings.  I would love to visit the museum, see the retrospective, and once again study his paintings up close.

Jamie Wyeth and his painting entitled Inferno

Jamie Wyeth and his painting entitled Inferno

Studying how masters handle their subject matter can help open other artists’ minds, stimulate creativity, and inspire.  Jamie’s obsession with his art is so over the top, that’s what has helped make him one of the greats.  I love that he had paint all over his face in the video, and that he licked his paintbrush to moisten it (reminiscent of Van Gogh).  Not that I would recommend it!  ☺  He says of his work that each painting is an obsession in which he drains himself totally.  

Jamie’s paintings of the common Seagull have convinced me that painting Seagulls isn’t something to shy away from, rather something to take on creatively.  

Thanks as always for your interest in my art, my photography, and my blog!!!


One of the joys of being an artist is having the freedom to follow my passion...
— William R. Beebe
What's next? Drawing by William R. Beebe

What's next?

Drawing by William R. Beebe