Spiritual fluidity through watercolors

When Connie Seabourn travels out of state she’s always joyful for a return to red dirt.

The Oklahoma painter has lived and worked here most of her life. The people, plants, animals and atmosphere have provided profound inspiration for the watercolors she produces. A selection of these paintings are part of a show now up at Whispering Willows Art Gallery, 226 E. Main St., though November 29.

“I was born in Purcell, and, except for being with my parents in Hawaii briefly during the Korean War while dad was in the Navy, have always lived here,” Seabourn said. “The skies seen here, the little hopping frogs, crickets and wild sunflowers I’ve painted. Whenever I come back from trips and cross the state line I can smell our varieties of weeds and feel the familiar humidity which all make me happy to be back here.”

Although she’s an Oklahoma artist through and through, Seabourn’s career has been recognized nationally.

Her work has been exhibited at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. and the Museum of Man in San Francisco, California. Private collectors include Tyson Foods Corporation and Japanese ambassador Nobuo Matsunaga. Seabourn’s 1980 bachelor’s of fine arts in printmaking is from the University of Oklahoma and she holds a master’s degree in art education from the University of Central Oklahoma. Over the years Seabourn has worked in a variety of mediums but is best known recently for watercolors.

“There’s a translucence to the colors that allows you to see layers upon layers,” she said. “You can see the paper through it and because my subjects are ethereal and just barely there, it makes them float on the paper while staining it. And you can put another color over it while still seeing part of the first one.”

The pictures she makes often have a dreamscape other-worldly quality. It’s a world of earth goddesses, nurturing mother symbolism, blossoming flowers and floating butterflies. They depict attractively mysterious feminine spirituality.

“Since junior high school I’ve liked studying about different religions and collecting artifacts from other churches and faiths,” Seabourn said. “That usually comes out in my art. It’s been part of my painting for most of my life. It’s a universal concept and anyone can feel touched or reached in some way. And I think everyone is spiritual, it’s just whether you’re aware of it or not. Love and peace have inspired my art since I was a teenager. Everything I paint is intended to make people feel love, calmness and awareness.”

Seabourn is the daughter of celebrated Oklahoma artist Bert Seabourn. She actually studied painting for a year as an early 20-something with her pop.

“I was heavily influenced even just from his work ethic because he was always working so hard,” Seabourn said. “And I was privileged because all our free time was spent going to art galleries and looking at art. But I had to make a name for myself as an artist. The gallery owners weren’t going to give me wall space if my paintings weren’t selling.”

Much of Seabourn’s career has been spent teaching. She still teaches privately, including periodic open studios at The Depot. Seabourn taught full time in Oklahoma public schools from 2007 to 2016 and has been an adjunct professor of drawing and painting at Rose State University and the University of Central Oklahoma. She has written and illustrated children’s books, as well.

“Teaching art to others has taught me to be very patient,” she said. “I know it’s difficult for students to paint next to each other but you learn a lot from doing that. I enjoy teaching and feel like I get to know other people by keeping the classes small. I think students pick up on how much I enjoy the watercolor medium, because I paint with them.”

Seabourn has nothing but praise for central Oklahoma’s arts scene.

“It’s more active now than ever and with younger people,” she said. “Areas such as the Plaza and Paseo districts and the many assorted galleries just have more to see.”