Interview with surreal psychedelic painter Cody Seekins

Cody believes that to peel away the conscious mind reveals the vast unconscious dimension of our greater being. Because such awareness provides a natural affinity for eastern thought Seekins refers to his works as Jâtakas. He believes the struggles, enigmas, sentiments, and ephemera of his living experiences to be similar to the historical 3rd person Jâtaka narratives of Gautama Buddha before enlightenment. The term Budgie-Sattva is an appropriation combining the word budgie (parrot) with bodhisattva, or one who is still on the path toward perfect awareness.

The Jâtaka tales are an interesting collection of allegories which recognize the subjective journey toward enlightenment by illustrating the groundwork the individual goes through.  That groundwork manifests through incarnations of personal identity and experience; a frame allowing the artist to build a body of paintings pulling from his exterior and interior life.  In effect, Cody creates contemporary Jâtaka tales from a 1st person perspective.      
Please, tell us how did you find the artist inside you? How long have you been doing art? Is art something that you always wanted to do?
The catalysts which gave me tangible realization of my art style began initially from a fascination with the art covers of fantasy, horror, and sci-fi books when I began reading fiction novels at age 9.  I still struggled with the application of my vision, or how to translate my inner condition into an expression on media.  During my late teens and early twenties, after an inspired drawing session under the influence of LSD, the porticullis blocking me from that expression was lifted.  Subsequently I had opened a kind of flood gate of absorption into the art making.
I have been doing art in one form or another since grade school.  In terms of serious art my first such works began around 1998.  Art was always something that interested me, but it wasn’t until my break-through that I knew it was a true path.  My first love was creative writing, which in fact I dabble in still, and expect to develop and expand upon in the future.

What was / is your major influences? Other artists, books, movies, music or any other media....What inspires you to create your artworks?
As I mentioned, initially the work of fantasy illustrator’s captured my fancy.  Prominent among them were those working for TSR, such as Gerald Brom.  At later points in my early adulthood I became enamored by some baroque works, particularly Caravaggio.
Most of my influences; however, were not specifically conscious or chosen.  I tend to absorb the world around me like a sponge full of impressions, and then interpret those impressions through a transform process into original imagery.  Therefore, anything can become an influence in my work, depending upon its personal relevance during the period from which I am building an image.  Often an influence can be quite abstract rather than objective; a synesthetic feeling from a sensory experience instead of a readily-identified archetype. 

How does "a normal day of artist" in your life look like?
I tend to cycle between night owl and day time schedules.  Particularly during heavy studio practice I sway toward being awake over night.  Those periods include lots of coffee, listening to music, or half streaming videos on my laptop while I paint. 
Otherwise, I go to the gym, at all times of the day or night.  I syncopate my painting with cooking, spending time with my partner and family, paying bills, exploring restaurants, travel, and managing the various business sides of my art practice.

What’s your background? Are you self-taught artist or did you study art? Do you think an art education is important or imperitive for anybody wishing to be an artist? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages that you have encountered throughout your career with/without the formal training of the Art Academy?
I feel that I hold one foot firmly in the realm of self-taught art as well as formal training.  This is because my art was born from intense psychedelic self realization, and continued as such for years before I entered into academia.  Even my undergrad experience, in all honesty, was not influential but more or less controversial to my spirit, and so it wasn’t until I attended the Academy of Art University for the MFA in Painting that I absorbed practical considerations, or in effect, learned something institutionally. 
Art education and its use is largely dependent upon the quality of the education.  My undergrad experience was mostly useless, and often degrading, to the very impetus of my art. Many of the art faculty at Wichita State University were, in practice, a propagandist cult for canons of post postmodernism, and contemporary art of globalization-the conceptual art philosophies, if one can call them that, of artists like Andy Warhol, Marco Evaristti, Damien Hirst, Keith Boadwee, and others.  In truth I found these philosophies and the art itself tasteless, lifeless; often an intellectual scam insulting to my intelligence, and incapable of substantiating its own justifications to any serious degree.  Yet, it wasn’t merely the obsession the faculty had with these canons, but rather the bull-headed insistence that there was no other credible “art”, which ruined the education for me.  By the end of it I seriously considered burning my Bachelor’s degree in front of the art building.
I do not believe in a specific limitation to what “art” is.  Nor do I believe in being bullied or degraded personally for doing what I love, which is, I fear, a too common provincial approach for some educators to their students.  Concrete examples of my experience included being told that to use oil paint at all, no matter what I produced, inherently meant I could only ever be a “Sunday Hobbyist.”  Or the suggestion that I wouldn’t want to make art for “Those kinds of people,” implied, of course, that the love, enthusiasm, passion, inspiration, intelligence, work, and life force I used to make my paintings could only feed a kind of underclass society of unwashed subhumans.
On the other hand, my Master’s program at the Academy of Art University, satisfied the validation of my inherent worth, and expanded upon that potential. Rather than proselytizing, the Academy sought to help me develop new or better tools for my artistic communication.  In some ways the education was really more scientific, formulaic; woven from a well honed and measurable practice, and yet it was not obstructive, but instructive. 
My undergrad followed the practice of ignoring mastery of media in favor of crafting a conceptual statement.  Skill and craft were demeaned in favor of abstract political justification.  Whereas at AAU, craft and articulation were both given due consideration and development. 
I do believe there exist many self-taught artists who would do roundly better work given a proper formal art education.   I see common issues in quality from even successful well known artists; failed attempts at rendering an object, lack of understanding of use of color, atmospheric perspective, proportionality, etc.  There of course are times that artists intend to exaggerate, diminish, or distort a quality of some representation.  However, there are the innumerable examples where artists try to fake intentionality to hide their weaknesses.
This is a particular problem in many visionary art movements when artists attempt to integrate the visionary grids and geometric formulas of the canon, or more rarely the authentic vision, with realistic depictions of bodies, faces, and so forth.  The result is a visual imbalance between the accuracy of the psychedelic elements and their objective counterparts.  This tends to result in a heavy reliance on the abstract components to the work, much akin to a top-heavy weightlifter with toothpick legs.

Similarly among pure academics guided completely by the frames of well established formula, unintended lifelessness can occur.  Compositions may be perfect, but appear contrived.  People or objects may be rendered and polished, but yield as much felt substance as a mannequin.  The uncanny valley that develops presents a challenge to extremes of self-taught and educated both.

What fascinates you the most about (pop) surrealism and contemporary art? How would you describe your style? What themes do you pursue, what surrealism mean to you and what do you hope the viewer will take away from your art?
The surrealisms interest me because they are a natural result of the exploration of consciousness and the psychological domain as it relates to objective reality.  I enjoy work that is progeny for some kind of novel exploration by the artist, which tells me about the experience of that person from their unique vantage. 
When you see a work by H.R. Giger, Salvador Dali, Gerald Brom, Michael Hussar, Zdzislaw Beksinski, Jeremy Geddes, and others, you immediately FEEL a kind of analogue imprint of their unique capacity.  They have managed to archive into physical media an accurate record of their personal nature.  In doing so we get to access these otherwise hidden and proprietary dimensions.
My own work invokes impressions which are important or substantial to my experience as a living being, and which inform or express the unfolding cosmology before me.  It is a record of reflection as well as the imprint of direct moments. I think philosophically I relate very much to some of the ideas and methods of Roberto Matta’s psychological morphisms, or Inscapes. 
What do you love most about creating and being an artist? What does “being creative” mean to you?
I enjoy the challenge of finding something new in each work, and investigating new domains of the mind and identity.
Can you describe your typical workflow when you’re working on your art? What are your tools of trade? What medium do you most often use and why?
I typically use oil paint on canvas or sometimes textured panels.  Work flow includes long hours meditating for a clear feeling or direction on a new work.  This is followed by researching potential objective references to satisfy the vision.  A framework is developed, and then the painting begins in earnest, usually undergoing various stages of naturally occurring altered states which all add their in-the-moment character or synchronistic quality. It is sort of like when you suspend a paper clip in over-saturated sugar water and watch crystals grow from that kernal.
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
I am very satisfied with the medium I use so far.  I do plan to write a book or several by the time I retire, though. 
Tell us more about your workspace. What was the most funny or weird thing that happened to you in your studio? What is / was the most strange thing hidding in your studio?
Can’t say anything particularly strange is hiding in my studio.  I tend to work wherever I am staying or living, so environments change.  Years ago when working on a psychedelic portrait I built up such an electric charge from the carpet that a static shock about two feet long arced into my painting arm, jolting its way through my brush onto the canvas paint.  It was pretty much my graduation from certain schools of abstract expressionism.
What toughest challenges have you faced as an artist during your art career? What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far?
My toughest challenges have generally been in figuring out how to sincerely encapsulate the dynamic of what I do into easily digestable artist statements. 

What’s the best and worst advice you ever received in your art career?
Best advice: follow the path of the heart. 
Worst advice: Everything’s already been done, and a painting is inherently unable to engage a viewer, so don’t paint at all.
What do you dislike about the art world? What is the hardest thing on being an artist? Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
The hardest thing about the art world is that it has been usurped in the same fashion that money and politics have; by a vapid feudal cabal of the astronomically wealthy.  Values have been deranged for many works.  Meanwhile, the projected and insular elitism of it all is emulated like a perverse steppe pyramid down to the lowest venues of serfdom, squelching impressionable youth to become dilettantes for soulless idols.
The artistic life can be lonely I suppose, but that also is its benefit.  To find real silent spaces from which to work can be an asset to the creative process.  Sometimes there is too much of a social pressure in the art world.  To be seen is as important as the work itself.
My art is my counter-action to it all.  I take my art making seriously and I invest my life into it. I expect my audience to form organically, by natural attraction and saturation.  I make my art and myself into the vision I would like to see.  When someone else also finds pleasure from the fruits of my taste, even better!  I also believe my patrons deserve substance over hype, and strive to cultivate works which live up to that.
Where do you see yourself in the future? Professionally, what’s your goal?
My future is one of continual evolution and maturation.  Professionally, I am looking to branch into Asia.  My web presence is a strong staple to my career, as well as connecting to good people from all walks of life around the globe.
Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others? Maybe advice for beginning artists out there?
Make sure that you are satisfied with your work itself as your reward.  Be honest with your motivations as you set out on any path.  Giving the world a signature transmission of who and what YOU are is probably the best legacy you can offer.  Be the best you can be, and then be fruitful creatively.  Take your life seriously, while learning to relax. Give a perspective without preaching.
If you’re going to have a website, learn SEO techniques and use them!  Find good relationships with other artists and patrons.  Learn how to have a professional portfolio and presentation. 

Your favorite art or life quote is ...
I have had this thought in my head lately playing around--something I conceived weeks ago.  It goes something like this, “Hinduism is all over the place, and Buddhism is in the middle of nowhere.”
What are you doing when you’re not creating? What (other) hobbies do you have?
Exercise and being with my partner-providing time with my family.  If I’m lucky I can get some writing in.  Otherwise my painting is everything.

Do you have an online portfolio or a blog where we can view your work?
Is there anything else you’d like to say? Is there any project you are working on right now or any ongoing event or exhibition you would like to share with our readers?
If you are interested in my work, events surrounding my work, or a purchase of originals or prints, definitely visit my site and explore.  Feel free to also follow new works as they come out on my Facebook fanpage. Any questions, send me a message from my official website or drop a line on FB! Thank you all for your interest.

Thank you dear Cody, it was a honor to interview you, I wish you only the best for you and your art and already looking forward to see your new visions and works :)
By contributor Linda. September 22, 2014. Find Oh, So Surreal on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google + or RSS.