By Becky Benoit
Bitumen is the initial building block for a dizzying variety of products, from candles and earplugs to perfume, Velcro and computers. But few people would consider the sticky black oilsand a suitable media for creating art. It takes a truly discerning eye to see the creative possibility in bitumen and in Fort McMurray, that eye belongs to Lucas Seaward, known as “the Bitumen Artist.”
Seaward’s work, which depicts startlingly realistic images of northern wildlife, has earned the 32-year old the distinction of being selected as a featured artist for the Ducks Unlimited 2012 National Art Portfolio, an honour sought after by hundreds of other artists across Canada.
Seaward was inspired as an artist by his older brother, who he describes as an amazing artist in his own right. “I grew up in awe of what he could create. From that point on, I had to learn,” he says. “My art has evolved to have more substance now than in the past. I think of my present bitumen work as a form of visual storytelling that will engage conversation while uplifting the viewer. Aristotle said it best: ‘The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.’”
Seaward is also a successful member of the small business community through his growing company Unique Graphic Design, which has allowed him to successfully marry his love of art with evolving technology to create a thriving business.
“I began designing to stay creative while earning a paycheck in the process. It was a natural progression as there are many similarities between fine art and graphic design,” he explains. “Graphic design is a creative process and, much like fine art, conveys a specific message. Though the mediums are different, the principles and elements of design apply equally – line, shape, direction, balance, gradation and contrast are just a few of the building blocks used by both in the creative development process.”
An avid supporter of the arts in Fort McMurray, Seaward was part of the initial advisory group which launched the reopening of The Post art gallery. He says that a thriving art community is essential to any city but particularly Fort McMurray.
“Art teaches us that we are inherent sources of innovation and that we can dramatically contribute to a community just by discovering what we create best, and then doing it. This doesn’t have to be a masterful painting – a child exposed to the arts learns skills in creativity and self-expression that might develop later on into a medical vaccine or a new form of technology,” Seaward says with characteristic eloquence.
“This is why the arts are essential to our progress as a community – they are the gateway to knowing our power to innovate, transform and evolve.”