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Artist of Month: Sean Bodley

by on November 30, 2017 2:55 PM

Many people have fond memories of sitting at the kitchen table as a child, playing or talking. For Sean Bodley, these memories entail drawing landscapes and battle sketches.

Bodley chuckles at a preschool memory of when he took the painting of a fellow preschooler’s parent, since he liked it so much. Bodley believes this painting was an inspiration for him to become the artist he is today.

Art was something Bodley never envisioned as a career, and he began his college experience at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee as a kinesiology major since he liked exercise and had an interest in personal training. He had enjoyed art in middle school when he would create card games and draw, but in high school he was not as involved.

In his sophomore year of college, Bodley decided to take some art courses.

“When I started taking the art classes, I went all in. I didn’t know what the plan was, but I was super excited about it,” Bodley says.

When Bodley graduated, he worked a few jobs in the Milwaukee area to make ends meet and pay for a new studio. During that time he started creating art in a shared studio space with several other artists. He also began teaching his first students, who responded to a flier he posted.

His love of landscape painting came into full swing upon moving to State College with his wife, Stephanie, who was pursuing her doctoral degree at Penn State.

“The art journey is always changing,” Bodley says.

Bodley enjoys painting outside with his dog, Pippa. When he began looking at Mount Nittany, he turned his focus on global climate change.

Bodley wants to wrap his head around the concept by painting and reading books on the subject. He says the more he learns, the scarier it becomes.

He says he hopes his paintings can raise awareness and help us prepare for what is to come. He says his favorite painting, titled “Sink or Swim,” is about the choice we have to mobilize and try to deal with climate change because he asserts that the costs are enormous, and it’s not just about money.

Bodley’s art has evolved over time, and so has his outlook.

“I think art is a universal language,” he says. “Some art you need extra knowledge to decipher, but I think art is cool because you don’t need to know any certain language. Anyone can see it and sort of react to it in their own way. I think it is a powerful tool for communication. It can be a spiritual tool. It can be many different things. … The doors for art today have been blown open as to what art can be.”

Along with his landscape painting, Bodley teaches to all age groups. He teaches private lessons within people’s homes in the evenings. He is also a teacher for the Art Alliance and does workshops for the Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County.

When teaching, he focuses on the technical aspects of materials, tools, physics of light, measuring, and representational drawing and painting. He calls this the “grammar” of the universal language.

His studio, affectionately named Mount Nittany Studio, is where he does most of his solo work. Mount Nittany Studio is a cozy space, with a tiny kitchen and Bodley’s paintings around for show.

One of his paintings depicts a “Mad Max”-style scene in the desert, with none other than Pippa running through the image.

For work, Bodley does a mix of independent work and commissions.

His independent pieces can take anywhere from a week to eight to nine months to complete. “Sometimes it takes a week, sometimes it takes a year!” Bodley laughs. “Sink or Swim” took Bodley about nine months to finish, since his concept changed halfway through the project.

Bodley says he also finds commission work to be satisfying because he is helping a client realize a vision. He creates anywhere from six to 12 commissions a year, which he affirms are quicker to create because of the hard deadlines. His work ranges from fine oil dog portraits to yoga studios that wish to have painted yoga figures hanging on the walls.

He is not the only artist in the family, as his grandmother creates conceptual paper art sculptures. Bodley is thankful for his supportive family and he laments that other artists are not always as fortunate.

When Bodley isn’t painting, he enjoys hiking with Pippa. He also reads art instructional books, history books, and plays video games. His wife does not paint, but finds her creative outlet in activities such as knitting, dyeing and spinning wool, and designing her own clothing.

Bodley will be leaving State College at the end of the year to move to California for his wife’s new job. Bodley says he will miss his students, but he is excited for the change.

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