Interview with Lee Gordon Seebach

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Several years ago I had the pleasure of meeting the award-winning artist Lee Gordon Seebach when I competed in a chess tournament he hosted at the public library in Traer, Iowa.  Mr. Seebach is an Iowa native currently residing in Texas.  Besides working as a professional artist, he is a chess player, musician, and insightful political thinker.  He recently graciously consented to an interview for my blog.

Q: How did you become an artist?
A:  I've always enjoyed playing sports, music, and doing art as long as I remember.  They all come naturally to me.  So, when I started thinking about a career, I wanted to be involved in one of these areas.  Having grown up on a farm, I wanted a nice job in an air conditioned office in the city, where I could wear white shirts, and ties. Becoming a “commercial artist” sounded like a good job, so I went to art school.  While there, I learned that I could make a living doing paintings so I followed that path, instead.  I never did end up wearing the shirts and ties, but I never have minded much!

Q:  What is your favorite subject to paint?
A: Mountain streams with rocks, trees, brush, and sunlight.  This subject gives me the chance to work with compositional motifs almost in an abstract way, and be very creative.

Wren in Oak Creek Canyon
Q: Do you have a favorite of your paintings?
A: “Wren In Oak Creek Canyon.”  It’s a watercolor 22”x30” which I made into a limited edition giclee. 

Q:  What is the most difficult thing to paint?
A:  Capturing effects of light.  The subject matter itself isn’t the challenge.  It’s what light does to the subject that is the most challenging to capture.

Q:  What advice would you have for a young artist?
A: 1. Get the best training possible in an professional art school, not a college or university.  No one cares what degree you have when looking at your paintings.  The only thing that matters is whether or not you can draw and paint.  2. Realize that making a living as an artist is very difficult.

Q: What have been the highlights of your painting career?
A:  Since I worked on location (mostly in oil) for many years, the most outstanding highlight is just being outside alone in nature, study and capturing the beauty.  It’s a wonderful thing.  Other than that, I’d have to include being published in books and magazines, plus meeting my collectors and other artists.

Q: Do you have a favorite color?  
A: Violet.

Cerillos, New Mexico
Q:  Do you consider chess as a form of art? 
Absolutely, yes.  As an artist, I do consider it as art form, because it is similar to painting or making music in many ways: chess makes use of imagination, originality, creativity, experience, personal style, and skill.

Q: How did you start playing chess?
A: When I was about 7, I bought a chess set and basic book because I loved to play all sorts of games.  I was fascinated by the chessmen and how they moved. 

Q: What is your playing style?
A: My favorite chess player is Bobby Fischer so I try to do what he did with openings.  His book, Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess really helped me in the 70s, and his My 60 Memorable Games is my most prized chess book.

Q: And your technique for improvement?
A:  I’ve used a Radio Shack 1650 computer board since the 1980s for practice, plus I have a small library of good chess books.  I like Jeremy Silman’s books a lot.  I also study master games and recently started using Hiarcs Chess Explorer on my Mac which allows play at a strength of my level and has other features that help, and I go to to solve tactics problems.

When Alexandria Kosteniuk was asked how to become a better chess player, she said, “That's easy: practice!”  I agree.

Q: Do you play in tournaments, clubs, or on chess servers?
A: I’m just an average, hobby player, rated 1373 USCF.  At various times, I’ve done all of these.  I did start a chess club and ran some tournaments but the club fizzled when I had to go back to work at a job.
Jemez River
Q:  Which style of music do you prefer?  How long have you played each of your instruments, and which instrument do you like best?
A: I prefer to play Bluegrass instrumentals - on the banjo, guitar, and fiddle.  For listening, I enjoy Classical music. I’ve played the guitar since I was in high school, the 5-string banjo since 1972 (when I heard “Duelin’ Banjos” I just had to learn how to do that!), and I just started playing the fiddle about a year ago.  I enjoy the banjo most.  I just recently started using GarageBand on my MacBook to make multi-track recordings including my own vocals along with the instruments.

Q:  If you had to sum up in only a few sentences what is wrong with our country and how it can be remedied, what would you say?
A:  Most people--and I mean 99.99%--don’t realize how much of their freedom they’ve lost, and are losing, day by day.  This has happened very gradually ever since the beginning and is now speeding up, and these people have been conditioned to accept it without complaint.  I’m sorry to say that I don’t see any remedy to reverse this trend because the US is far beyond the tipping point.  It would be like trying to reverse the ocean tide.  For these and other reasons, I’ve moved to Texas and joined the Texas Nationalist Movement.  I believe Texas will stand alone as the rest of the country either breaks up into smaller republics or becomes a total police state.

Prickly Pear Blossoms
Q: Do you have any thoughts on how painting relates to your other interests such as chess and music and ultimately the greater spectrum of life?
A:  Painting has helped me appreciate our beautiful world by trying to capture this beauty on canvas and watercolor paper, 

As in every other endeavor, painting, chess, and playing music all require creativity, discipline, hard work, practice, study, etc.  All of these cannot help but bring richness and meaning to life in general.

I know some other artists (and some of my favorite artists of the past) who play music and chess.  For example, John Singer Sargent, whose work I have admired for years, played chess, and was an excellent pianist. 

Q:  Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: Yes. I believe in the pursuit of truth no matter where it leads.