Artist Eileen Seitz and the Frost Art Museum’s curator Amy Galpin sat down to discuss her life as an artist and the ways in which Coconut Grove inspires her work.
This interview was conducted for the exhibition Place and Purpose: Art Transformation in Coconut Grove and took place on June 15, 2021. Seitz provided additions to the text to further contextualize her practice.
Amy Galpin- Were you born in New York?
Eileen Seitz- Yes, I was born on the island of Manhattan, New York City.
Amy Galpin- I know earlier you were mentioning that you have spent a lot of time living in the Caribbean and, from 1972 to 1977, you were in Key West. When did you move to Coconut Grove?
Eileen Seitz- The first time I came to Coconut Grove was around ’75. I did not like it, there were too many cars and too many people. I said to myself, “Let me get back to my island.” (Key West). In 1977 I had left Hawaii and moved to Eleuthera in the Bahamas for 10 months. When we left Eleuthera in 1978 I moved to a fruit farm in Homestead. For two months we lived there, then came to south Miami, and finally to the Grove, where I found an acre piece of property from an owner looking for a caretaker for his property. Perfect for me. I lived in a screened in hut, 8ft x 8ft off the ground, and was lulled to sleep at night by the music of nature. I made friends in the Grove and in early 1979, left when an opportunity to move to Costa Rica arose. For 5 months I lived on a papaya finca, riding horses, walking up rivers and reaching waterfalls, living on the earth in a house on stilts. One afternoon, late May, I was sitting on the beach, loaded with sharks, and received a message from Holy Spirit. “Call ____ [a friend of mine] in Coconut Grove.” When I did, he said, “I’ve been sitting here meditating for you to come back and move into my house.” So, I did, to a house on Kumquat Avenue.
Amy Galpin- You have shared with me some different works that you have made, and I see the influence of your travels and other cultures in your work. Do you trace that back to childhood? Where did you develop this incredible interest to travel? You have been to many places: Mexico, Fiji, and you have lived in the Caribbean. I would love to know more about that.
Eileen Seitz- As a kid I was very curious and had a sense of adventure. I was fearless, raring for change, always knowing I wanted to see the Wild West, the Marlboro country, with the red rocks and gorgeous landscapes. Growing up in the city surrounded by brick and granite buildings, all I could see was the sky above. [ I did go out to Arizona and rode horses for 8 hours through the red rock canyons of the Anastasi community called Keet Seel].
At 13 one of my classmates let me try his rapidograph pen. As soon as I began to draw with it, I knew this was my destiny. I felt it. “Oh! This is what I want to do the rest of my life!” My mom saw that love that I had and that passion and started me on private art classes.
Around 1967 when I was in high school, I took a trip to St. Thomas Virgin Islands. My eyes and heart opened up to the beauty everywhere. “Oh my God! Look at the light! Look at the colors! Look at the nature! Look at the land!” I stayed for a very short holiday and then back to high school. Then in 1968 I began at Pratt Institute to study Fine Arts. Another holiday and a different traveling surfer partner took me to St Thomas. Again, I merged with the beauty.
I returned to school and, one day around 1971-72 in a graphics class, I was drawing a series of Kabuki dancers, I had a vision of me living in an upstairs studio apartment eating fruit.
After two years at Pratt, and remembering the islands, I told my mom, “mom, I want to take a year off and be an artist. I’m going back to the Caribbean.” She replied, “Okay, go be an artist.” She was a free spirit too. So now with two musician/surfers we all lived in St. Thomas for three months, and in 1971 found a house on the west coast of Puerto Rico for a few months. That summer I lived in Long Island. I have always been attracted to creative souls as traveling mates.
Fall of 1972 my life changed again. I was always connected to the higher spiritual realms, for as an artist I go within. One early evening, sitting on the park bench in Manhattan with two male friends I used to talk with about spiritual things, I looked at each of them, then looked to the sky and said “Lord God this is not my life, do with me as you wish, I am your Humble Servant”
and then God instructed me, “Call Marion in New York State.”
I called the lady I met the winter before and when she heard my voice she said to me, “Oh, I’ve been wanting you to come and work in my new gift shop I am building in Monticello, NY!”
So, here I was, with some experience of the Caribbean islands, the light, the beauty, the ocean, the surfers, the musicians, and I asked myself, “What am I doing in New York City? The drippy rain, the grey, the concrete” and thought, “remember What’s going on down south?” So, I told my mom I’m leaving. I packed some clothes, took the money I had earned and my art portfolio, trusting with faith it was going to work out. I took a Greyhound bus to Monticello, NY to meet with Marion but, the Spirit had a different plan for me.
Instead, I ran into a friend in the same mall parking lot, and he invited me to a lake where he rented two log cabins for the summer. (I thought, “God, how many times you have given me a fork in the road, a choice”). Well, of course I went with him. We chatted and he told me he just ran into a friend in that area and invited him as well. Immediately, the friend and I connected. Well, we lived in a tent together instead for the summer. One of my first revelations was when looking up at the trees thinking, “wow, I know now what wind looks like,” and marveled that trees had branches low and I never knew that where I grew up, for in the apartments I lived in everything was manicured.
After two months with my new partner and summer coming to its end, he decided we were going to walk across New York State, taking his horse Poncho and a puppy Charley, given to us by the fellow who rented the cabins. One of us walked while the other road the horse, and all the time, I was completely absorbing nature, from camping by streams and rivers to cooking out on campfires. Always in the arms of mother nature. We used a compass and just walked east, headed for Cape Cod. We walked through corn fields, through forests like two American Indians. We met all kinds of folks and saw small little towns, and always the rivers and streams were clean, until we approached the cities.
Eventually Charley the dog ran into a barn and cut his leg, so we sold the horse and gave the dog to the same man. After reaching Cape Cod, the boyfriend and I were invited by his friends to move to Key West in August 1972. After four months, living and working in Key West, waitressing, saving money, we decided to go to buy land in Mexico.
January 1973, we flew to Merida and hitchhiked through Mexico. Wow! Wow!
The land purchase did not happen, so he said, “let’s go to Guatemala.” We found an older man with a Volkswagen van in southern Mexico, and he took us with him all the way to Panama City. For three months we were traveling. Before we left the USA, God told me very clearly, “Don’t take your camera, draw every day. I want you to be there fully.”
So, I took a little black sketchbook and every day I drew and drew. People, marketplaces, jungles, etc. Every night we slept under the stars. During the days we feasted on fresh fruits and corn and beans and tortillas, visiting ruins and villages filled with marvelous Mexican woman, villages where boats were being built on coastal shores. Colorful Architecture, houses made from trees, and thatch, metal with boats and pigs, and horses. Everywhere it was so simple and natural. In Panama we took trains through the jungle, and I saw so much of how people lived. We said goodbye and flew to Colombia. So much to experience there anew. In Colombia I met an elderly woman, an herbalist, and she invited me to her home, where they grew cashew trees. I saw how they roasted them over open fires. Children, dogs, family members, all simple and kind people.
They gave me an upstairs room to sleep in. Try to envision these are simple people, no house screens, no fans, maybe transistor radio. The room I was sleeping in was crooked, the floor, the walls, it reminded me of Van Gogh’s painting, The Room at Arles.
All these experiences were to be conveyed in my paintings then and in the future.
When we returned to Key West, I had a book filled with daily illustrations of my life amongst all the marketplaces, people, jungles, trucks, locomotives, birds, huts, buses, everything and anything that captured my soul. I was open. I knew and saw that I was a channel for God. Through my hand working on paper and canvas, God speaks as his instrument, bringing back to the people in the cities His beauty and harmony that is all around us
Little by little, opportunities, commissions and more travel came and still comes to me. It’s now 1974. The next three years I was living the vision I had in 1971, of me living by myself in an upstairs attic apartment in Key West receiving commissions to draw pen and ink illustrations of gingerbread houses and street scenes all over Key West. Some for private residences, and others for restaurants and shops.
One day a new client came and asked me, “will you draw my house with my bronco pickup truck parked out front?” After seeing his concrete block house and vehicle, I knew the answer was a firm “no.”
Being true to myself, God sent another fork on my path. A friend came and asked me “want to come to Hawaii? A few of us are going.” So, I giggled and said, “God, you are so funny,” There was no question about this fork in the road. So, I told my landlord goodbye and, “I’m moving to Hawaii.”
I lived on Kauai. I lived in a little room in a communal house and everyday I’d walk 3 miles to the beach picking up mangos, starfruit, gifts from the trees on my path. I painted and painted. In two months, I lived in two different houses, one at sea level, the other was up in the hills with a musician surfer I had met. Then I moved into his mail Jeep truck for three months, traveling around the island for fruits and surf.
I was so close to nature and saw so many majestic and ancient parts of Kauai—amazing beaches that most could never get to, walked down and through many sugarcane fields, pineapple fields and cow pastures. I drew and painted every day, many watercolors. I wanted to draw and paint everything I saw. I was so happy and excited by everything on Kauai. I saw beauty everywhere. Eventually I had created 15 watercolor paintings.
One day a letter arrives, and I was invited to go a friend’s wedding in NJ. My Kauai boyfriend’s family lived in NJ too and I felt it was time to leave the island. Unlike Key West where I walked and rode a bicycle for five years, on Kauai I was always in a truck or car. A few days before I was to leave the island, a family saw three watercolors I had hanging in a health food restaurant in Koloa. The restaurant owner eventually bought the watercolors and she contacted me about the family’s interest in my work. I made an appointment with the family to show them my collection. I went to their apartment in Poipu and laid out the 15 watercolors. They were so happy and excited.
After my meeting was finished, I rejoined my boyfriend who was waiting in the mail Jeep truck. Seeing me smiling he asked, “what happened?” I said, “They bought them all, I sold them all to the family.” Now I had money and so we left Kauai and flew to New Jersey.
For three months I endured NJ and finally I told the BF, “I have to get out of here! It’s grey, its cold, its drizzly. Yuck.” My sister lived in Orlando and after calling her she said, “why don’t you come down here?” So, I went to the sunshine again. Two days later, the same boyfriend, called me and said, “I’m going to Eleuthera, are you coming?” I asked God, “you mean, God, it’s not over yet?” So, January 1978 we moved to Eleuthera in the Bahamas for 10 months. We lived in a house up on a hill with no running water, no electricity. For me it was fine!! I could do it! I had walked 125 miles through New York State with a horse and dog, drinking from the rivers and eating off the trees and whatever we had in our backpacks. I had hitchhiked through Central America for three months sleeping on the earth for many, many nights, bathing in rivers, etc. Life on Eleuthera was going to be “another adventure” in getting healthy and strong and bringing down the celestial beauty to Earth. God was priming me in my spirit, mind, and body. Keeping me fit and strong and healthy for whatever I would encounter then and in the future. He told me, “to be able to live off the earth, be simple. Stay close to nature, she’ll always protect you.”
So, from 1968 through 1980-1981, [I was] living and hitchhiking through so many countries and islands, nature became my best friend, teaching me. One time the Spirit said to me, “Look at this tree. One leaf will grow this way and the other leaf will grow that way. The sun will be on one side and then on the other. Each grow at different angles and different sizes. That is how humans are. Never identical, not machines, but like snowflakes, and every snowflake is unique and so is every living creature of the land, sea and sky. We’re all limited editions, though not limited in any way.”
Through all my travels, when I am with nature, I merge with her colors, movement, patterns, textures, sizes, shapes, reflections, and sounds. My passion to bring it to life on paper and canvas is why I am here. I want to share this beauty from God that I know and feel. Though I live in Coconut Grove, my spirit body is still traveling in and out of all my experiences. Living here in Coconut Grove gives me great peace to be surrounded by tropical nature with all her uniqueness. Born and raised in a concrete jungle—New York City—I had the freedom of merging with so many cultures. Italians, Polish, Asians, Jews, French, Caribbean, European—I had everybody, I had a smorgasbord of culture in my life. My mom taught us to respect people and recognize and love God and that we’re all one big family under God.
When I lived in Key West riding on my bike, I’d feel, “Oh I really want something red to eat,” and I’d come home and there’s a basket of red tomatoes in front of my door and I said, “thank you, God.” And so, as it is written, “Ask and ye shall receive.” The Holy Spirit talks with me and guides me what to give and when. All of us have a telephone to the Spirit, but how many, when it rings, pick it up and listen and respond? The Lord supplies all our needs. My heart is guided to share this with people through my paintings, this life force I feel and know. My paintings are doorways for people to enter, to connect to their own inner timeless, endless eternal love, beauty, and life force. God is alive, living. God is living love.
Amy Galpin- Thank you, so much insight into your practice and your approach to life. I was going to ask you about some of the things you brought up, like your connection to nature. I see these sumptuous colors, this powerful evocation of light in your work with nature as a through line in your practice. The way you stated, “nature will protect us” and the connection that you feel towards nature is spiritual. Thinking about climate change, hurricanes, the way in which our shorelines are eroding, can you talk about if you see your paintings of nature as something that almost protects or seals these natural spaces. Do you create them for us to revere nature?
Eileen Seitz- Yes! Definitely. I think one of the big purposes God gave me to do on this earth is to remind people of how sacred and how harmonious she is and how beautiful she is, but most importantly she is living, she breathes, she hears, and she sees. Nature responds just like when a person strokes a dog or kicks it. She will calm us or rebel, she is very emotional like us.
Her land is our body because she feeds us. Her rivers are our blood flowing through us. Her trees breathe life into our lungs. When we take care of her, she brings us bodily and spiritual health. It’s more than her physical beauty, it is her energetic vibration that speaks to our souls. She is alive… she gives all of this beauty to us for free. We cannot keep polluting her, trashing her, killing her by reckless consumption and disposing of manmade material products. There are people that are cleaning the oceans and land, gathering the pollution on the planet, and turning it into usable and functional products. Natural, not synthetic, products are available and last for a lifetime with no pollution. Bamboo, hemp, seaweed, and mushrooms instead of plastics and polymer things that won’t disintegrate. People have migrated from the land into the cities, people live up rather than close to the earth. They don’t feel the pulse or hear the beautiful sounds of the nighttime critters in nature singing them to sleep. Lots of people have cut down trees because they’re messy. I have met these people who sit inside their homes all day. It starts with the individual. How many people respect and love themselves? Those who do also respect the natural world and know God created Mother Nature and breathed the breath of life into each of us. Many people don’t see themselves as part of the natural world. God created nature for us, he gave us this paradise, and now what are we going to do with it?
As far as climate change I think nature has been screaming at us for a long time, “what are you doing to us?” (The air, the water, the soil asks). Nature will balance itself out if we just let her breath. When we create imbalances, the pendulum has to swing the other way for people to wake up. Human beings are given glimpses of their own self destruction if they choose to look.
Human Beings always have a chance to change. Look at the Eskimos, look at the American Indians, they don’t waste anything.
Every day I collect my peelings and seeds of my cutup vegetables and fruit, and I’ll put them into my backyard. I heard the Spirit say to me years ago, “Feed it back to the Earth and you will be growing dirt”. So that’s what I do, feed the soil. When we eat natures gifts from the trees, from the earth, and then feed back the scraps, she grows stronger and richer. As it is written “those that love the earth, the earth loves back.” I want to put this into my paintings.
The garden in my backyard keeps changing because all plants have their cycle, and then new sprouts of something else pops up, and that’s how we are. We never stay stagnant. If you do you will die. We are each our own gardener, sowing and showing the beauty of God’s creation, in thought, word, and deed. The Spirit told me a long time ago, “eat the colors of the rainbow, know these colors, feel their joy and it will flow into your artwork.”
Often, I have worked on paintings of gardens I was attracted to and then a few months later I return looking for the plants and they are gone. “Where did all those plants go?” “Oh, they had their time so look and see what is there for you now.” One year I had planted three frangipanis on the side of my house. I thought I planted three pink ones but now one is white. I asked, “how did that happen?”
Bottom line, all these surprises are gifts from the Creator. Hold no expectations, but always gratitude. That’s how I look at it.
Amy Galpin- Your attitude towards life and nature, and your work is very inspiring. Can you tell me a little bit about what Coconut Grove has meant to you as a community and what it has given to you and to your art?
Eileen Seitz- The reason why I moved here was God said, “Go to the Grove because of the trees.” In 1981 I finally returned from Costa Rica. Now, after 40 years living in the Grove, I own my own home three blocks from town. I can walk or ride my bike into the back streets, absorbing the abundant tropical foliage. There is so much artistic inspiration every day feeding my soul. Everybody’s friendly. I have many long-term relationships with people in the Grove.
Over the years I have been given many art projects and am able to share my life’s experiences.
In 2010 I was asked to paint my vision of the Coconut Grove information booths. I painted three information booths through 2010, while also painting two peacock sculptures. One sculpture is in front of Milam’s Grocery Store and the other was purchased by a Grove private client.
At the same time, I was part of over 200 volunteers who worked on the Children’s mosaic mural led by lead artist Cyndy Hill. This mural hangs on the Coconut Grove Post Office. After creating her concept, Cyndy had a dream where I was involved. “I see Eileen Seitz coming in to do the color.” The next day I went to a meeting she was having and when I walked in, she smiled and told me about the dream. A match made in heaven. It was a two-and-a-half-year project and while I was working on cutting tile and painting the patterns from the children’s donated artwork, I was also asked to be the Artist in Residence on cruise ships for a five-year period with Holland America, traveling to Central America, Royal Caribbean to Alaska, Hawaiian Islands and the Caribbean and then Oceania Cruise Lines for seven weeks in Southern Europe, Greece, Italy and the Mediterranean. Then another five weeks crossing the South Pacific to Easter Island, and then onto French Polynesia with a destination in Australia. God was truly bringing my dream to life, taking me around the world to carry out my mission.
I participated in the Coconut Grove Art Festivals from 1986 -1996. I was never invited to make the Coconut Grove Festival poster. However, I was blessed in every show as my paintings would sell out. In 1988 two ladies on the committee for finding poster artwork for the Beaux Art Festival came to speak to me about being their poster artist for the upcoming show. I told them I would be delighted, and they could choose anything in my booth. That was 1988, after 10 years of participating in the CGAF, I noticed that the crowds began to change, and I wanted to reach a bigger audience. When I was 16, I knew I was meant to touch the world with my paintings and that’s been my aim.
I decided to apply for a booth at the Miami International Boat Show. People often categorize me as “you’re a Coconut Grove artist.” I’d say, “yes I live in the Grove but I’m a national/international, award winning, recognized, self-published, artist.” I exhibited at the boat show for eight years with a dream to get to Japan. And, don’t you know, I meet a festival coordinator from Japan who bought $2,500 worth of my prints and said, “we’re doing a boat show in Japan, and I’d like for you to be there.” [But] then Fukushima happened… so I did not go.
I did meet a man with properties from Bocas Del Toro, Panama, and he commissioned me to do paintings for a project he wanted to create to sell houses and land. So, I went, and he gave me an apartment of his for two weeks. I did commissions. After finishing his project, I had a few days, so out I went on an adventure. One day, I took a colorful little fishing boat to a nearby island, Bastimentos, Panama and explored that island. I also noticed that the people on this island loved football and, physically, they were mixed from the Caribbean as well as Panama
[I did an oil painting called Ladies of the Village of the people and their houses].
Bastimentos, their most important conversation piece was their poured concrete sidewalk It was the only sidewalk on the island alongside the houses that sat on stilts over the water. It had no special beginning and ended at a house (I did a watercolor of it called Stilts Beach House) where the cemetery began.
Then another day I took a dug-out wooden canoe and went across the water to a nearby island. I pinched myself saying, “wow! I’m really here!” There was an invisible boundary, one side was very, very poor, and the other side was incredibly prosperous and filled with beautiful homes and gardens.
In 2000 I had the invitation to visit a friend on Taveuni, Fiji. Four airplanes later and 16 hours’ time difference, I landed. One day I went out looking for inspiration and found a dirt road with an amazing energy, I sat down and started drawing the view in front of me, so prehistoric, so ancient. Suddenly I spoke to God and said, “Wow! Here I am, in the middle of this great South Pacific, on a tiny little Island called Taveuni, Fiji and I’m just a small dot on the earth in the middle of this vast blue Pacific Ocean.” I lived 21 days on Taveuni and Bega (smaller island) and I created 10 paintings. I sold all of them and it was another magnificent experience that I thank God for and for my adventurous spirit.
I was welcomed to come back, but would I go back? No. My mission is to touch as many places on the planet and absorb and give back. God said, “Let the people feel your energy, let the people feel your light, let the people know your joy.”
In 2013 when the several different cruise lines invited me to be Artist in Residence, I traveled through Europe for seven weeks on an Oceania cruise ship through Italy and southern France and Spain and up the Costa d'Azur. After seven weeks I said “God? I’m ready to come home now. I’m tired.” I’d had enough stone; I was walking on stone streets and in stone buildings and I had to wear [a lot of] clothes because it was drizzling and cold and rainy… I did some really great work in Italy, France, and Spain drawing the little buildings, but I needed to come back to the nature and the trees, to be with my earth. So, I came back to the Grove.
Now 2014, this time I left for Chile then across to Australia and South Pacific. I wanted to follow Paul Gauguin. And here I am looking for Gaugin on Papeete the capital of Tahiti. I was on Tahiti and I couldn’t speak French, and I didn’t have francs, and I couldn’t get on a bus because I didn’t know where to get off, and I was on a schedule, I had two art classes a day to do on the ship, so, I never got to see Tahiti outside of Papeete… And the island Fakarava, it’s an atoll. That’s the first time [ I learned] what an atoll was, it’s a collapsed volcano and just the crust, the outer rim is visible and that’s what this island was. I did a painting of that. Three times my cruise ship went there and each time I landed on Fakarava the ladies recognized me and greeted me with a “Bonjour! You come back!” Those were my experiences on the earth.
So, what did the Grove give me? Friends, home, community, nature, trees, work, passion. From the many places that I’ve traveled in the world, Coconut Grove has the best gardens, and the best tropical landscape and people respect their properties and the beauty we have here. People plant the trees, take care of her. Fall of 1979 I lived in Jamaica for 10 months and I was walking up the hills and rivers and waterfalls and I would think of Coconut Grove and say, “the Grove has more variety of plants and trees than Jamaica or the West Indies.” Jamaica has the ocean and land, it has the rivers, and it has the waterfalls, but it’s missing the energy of the people, the aesthetic love of tropical gardens from the people and the variety of flowers and trees and gardeners, like here in the Grove.
Over the year’s things have changed a lot, my garden is very lush and most of it is from cuttings that I’ve gotten from other trees because when you cut a frangipani branch, three new branches will start to grow. Whenever you share a little bit of nature, she gives you back threefold times. I love the village and my home paradise.
Amy Galpin- I’m curious, could you tell me about the picture behind you?
Eileen Seitz- It’s called Our Tropical Garden. It was commissioned by a couple that lived in the Gables and were moving from their beautiful acre property, with a tennis court and a swimming pool, to Iowa or Idaho, to a house made out of brick with little surrounding trees, just lots of land and sky, like in the plains. They asked me to do an oil painting that would include all of their bougainvillea and hibiscus and lush gardens to take with them with a building that had shutters and shadows.
So, I found various subjects in the Gables and Grove and created this 36” x 48” oil painting.
Eileen Seitz, Our Tropical Garden, 1990 ©Eileen Seitz.
Amy Galpin- Is it from 2020?
Eileen Seitz- No, 1990.
Amy Galpin- Is that a study of the painting?
Eileen Seitz- I published it as a poster and as postcards for my art card business.
Amy Galpin- Do you do a lot of sketching before you do larger paintings?
Eileen Seitz- When I am creating for myself, no. When I am doing a commission for a client that involves architecture, I will do a small watercolor for my client to make sure they are happy with what they are asking for. If it’s just nature, rarely. I let God guide my hand and he tells me what to put where, step by step. I’m a completely free spirit. Let me tell you about this one.
Eileen Seitz, Serenity Beach, ©Eileen Seitz.
When Hurricane Irma was going through the Bahamas and it sat stationary over the Bahamian people for days and days, I felt for them so strongly, so this painting was born and is a tribute to them. I put a small wooden boat with several Bahamian people out in the ocean going from island to island. These are the crotons that are growing in my garden. I lived in Eleuthera in 1977, so I know the colors of the water and have been to other Bahamian Islands over the years. The boats are from photographs from my days on Dominica. The theme of the painting is “Even after the storm there is a calm.” It’s called, Serenity Beach.
Amy Galpin- I love the sense of movement with the foliage and the water.
Eileen Seitz- Thank you! I love this one too. Thanks. Another one that I really love is called A Clear Day. I was thinking about my friends in St. Thomas, and I said, “I want to be up on the hill on St. Thomas looking down.”
Eileen Seitz, A Clear Day, oil on canvas, ©Eileen Seitz.
In 2015 I was commissioned by the Business Improvement District to create five drawings and watercolors to be used for a walking map of Coconut Grove for the locals and tourists.
This is my watercolor drawing of Coco Walk, 2015. This is before it was torn down and rebuilt.
Eileen Seitz, Coco Walk, 2015. ©Eileen Seitz.
Amy Galpin- What is the date of those drawings?
Eileen Seitz- 2015. This is Florentine Plaza with Revolution Bicycle Shop when they had the palm trees. These are historical paintings because they changed the courtyard and CocoWalk has also been redone.
Eileen Seitz, Florentine Plaza, 2015 ©Eileen Seitz.
And this is Fuller Street, 2015. In the past year they’ve closed it off and put pink picnic tables there, hopefully the city will keep it closed from traffic. I drew these lovers in and that’s my friend Nancy, she’s a dog walker.
Eileen Seitz, Fuller Street, 2015. ©Eileen Seitz.
There’s a lot of inspiration here for me from the old and the new.
This is a watercolor/drawing of Commodore Plaza with Greenstreet’s and Lulu’s.
Eileen Seitz, Commodore Plaza, 2015 ©Eileen Seitz.
And then here’s the Engle Building, this was before Harry’s Pizzeria moved in. That was like right before.
Eileen Seitz, Engle Building, 2015 ©Eileen Seitz.
Then Coconut Grove Business Improvement District asked me to do an aerial of all the shops, streets, and businesses that would be for the inside brochure. It took another year to create for there were three stages of construction that had to take place.
The first drawing was done on a 25” x 40” watercolor paper to start. I started with the commercial part of town, then easterly construction began, and I was asked to add buildings east of 27th avenue. They gave me architectural renderings and I had to figure out how to draw the Grove and the Grand Bay towers that were being constructed. I remember going to the site and counted every floor so that I could draw these two twisting buildings correctly.
Again, construction was taking place and three Park Grove buildings had to be drawn in. It took time but I made it happen. Then the Spirit told me to colorize the streets and all the businesses on the correct streets were added. Over that year, there were people coming and going in the Business Improvement District. Everyone was great to work with. Every time I added a new drawing section, I had to have that scanned then added into the big drawing. Here is the final detail map drawing.
In 1994, I was creating watercolors to be hung in my booth for the upcoming Coconut Grove Arts Festival. Watching the sunset off my porch my mind lit up. I sat down and painted the sky. When it was finished its name became Sophia’s Rest.
Eileen Seitz, Sophia’s Rest, 1994 ©Eileen Seitz.
Amy Galpin- The colors are wonderful, very rich but sensitive and nuanced as well.
Eileen Seitz- Thank you. This was the sky when the sun set off my house’s 2nd floor porch. I just drew the horizon and the water and the sky. I began to draw the buildings on top of the sky background and “saw it” and left the reflection showing. Not too long [ago], I received a phone call from a client telling me she wanted to visit and buy one of my lithographs. She also shared “I have this blue and white, striped wallpaper and I’m looking for a piece for this wall.” She came down from Stuart, Florida to meet me and after looking at her wallpaper I knew. I said, “I have the right painting for you.” And I took her to the framer’s where the piece was being framed. She bought it while it was being framed.
[In terms of] Sophia’s Rest, as soon as I made it, I made posters of it. I said, “I had to print this one, I know it.” My work, thanks to God, is in a lot of hospitals, doctors’ offices, places of healing and restaurants, cruise ships, and banks, etc. God told me when I was 16, “you need to get your work into places where the work will heal the emotions of souls, sending them love and color, sending loving light, sending living energy, of harmonies.” I published Sophia’s Rest as a poster print and 10 years later I receive a phone call from a man in the Keys who said he wants to build Sophia’s Rest in the Exumas on his property. And I said, “what do you mean?” And he said, “well, I have property in the Exumas, and I want to build it.” Ten months later I received blueprint photographs and he explained, “I’m almost done. Do you want to come down and sign the wall?” So, I said yes and when I arrived on his property with him and his wife and a friend of mine, I said to my friend, “Pinch me. I am standing in my painting.”
Amy Galpin- What an incredible story--as an artist, that someone was so inspired by your work that they wanted to live in it!
Eileen Seitz- I know, I keep thinking how amazing all the things that God has given to me are. Filled with grace, wonder, and gratitude. All my life, Nature has taught me that nothing is permanent except God and the Spirit. All else changes. My life of travel and adventures, meeting so many people, leaving joy and beauty as remnants where I go. Life is always new, unfolding before me, and each step I have the opportunity, the choice, the free will. Sometimes there are forks in the roads as you have seen in my interview. Paying attention within, listening within, seeing how I feel, guides me to make the choices that bring joy into my paintings and for all who set their eyes upon His work.
Amy Galpin-Thank you, Eileen, for sharing so much information with us.