Inspired by Obama

Harry Seymour reflects on his art that has chronicled the presidency.

“Yes We Can,” 2008, scratchboard art. "The return of President Obama and family to our Island of Martha’s Vineyard takes me back to a single act of a man and woman bound in a monumental struggle to become the President and First Lady of the United States. 'Yes we Can' depicts the fist bump seen around the world, and symbolizes a unity between husband and wife to achieve the unthinkable." — Art by Harry N. Seymour

Since 2008, Island artist Harry Seymour has been creating art that captures memorable moments in the tenure of our 44th president. Recently inspired by President Barack Obama’s stay on the Island, Mr. Seymour has revisited his work, and has shared seven of his images in the past seven days on his Facebook page.

The paintings, a mix of scratchboard art, egg tempera, and pastels, reflect scenes of historical significance to Mr. Seymour, including the President’s inaugural ball, taking the oath of office, and scenes from his 2008 campaign, among others. “With the exception of ‘Obama’s Little Patriots’ [a group of children waving American flags from 2012], all were done during the president’s first term, and represent what I regard as important milestone events. I chose to paint these images because I believe strongly that the election of Obama to the presidency is one of the major events of my lifetime.”

His techniques are defined by discovery and innovation, “as I strive to achieve a synergy among the materials, method, and content,” says the artist. Mr. Seymour has been acknowledged for the uniqueness of his methods, which he has adopted given his allergy to more more traditional paints such as oils, acrylics, and watercolors: “The upside to having this malady is that I have created methods that will yield works that will make me proud.”

Mr. Seymour explains his techniques. “The scratchboard pieces were done primarily with straight pins — no brush work. My works that combine scratchboard and pastels, such as ‘Obama’s Little Patriots,’ allow the precision of a scratching tool such as the straight pin with the rich colors of pastels. My egg temperas do not follow the classical egg tempera procedures. Rather than the traditional method of layering small brush strokes with very fine sable brushes, I use a variety of brushes from sable to synthetic to bristle with brush action more of a ‘pat’ than a stroke, similar to pointillism. In this way I achieve soft edges and blending properties not easily achieved with the traditional methods. The resulting work yields the illuminating beauty for which temperas are known, but also has a glowing pastel-like quality, as seen in ‘First Dance.’”

Over the years, Mr. Seymour has sought inspiration from the beauty of the Island as well as the diverse racial and cultural landscapes here. “Most of my work has a narrative, and I love to paint subject matter pertaining to important issues of our time. I would like my art to be relevant in chronicling what is happening around us, and to be of as much of interest in 3015 as it is now,” said Mr. Seymour.

The artist currently has work at A Gallery, as well as his studio gallery in Oak Bluffs. You can visit Mr. Seymour’s website at or contact him at and 414-531-1084. To see all of his Obama-inspired art, visit his Facebook page at