In Memory of Sean Kremer
In the summer of 2010 an artist from the northern suburbs named Sean Kremer toured The Arts of Life North Shore for the first time. It was immediately clear upon meeting Sean that he was an excellent fit for the studio, which had opened that winter. He was funny and straightforward. And he was driven to draw by an internal motivation that could put established mainstream artists to shame. That August, Sean started working at The Arts of Life on Tuesdays and Thursdays, a tradition he would continue until his death from cancer on August 10th, 2017 at the age of 36.
Sean arrived at The Arts of Life with an active creative practice. The North Shore studio was in its infancy and an experienced artist was just what we needed. Sean had been drawing every day for as long as anyone could remember. He was able to produce images of his favorite animated characters with astonishing ease, having drawn each one literally thousands of times over the course of his life. When challenged to draw new, unfamiliar subjects, the outcomes were often appealing, unusual interpretations employing unique perspective and a strange sense of balance. Sean’s most recent artist statement described his practice this way:
Sean dives into his work each day with enthusiasm. The act of making immediately absorbs him, fixing his attention on the web of imagery he intently spins. Complex structures that appear to arise spontaneously are stitched together among smaller forms. As one figure intertwines with the next, scale and pattern diverge into a delightful explosion of line and detail. Wild color schemes enliven the tapestries of his drawings. This layering of objects, forms and characters imbues Sean’s work with a sense of anticipation and discovery waiting to be explored.
Sean described his own practice in more direct terms:
It is my favorite thing to do – drawing stuff. I like to draw. I feel good. I think of them in my head. I let the drawing happen as I go. I draw first and then I fill them with colored pencils. I do drawings on big paper. Then I have more room to draw lots of characters on the paper. I take my time. I am the best at Disney. I put drawings in picture frames when they are all done; big picture frames. I would like to go to Walt Disney and draw from people at Disney World. I like the shows they make. I want them to see how good I do it.
Sean’s dedication to his craft and presence in the studio impacted the artists working around him. When asked to describe Sean, peers mentioned the volume and quality of his work. Over the course of his time at The Arts of Life, he became an inadvertent leader, setting a tone of intense focus at the studio. His fellow artists also remember Sean as a comedian, fond of doing impressions of animals and characters from movies. In addition, he was a notorious flirt, fond of flattering the community’s females by remarking on their beauty. Like anyone, Sean had bad days, when he retreated into his drawings and responded to any interruptions with growls or groans. But in no time flat, he’d be back to joking and clowning, quick to apologize for a harsh word or deed.
When Sean developed cancer, he continued to come into the studio to pursue his vocation as artist. Despite the challenges posed by illness and treatment, he remained driven to draw. Over the past year, his attendance slowly declined, but each time he was able to join us, he was as ready and able to draw as he had been that first day in 2010. When he had the incredible opportunity to be a Disney animator for a day through Make-A-Wish foundation, he embraced at the chance to finally show off his skills to the folks who’d created his favorite characters.
At this year's Awards Show, Sean was named The Artist of the Year. Though he was not able to attend the ceremony due to his health, he was honored with these words:
Sean Kremer's dedication to his creative practice is unparalleled. Very few artists have spent as much time putting pencil to paper as he has. It seems that nothing can keep Sean from making work. The cumulative effect of his many hours of dedication is clear in his thousands of lively, chaotic drawings. In August, Sean will celebrate his seventh anniversary with The Arts of Life. He is among just a handful of artists who've been at the North Shore studio since the beginning. In recognition of his dedication to his craft and his studio community, we have the great pleasure of naming Sean Kremer 2017's Artist of the Year.
As news of Sean’s passing spread through The Arts of Life community, artists and facilitators struggled with what it means to lose a friend and colleague. We were challenged with how to face the many questions a death raises. Former Art Coordinator John Sharp shared this heartfelt message all the way from his current home in TN:
Many people have to work really hard to be an artist. But there are a few who are hard-working artists. There's a big difference between the two. Sean was a hard-working artist. He didn't have to try like most of us. […] His interests, his process, and his technique were so deeply grounded in who he was it was impossible not to be captivated by his work and to truly sense his own connectedness to the subjects and themes found in his drawings. As an artist myself, I find Sean's life and his relentless pursuit to create so inspiring. To get off my butt when I'm feeling tired and just want to sleep. To endure through pain and trials with laughter. To never lose the vision or the passion for what drives me to be the best I can be. To rise above and create no matter what. To use up all of your paper in 10 minutes. To be an artist. To be a friend.
For The Arts of Life community, Sean’s work will be his legacy. “Work” means both his art -- the hundreds of drawings that we will find in every nook and cranny for years to come -- and his contributions to building our studio’s culture from the very beginning -- patiently sitting through studio meetings and quietly setting an example as a hard-working artist. We are so very glad we could call Sean Kremer a colleague, a peer, a friend and an Arts of Life artist.
To learn more about Sean and see samples of his drawings, check out these links: