Hyper Local

The Universal Houston Experience on Canvas

A young artist whose paintings explore the city

By Maggie Berardo Illustrations by Roger Seward June 5, 2015

On a quiet afternoon, in the massive halls of Silver Street’s art studio building, local artist Roger Seward was making sketches for a new painting he's working on, with ring-tailed lemurs as his models. The lemurs in question reside at the Houston Zoo, just one of the many spots in town where Seward takes his inspiration.

Second Saturday Open Studios
June 13, 2 to 7 p.m.
Silver Street Studios
2000 Edwards St.

“I like to work with a loaded image,” he said. “So I’ll take a picture of something, and I might not know what it is about that image I like at first. But I’ll end up zooming in onto that one object, and finding what I love about it.”

The technique is most notable in Seward’s Hydrant series. His longest-running, and most popular, project involves finding fire hydrants on Houston streets and painting them in whatever condition he finds them in. Some are overrun with grass and weeds, others sitting in a puddle; items in the background often add a touch of whimsy. “They’re containers for Houston's personality,” Seward explained. “I don’t think I’ll paint them all. But each one is in its own unique area, and it’s the surroundings that turn them into something special.”

Seward's studio is full of interesting works to discover, such as a small painting series that depicts rain on the leaves of backyard tree branches, and the little mourning doves that take shelter in them. And a new project—a detailed look at domestic Houston gardens— is also on view.

“Houston can be a really rough place, and a really clean place at the same time,” Seward said. “Nowhere else can you be standing in the middle of some rural cow field, and then just look to your right and see the Williams Tower.”

The artist wants to capture that universal Houston experience that everyone can recognize. I can honestly say that, personally, I felt that he’d painted the view from my childhood bedroom’s window, on a grey Saturday afternoon, watching as the drops came down over the myrtle trees.

Second Saturdays are a great way to discover new artists at Silver, Winter and Spring Street Studios, as they open up their spaces to the public.

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