Ten Minutes With Jane Seymour

The actress, philanthropist, and designer talks about her side career as a painter.
Photograph courtesy of Coral Canyon Publishing.

She’s perhaps best-known for her Golden Globe-winning portrayal of a pioneering female medic in
Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, although she also gained a whole new group of fans with her comic appearances in
Wedding Crashers and CBS’s
How I Met Your Mother. However, British-born actress and designer
Jane Seymour also has a side career as a painter. Her work features in a collaborative show with her son, photographer
Sean Flynn, at Bethesda’s Wentworth
Gallery

and Tysons

Galleria
this weekend, and she’ll
appear in person to talk about her work.
The Washingtonian caught up with her to discuss how her philanthropy overlaps with her art, where she finds inspiration, and how she champions
her children’s careers in the arts.

When did you discover painting?

I didn’t really pursue it properly until I turned 40. I
went through a terrible divorce and I lost everything, emotionally
and financially. My mother had always told me that when life is
bad and something seems insurmountable, go out and help someone
else. I happened to be at a fundraiser for a child abuse agency
I had worked with, and I gave the last money that I had, pretty
much, to them.

At the silent auction I asked an artist to come to my
home and do a drawing of my kids. He saw the finger paintings my
children
had done in their room and offered to give me free lessons. As
usual, out of adversity came an amazing new career, which has
completely changed my life both emotionally and financially and
allowed me to raise a lot of money for charity.

Are acting and painting similar at all?

When I’m acting I certainly can’t do a crossword
puzzle or read a book. I have to really focus on the character I’m
playing
and stay in character. But I am able to paint when I’m acting.
For instance, I can draw or paint and it puts me in a wonderful
meditative state. I really do believe painting or drawing helps
me when I’m acting; it’s a very useful tool for me. I think
when I paint people or situations I see the emotion. I paint
emotion. I don’t just paint figures. Whether it’s a mother and
child, or a child on the beach, or two girls dancing, or
flowers, I find emotion in my subjects.

Do you have a favorite style of painting?

I’ve always loved impressionism, so if I go to a
museum I tend to head in that direction first. I do some
abstracts–specifically,
my whole open-heart collection. That’s an image I came up with
many years ago, which comes from my mom’s very wise philosophy
that got me into this in the first place: to open your heart
and reach out to help other people. I do sculptures; I really
love three-dimensional things. If I had more time I’d do a lot
more of that.

This is a joint show with your son, Sean. Is this your first collaboration with him?

They’ve shown his work in a few other galleries [with
my paintings]. People were quite interested to see what my son was
doing.
And people have been collecting him. In fact, in Miami, he was
selected as an emerging artist. I’m very excited for him. Unfortunately,
he won’t be at the gallery, but his artwork will be.

What subjects does he photograph?

A number of subjects. If you go to his
website, you can see his recent photographs.
The pieces
at the Wentworth Gallery are mainly pieces from England, from
the house we used to live in with this big red tree. He also
has some very beautiful photos, which I call architectural
nudes, and he’s photographed Incubus and some other rock groups.

Have you worked with your other children?

My daughter Katie Flynn is an actress. We’ve actually
starred in movies together as mother and daughter. So that’s a
collaboration.
She wrote, produced, and starred in a series that’s online
called
The Quitters Show. My youngest son is a musician; I don’t collaborate with him, I just support him and go to the shows.

I was very struck that you came to painting through philanthropy. Do you advocate for people to try art for the sake of others?

Indeed, I do. We have a foundation called the Open
Hearts Foundation. We just had our second major fundraiser in our home.
We honor people who have taken adversity and turned it into
opportunity to help others. Multiple Grammy-winning country singer

Glen Campbell and his wife, Kim, were recent
recipients for Glen’s work with Alzheimer’s. The singer came out
publicly and said, “I have
Alzheimer’s.” In fact, my husband, James Keach, and I are
making a feature documentary about Glen and his final tour, and
also about what’s happening in our family. I’m very involved
with that. In fact I was just in Washington last week at an event,
and I’ll return in a week when Glen will be singing at the
Library of Congress.

Have you ever worked in Washington?

Yes, I did. I opened in
Amadeus at the National Theatre in 1980.

What kind of reaction would you like to get from your show this weekend?

I always hope to have people enjoy themselves, and
enjoy the subject matter. Quite often people see something in my
paintings
that relates to something in their lives which is meaningful,
and that’s always wonderful. And the people who’ve been collecting
my work come back because they say the work is full of
optimism, it’s happy, it’s not angry or distressing. I think I try
to bring beauty and positive energy into my work. And if that’s
what people get out of it, then I’m really happy.

Seymour will appear at the Wentworth Gallery in Bethesda May 4, and at the Wentworth Gallery at Tysons Galleria May 5. For
more information, visit her website
.

TAGGED IN: ,

More from Things to Do