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Sean Welker is a mixed media/digital/artist/illustrator who is showing 49 illustrations at this year’s Artomatic. Not only do the illustrations feature three of his favorite things (matryoshkas, sugar skulls and daruma dolls), they were finished in less than 45 days.

Welker says: “The first and largest group I’m showing are matryoshkas—what are commonly called Russian nesting dolls.  They remind me of my grandmother, who passed away last year.  The world is a little less awesome without her in it.  This series explores the many facets of womanhood and beauty.

The second series are sugar skulls that are prominent in the Day of the Dead and classic biker tattoo art.  I spent a year living in Mexico, and the folk art there helped shape how I look at color and flaws.  These pieces are symbols of reverence, but with a rock n’ roll twist.

The last group are darumas—Zen wish dolls.  A friend turned me on to them a couple years ago, and I’m attracted to their simple shape as much as the unflagging optimism represent.  Part of the deal with darumas is that it’s not good enough to just wish—you have to be an active part in making that dream come true.  With words like “hope” being thrown about so lightly as to lose their meaning, the daruma represents a more realistic way of making wishes…and making them come true.

As a cohesive whole, my work touches upon the themes of gratitude, optimism, the need for consolation and empathy.  I use a distinctive graphic style, involving elements of graffiti, comic art and classic illustration.  The pieces are small and a very affordable way to begin or expand a collection.”

Welker’s space is also a hand-drawn installation — he covered his space with paper and tape and drew  an intricate wallpaper by hand. “A fool’s errand, you say?” asks Welker. “But 45 plus hours of work later, and it looks magical.” He’s right and you can check out a photo of his installation below.

photo by Erin Antognoli

How do you feel about taking part in the 10th Anniversary of Artomatic? “I’m excited to be part of any Artomatic, really.  There’s simply no other show like it.  It’s an awesome opportunity for creative people to have their work seen by a huge and receptive audience.  It’s a great chance for folks in the DC area to see art and to connect with local, living talent.

Artomatic is an amazing way for artists to network.  Some of my better friends come from having met them at past events.  Making art can be a lonely life, so it’s a refreshing chance to connect with other creatives, pick up new ideas, and meet folks who want to share in your art.

Finally, I think it’s a great chance to do something creatively ambitious, in a way that traditional gallery spaces might not offer.  If an artist is open to the challenge, it’s an amazing opportunity to flex past his or her normal comfort zone.”

Why should an Artomatic visitor make the special trip to visit your space? “At the very least, I think it’s cool to see a fool’s errand that paid off wonderfully.  In lieu of painting, I opted to hang up craft paper and masking tape onto my 8’x8′ wall space, then draw wallpaper over its surface by hand.  What I hadn’t accounted for was the time commitment—I spent over 50 hours drawing an installation that I’m probably destroying after the six-week run.  Now it looks nothing like the humble materials from which it’s comprised.  I almost scrapped the idea a couple times, but now that it’s finished, I think it’s among the most beautiful—and ambitious—things I’ve made.

I’m also remarkably fortunate to share the seventh floor with a collection of amazing creatives that, without any intention, have made an oddly wonderful meta-installation.”

Where can we see your work next? “I spent the first half of the year showing like crazy, so I’ve tentatively planned on taking a couple months off to regroup.  That doesn’t mean I’ll not be working, though—I’m going to make an illustration a day for the months of July and August, then post and sell them online.  My work and news about impending shows may always be found at my website: www.secretworm.com.

Of course, my plans for downtime may be dashed if I’m offered opportunities to show in cool spaces.  So I guess we’ll see.”

You can see Sean Welker’s work on the 7th floor right off the elevator opposite the main bar.