It took a major accident to put Ray Seitz on his true career path.
Seitz, a Solana Beach oil painter, had been working as an engineer five years ago when he and his brother took a surfing holiday in Costa Rica. While driving through the deep jungle, they had a car accident that changed Ray's life forever.
According to Seitz, the accident pulverized four inches of his leg, and his brother saved his life by pulling him out of the wreckage. It took nine hours before medical help arrived, and during that painful time, Seitz experienced a life-changing epiphany.
"It was one of those instances in your life where all the noise instantaneously turned down, so I could see what mattered and what didn't matter," he said.
Seitz realized that what mattered most to him was becoming an artist. Always attracted to art, he drew and painted all his life and would have pursued it in college but for friends advising him to choose a better paying profession. He took their advice and earned a degree in electrical engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, but he never lost sight of his true desire.
"I thought I would be an engineer and save enough money to go to art school," he said.
But after spending a year recovering from his injuries, Seitz decided not to put art on hold any longer. In search of the right art teacher, he took a variety of classes before traveling to Taiwan to meet Yim Mau-kun, known for painting in the Russian style of contemporary realism. Seitz spent eight months studying with him and the training had a profound effect on him.
"He imparted so much knowledge and understanding of painting and drawing and how it all goes together," said Seitz. "He shared his philosophy and said that a good artist can capture the beauty of the subject, and a great artist is someone who can not only capture that beauty but also impart his interpretation of some aspect of that beauty to add further value to the beauty of that thing he's painting."
For the past year, Seitz has used his new training to depict how he views the world, a view shaped largely by his stay in Taiwan. It was there that he gained an appreciation of the universality of life.
"Everybody pretty much goes through the same types of troubles and situations, "he said. "People want to feed their families and make them happy, and if you can connect with people on that level, then you can connect with anybody in the world, so I take my art and connect with people, even if we have different cultures and languages."
Based in Solana Beach, Seitz paints in an expressionistic style.
"I love realism, but I like putting a little bit of a twist on it to communicate a little something more that people can identify with," he said.
Seitz gains artistic inspiration from a range of local sights. It can take the form of someone's face, an ocean wave, the movement of a dancer's dress or the play of colors off the Torrey Pine's cliffs at sunset.