Balancing art, studies and work, Brock Seals adds premiere of 50 Paint Bottles to the mix

Brock Seals, UMSL art student

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently named the UMSL student one of 10 Rising Stars – emerging artists who are doing big things in the St. Louis arts scene. (Photos by Nicholas Coulter)

Six years ago, Brock Seals felt like he was starting over.

The St. Louis native had moved to Chicago after high school to pursue a degree in fashion, but his first year at Columbia College didn’t go as planned. And returning home was hard.

“I was coming back because I’d lost my scholarship,” Seals says. “I felt like a failure in a sense, back against a wall.”

The setback didn’t stop him for long, though. Eager to continue his education, he enrolled at St. Louis Community College–Florissant Valley in 2012, and that’s where a path forward became visible.

Art by Seals

Brock Seals started painting just five years ago. Some of his pieces are handpainted apparel and accessories, which combine his interests in both fashion and visual art.

“I thought, ‘Why don’t I try art?’” Seals recalls. “I had no prior background in art. I didn’t know how to paint at all. So I tell people, ‘If you put energy, faith, into anything, you really can do anything you put your mind to.’”

Now an upperclassman at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, the art major’s persistence is paying off in some gratifying ways.

As he studies under faculty members like Phil Robinson, whom Seals describes as “the guru of art,” he’s also selling handpainted apparel and accessories, performing music along Cherokee Street, producing a short film – and drawing attention, including from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Just last month the newspaper named him one of 10 “up-and-comers on the St. Louis arts scene” well worth watching.

His film, titled “50 Paint Bottles,” will premiere Aug. 10 at the Landmark Tivoli Theatre. Seals calls it an ode to Spike Lee’s acclaimed “Do the Right Thing.”

“There are similar story lines and a couple parallels in it, but with our twist on it,” explains Seals, who partnered with William Archtype to bring the project to fruition. “It deals with artists in the city, it deals with police brutality, it deals with race relations. So it’s pretty much all of that in a nutshell, and we use a lot of artists from St. Louis in the scenes.”

Brock Seals' new short film

“50 Paint Bottles” premieres at the Tivoli Theatre Aug. 10.

Along with local faces, the film features a soundtrack of original songs by St. Louis artists – plus some of Seals’ artwork throughout.

“It kind of grew from ‘Oh, let’s do a movie for your art,’ to doing something that really means something,” Seals says.

As he anticipates the premiere on the Tivoli’s big screen and thinks about his creative endeavors as whole, he wants to impact the world in a positive way.

“I hope that it can be a source of inspiration for people who have been through similar things as I’ve been through,” Seals says, “give people a sense of hope that you can do what you love and prosper.”

One of the biggest highlights, so far, has been painting cleats for the now-Los Angeles Rams. Several years ago, before the NFL team departed St. Louis, Seals began painting cleats for one of the players at the time, Janoris Jenkins.

“I painted him a new pair every week to play in,” Seals recalls. “And I’d go to the games and see him and just think, ‘Wow, this is happening. He’s wearing them.’”

During their last season in the Gateway City, the Rams organization put a video interview with Seals and Jenkins on the team’s website, and last summer Seals and his brother, Nicholas Coulter, were invited out to their L.A. headquarters to paint some more cleats and visit training camp.

“They’ve kept a good relationship with us,” he says.

Handpainted footwear by Seals

Brock Seals also paints footwear. Last year, the Rams flew him to Los Angeles and commissioned a bunch of cleats.

But unlike the Rams, Seals is still in St. Louis, a community that he’s invested in more than ever these days, on all sorts of fronts.

When he’s not painting or performing as a solo rap artist, he’s either at UMSL making progress toward his fine arts degree or working one of two jobs – serving tables and contributing his creative talents to On the Money Magazine’s St. Louis branch.

“It’s a financial literacy magazine for teenagers,” Seals explains. “We teach kids how to be money smart – everything they need to know. Bank accounts, all that.”

When Seals was their age, he was already making music, an endeavor that continues to be a fixture in his life.

“Actually, my first performance was at the Touhill, when they first opened it,” he remembers. “In sixth grade, I was in a musical afterschool-type program in Jennings, and our first show, with all of the groups, was the opening of the Touhill. So that was my first time being at UMSL.”

He recalls stepping out on the newly minted Anheuser-Busch Performance Hall stage and facing a sea of 1,600 filled seats with some trepidation.

Painting by Brock Seals

“I hope that it can be a source of inspiration for people who have been through similar things as I’ve been through,” Brock Seals says of his work, “give people a sense of hope that you can do what you love and prosper.”

“There were so many people out there, and I was kind of nervous at first,” says Seals, whose pint-sized group performed an original song they had written and recorded. “But when the music started playing, I was like, ‘I can’t freeze up now.’”

He’s quick to acknowledge that his lifelong musical pursuits “haven’t necessarily taken off” to the same extent that his visual art has, but he continues to perform at St. Louis venues from time to time and enjoys the hours he spends doing it.

“And I bring in a little money,” he says with a laugh. “Buy some lunch.”

He doesn’t worry about that too much, though.

“The money will come,” he says. “Just worry about the happiness and the craft. Put all of your energy into making a better product.”

To explore Seals’ work, visit his Instagram profile.

The UMSL Experience

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