We’re thrilled to announce that artist Sebastian Marc Graham is the winner of the 2023 Bal Harbour Shops Creative Challenge. Born and raised in Spain, Graham, 28, grew up on the island of Majorca before moving to the resort town of Marbella. His colorful watercolors reflect his seaside upbringing and international outlook. Inspired by nature, Graham’s art can now be found around the world as illustrations, murals, and fashion fabric prints—a dress bearing his design was worn by Queen Letizia of Spain last year. Here, we speak to the artist about his inspirations, travels, and his imminent relocation to Los Angeles.
When did you first identify as an artist?
I didn’t actually study art at university, my degree is in politics and international relations. I went to an art school when I was a teenager, but a teacher there told me that if I wanted to be an artist I had to change my whole style—which sort of killed my dream. But, then in 2020, during the pandemic, I began posting my art on Instagram and getting some attention. I was asked to collaborate with the Ibiza fashion brand Charu Riaz and then it snowballed from there.
Which artists inspire you?
Nature has always played a very important part in my trajectory as an artist and I was very inspired by Elizabeth Blackadder, who was a famous Scottish artist well known for her flower watercolors. I like Paul Gauguin, especially his Polynesia era, when he went there and painted those beautiful colors and tones. And I Iove Georgia O’Keefe.
London, Paris, Miami: your Instagram is like a travel diary. Why do you travel so much?
Some collaborations mean I have to fly to different destinations for projects—for example, I go to Ibiza and Mexico often because I work with many brands there. And then there are “inspiration trips” as I like to call them—I’ll often go to southern France or Italy to get inspired.
Do you have a favorite place to visit?
Paris is one of my favorite cities—it is such a dreamy place and I’m a rose-tinted glasses kind of guy. I want to showcase beautiful things; my paintings really emit good vibes and energy. A lot of people think that “good art” can’t be so cheery, but I think we endure enough negativity in life that people appreciate that positivity. People want to see something that makes them smile and feel good.
You often paint outdoors. Is that an important part of your process?
I’ve got a pen, pencil, and a little notebook with me wherever I go. I enjoy painting alfresco, as I like to call it, because it’s spontaneous—you don’t get much time to think about what you’re going to draw or paint. I like to work quite fast rather than spend days on one painting. I feel a lot more inspired being on location because all your senses are activated and that permeates into the work. I’ll even draw on receipts and tablecloths and I love it when those “canvases” have coffee stains or something—it makes it more authentic.
Why are you moving to LA?
I’ve actually never been there before, but I have a project in Beverly Hills working with L’Ermitage hotel. I worked with them previously on their rebrand and they want to collaborate more. Living in LA will be a new experience and hopefully bring new inspiration to my artwork as it has such a distinct style and vibe. I’m looking to develop my style and work with new mediums a bit more… I’d really like to paint my art onto ceramics.
Congratulations to our 2023 Creative Challenge finalists: Agnes Keszeg, Andrea del Hoyo, Anne Keenan Higgins, Evilin Demeter, Olga Krivova, Somali Roy, Susie Ang, Talia Garcia, and Vivi Moya.