Yitzchak Schwartz (Jerusalem)

Like yourself, I sometimes reside in a special place in my mind. Sometimes… it’s the best place to be in the whole world. In that place, I see the most brilliant colors. I hear the most Heavenly music. I feel my deepest heart’s stirrings. I never say no to anything.

But sometimes I cannot find that place in my mind, so I go searching for something or someone who can show me how to go there and stay there and I search… and I search… and I search…

And then I found you– King Seth and you with your colors and your Heavenly music and thoughts and your heart stirrings and your refusal to ever say no give me and so many others like me the courage and direction to go back into this place in my mind and stay there…

My deepest gratitude and love and Blessings. 

– 2/22/2015

Herbert Ascherman, Jr.


Imagine that I lived in my dreams.

Imagine King Seth was my illustrator.

Imagine that King Seth could lay his head on my pillow and upon awakening,

or in his own dream-state,

paint my visions of Pure Land.

Imagine what he would see.

And what he would feel.

I am sixty-seven years old.

I am a photographer.

Would that I could photograph what I see when I close my eyes

rather than what faces me when I am awake and walking.

Imagine what King Seth would see in my Pure Land.

Imagine how he would see it.



– 2/18/2015

Bernadette Walsh: Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at Gwynedd Mercy University

Your book, “King Seth Dreams”, is unique because it has a depth that I’ve rarely seen in children’s books. It seems to me that there are common themes in children’s books such as — appreciation of diversity; the negative impact of bullying; beauty of nature; the vast world of animals, etc… Granted, those are all very good themes. At times, when I see children’s books in the stores, I cringe a bit because some are so shallow and simple. That’s probably an awful thing to say, isn’t it? But, your book has a sense of “other-worldliness” that struck a chord in me. As I read it, I felt like I was being gently introduced to a world and a perspective that was very different than mine, bt it was a world that was very welcoming. I hope that makes sense. Plus, you didn’t focus on a solitary theme – there are many messages in the book. I really would like to read it again! The books I want to read again and again are my favorite!”

– 11/24/2014

Gordon Clapp: Emmy- winning, Tony-nominated actor who charmed audiences as Det. Greg Medavoy of NYPD Blue.

Seth’s show at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center captivated me in a way that artistic events rarely have. I felt a wave of joy as I entered Seth’s world of vibrant color and character. I sensed a stunning vision and imagination that has uncovered an avenue of expression. As an actor I hope I can communicate with my audience with such certainty. I am proud to own one of Seth’s silkscreens of his beloved New York. I look forward to more of his exhibits.

Gordon Clapp is honored to have a Seth Chwast silkscreen of New York. It is exciting and full of color and life!

Bye for now.

– 9/11/2012


Tana Cook, Edison College Student

Email Testimonial 

Seth Chwast, Your story is so inspirational to me. Your paintings are so amazing. I am doing a school project on your “Manhattan Floating” Everytime I look at it I see something new. I love that about it.

I have the book with your paintings all in it. I can’t stop looking at it either. You truely are amazing Seth. I look forward to see many many more inspirational artwork by you. And maybe one day meet you.

Also, please thank you and your mother for giving me hope about my little brother. I will never give up on him. I hope you have an great day and take care.

Very inspired college student, Tana K. Cook

– 9/9/2012

Shari Goldberg, Autism Speaks Cleveland Chapter President, Mother of a teenager with Autism

Review from An Unexpected Life: A Mother and Son’s Story of Love, Determination, Autism, and Art (Hardcover) 

Debra Chwast’s book is a beautiful story of hope and love! It empowers and inspires parents to never give up.It showcases the strengths of her brilliantly talented son Seth: an artist who has Autism, not an “Autistic” who does art.

I could not put this book down.

As a mother of a 15 year old with Autism I highlighted so many passages as I read because they resonated so clearly. Share this book with anyone who has a child that is differently abled, anyone who is feeling defeated or hopeless, anyone who wants to be lifted up by the deep and devoted love of a mother and her son-they will see that possibilities are infinite if you keep your heart and mind open.

– 7/6/2012


Review of Presentation at Milestones Autism Organization

Debra Chwast’s power point talk is an inspiration to anyone who has a heart! 

Highlighted by photos of her son Seth’s amazing artwork, she shares her inspiring story of a mother’s love and determination as she nurtures and supports her son’s gift as an artist.  Her talk is more than a story about the triumph of Autism it is a story about the triumph of the human spirit!

– 6/27/2012


Lisa Knoppe (O’Fallon, Missouri)

Email Testimonial: Seth Chwast Art: Your book

‘Seth, I just wanted to tell you that I was walking through my local library and your book immediately caught my eye because of your wonderful self-portrait on the cover. My daughter is a special education teacher who has dedicated her life to studying autism. I am going to begin working with autistic students this next school year myself as I am a teacher too. As I read your book, I am brought to tears by the dedication of your mother, and your kind friends. I just had to write to tell you that you have inspired me Seth, and I hope we can be friends!

You’re right Seth, new friends are everywhere!’

– 6/30/2012

Ilana Hoffer Skoff, Executive Director : Milestones Autism Organization

Thank you very much for presenting at the Milestone Conference

Dear Debra, Thank you very much for presenting at the Milestones Conference. It was extremely moving and inspiring to hear your story. I am sure you wake up days and cannot believe the unbelievable strides Seth has made to reach today…And it is only the beginning. And you may not be surprised. You talk with a calm and confidence about Seth as a person and about the intense bond you have. I appreciated the distinction you made in your talk between following exactly what you did vs. following the spirit of what you did. Each of our own children is unique. They each have a journey. We need to guide them, expose them to options, and listen and learn from them. You have done all that with beauty and grace. So exciting to witness and learn myself. Be well. Fondly, Ilana.’

– 6/27/2012

Debra Hosseini 

Review from: An Unexpected Life: A Mother and Son’s Story of Love, Determination, Autism, and Art (Hardcover)

A Beautiful Story About Possibilities and Growth

‘An Unexpected Life could be my story too! Debra Chwast has a beautiful voice about her relationship with her autistic son, Seth. Seth is an amazing artist who I became aware of a few years ago when compiling my own book featuring artists on the spectrum. What most impressed me about Debra and Seth’s journey was how she evolved as a person through her child. My son, Kevin, is also on the spectrum and a gifted artist. I can relate to the effort it takes on the mom’s part and how her life has now become tied forever to her son. I’ve witnessed so many moms who have changed careers, split with their husbands, and have similar experiences to Debra. I also relate to her spiritual journey and her evolved understanding of autism. For a different perspective, read this book. We are inundated with so many bad stories about autism, this book is a sheer delight to read.’

– 2/18/2012

Elizabeth Adams Marks (St. Louis, MO)

Review from: An Unexpected Life: A Mother and Son’s Story of Love, Determination, Autism, and Art (Hardcover)

An Unexpected Life ~ The Journey of Debra and Seth Chwast

‘I am an artist, teacher and mother who first learned of Seth and Debra Chwast on the Today Show. Inspired by Debra’s tenacious spirit, passionate resilience and commitment to the discovery of her son’s brilliance as an artist who is autistic, I immediately emailed Seth and Debra for permission to share their story and Seth’s artwork with my middle school art students. Each semester since January 2008, my students have researched Seth’s website, watched the videos about his journey, analyzed his paintings and often shared their own stories of friends and family who struggle with the anxiety and stress of living with a loved one diagnosed with autism. Finally they created their own animal paintings, not only informed by Seth’s sensitivity to color, shape and form, but also to his ability to see, hear and process the space between the lines. While Seth and Debra’s journey may be very different than other parents who have an autistic child, there is a strong common thread that binds all who struggle against misunderstanding, ridicule and fear of the unknown. As an educator who often works with students who are autistic, I recommend “An Unexpected Life” to anyone who seeks a world beyond apprehension and darkness, beyond the bleak wall of denial, to a celebration of life and a kaleidoscope of possibilities.’

– 12/30/2011

Sue A. (Fort Lee, New Jersey)

Review of: An Unexpected Life: A Mother and Son’s Story of Love, Determination, Autism, and Art (Hardcover)

“This is the best love story I ever read.”

– September 2011


Susan Haskell MSW (Fort Lee, New Jersey)

Review from: An Unexpected Life: A Mother and Son’s Story of Love, Determination, Autism, and Art (Hardcover)

A Wonderful, Inspiring Story!

Debra Chwast’s amazing journey with her 28-year-old autistic son, Seth, is beautifully described in this memoir, which spans the years from Seth’s diagnosis around age 2 to the present. Debra never let up on the search for things to give meaning and purpose to Seth’s life, as well as her own, and when she discovered his artistic ability at age 20, developing that talent became the focus of their lives. Seth has continued to paint and now travels and exhibits internationally. What could have been a very limited and frustrating life for both Debra and Seth, has instead become an interesting and fulfilling one. This is a very moving and inspiring book, filled with Seth’s vibrant paintings and sculptures, and it is a story that should give hope to others who are challenged by adversity.”

– 9/21/2011


Seymour Chwast, Renowned Designer, Artist and Illustrator

Preface To An Unexpected Life: A Mother and Son’s Story of Love, Determination, Autism, and Art.

I am a graphic designer, illustrator, painter, and grandfather of two autistic sons. My connection with Seth came through our same, though rare, last name. Debra knew my work and thought I’d be interested in seeing the work of her son. What I saw amazed me—his work has exuberant color, form, and creative imagination with a range and output on a par with any other working artist.

Debra Chwast is a remarkable woman who credits Seth for her “endurance and perseverance.” She has had a lot more than a mom’s drive for success for her child. In this case it is a son with extreme challenges and a mom with total determination for his achieving that success.

Seth is not constrained by a necessity to direct his work. (As an illustrator that is my foremost duty.) He can act on anything that inspires him. The results cover a wide range from turtles, hippos, and horses to abstract work, self-portraits, flowers, and buildings. The work covers the conceptual to the decorative; from impressionism to expressionism to minimalism; from his sense of realism to imaginative fantasy. He indulges in experimentation–—as the professionals call it—to justify narrowly focused work.

Seth’s genre, called self-taught or outsider art, is recognized by the critics, museums, and collectors. The artists come from everywhere but do not have formal training. They have, however, the same or greater urge to creative as learned ones. They operate in a different universe from the rest of us but have a vision that shows us a world that is unique—but still a part of the human condition.

I don’t know if Seth realizes the importance of his body of work. In the end his paintings leave him “excited,” as he tells us, while the rest of us get caught up in his fascination with the act of creating art.

In their book American Self-Taught, Roger Ricco and Frank Maresca said, “Self-taught images constantly remind us that art does not mirror some established realty but instead illuminates experience. Arising from no specific milieu but underlying all the works is the artists’ drive to testify fully to his or her circumstance.”

The creative urge is a mystery. I don’t know what part of the brain or nervous system provokes me to make something that has never been seen before. In Seth’s case, acting on his creative urge was not a conscious method of advancing a career or satisfying an ego. It is for him the way for anyone with a vision . . . the thing they have to do. I look back to paintings and drawings I’ve done that were not commissioned. While I am glad they were done (and many were just bad) I have to admire and be curious about the incentive within me that got me to create the work.

Seth is artistic and autistic. The special talent that some of those similarly affected have belong to all of us to admire, absorb and love.

– 2011

Silvia Aguirre

Email Testimonial: A woman Seth met in an amusement park in Quito, Ecuador who loves his paintings of Galapagos.

Dear Seth:

I love your pictures, specially because belongs to

my country, they{re great, tell me Seth, how long

are you making pictures?, because I think they are great.

Pls. receive all my tnaks, are so nice.


– 3/11/2008

James Levin, Artistic Director of Cleveland’s Ingenuity: A Festival of Arts & Culture

Email Testimonial

I just saw the video.

I cried.

I loved what you (debra) said about “Pinnochio” and being a real boy.

Just stunning.


– 1/3/2008


Adam T (Lake Chargoggagoggmanchaugagoggchaubunagungamaugg)

Email Testimonial

Thank you so much for writing to me, it is my favorite surprise e-mail I have ever received. You are a terrific painter and I will look forward to owning some of your work soon.

Good Luck,


– 1/16/2007


Michael Cunningham, Art Historian (former curator of Oriental art for the Cleveland Museum of Art)

Interview with Bob Dotson for NBC’s The Today Show

“It seems to me what Seth is doing is a variety of subject matter. Teachers have introduced him to exploring the possibilities of transforming an image into his own language which I feel is primarily a colorist.  He has an extraordinary rigor in looking in trying to configure a world that he owns and is trying to translate into another reality for himself.  But which bears resemblance to what we call reality to our world.

I’ve watched him work for a longer time than outsider art has been a term.  What I love about Seth’s work is he’s out there just zooming along, or pulling back every once in awhile to be quietly plunging some motifs or features or contours or designs that help him construct what’s in his mind– what’s in his eye.  And for me it’s just visually stimulating.  Very visually stimulating. Outside the realm of traditional art history which I know a little bit about.

I was just two weeks ago in New York at the Met and now there’s a show by a well renowned Irish, now American painter called Sean Scully.  And it’s color images work.  Seth has been working with color.  Not just a single color but the layering of colors to try and discover how the richness, the dampness, the quiet,  the volume can excite one’s eye independent of form. And I’ve seen him work.  I’ve seen the results of his work and he’s very diligent.  He has a self critical, self questioning process in making color work on top of, next to, in relation to other colors that I think is just transformative when it’s really on.

Seth is wonderfully adaptable and open.  He has no lack of interest in suggestions as to what might be appropriate for subject matter.  And if we look at typical eastern or western art history, there’s certain types of subject matter that everybody accepts.  And then every once in a while this becomes expander.  Remember Andy Warhol and the Campbell’s Soup Cans.  Who would ever thought that commercial design would become such.  And he can take anything from toads to faces to sunsets to northern lights and he gets turned on in an authentic way.That’s freedom. That’s wonderful.

It’s a stunning example of someone who has pathways of communicating with us– sharing with us that are not again– traditional.

And they also challenge us in ways that release our own thoughts about how we think, how we judge.  Words, subject matter, people, material, texture you know, he’s the real deal in that way.  And it’s so unbridled which is what I like, you know, so natural.

I happen to be someone who’s worked for decades in Asian art.  And I love teaching introduction courses to Asian art because most everybody doesn’t know what the material is. If you take them to a museum and you look at a Madonna and child, we would agree that that’s kinda standard repertoire, for instance.  But, if you show them a Buddha with the hands like this, it’s a whole new learning process.  And what that does is it automatically opens up a little switch that clicks and says, “Well, maybe I don’t have this in a box and I oughta think about, you know, getting another shelf lined up somewhere in my little house upstairs for new material, new subject matter,” There’s a phrase I love from Samuel Johnson.  He says something like, “The end of learning is piety.” There’s no end to it, is there really?  Seth’s a wonderful example of how we can renew ourselves with a little zing every once in a while.

What I like is that he’s continually exploring it.  He’s continually working– there’s no one self. And I think if we look at traditional painting galleries in the west, you’ll see that. Rembrandt’s a great example, you know, where he puts on different costumes, or where he shows us at different ages what he looks like.  And I think he understands that persona evolves. And when I look at Seth’s portraits, I think it’s pretty clear he’s got that. He understands that.  He shifts lines.  He shifts contours.  He really works through. Seth is very much a wonderful work in process.

My greatest thrill would be to take a few of his pieces without any labels on them to a museum. It’s guaranteed he would get as strong a reaction as a lot of the stuff there.  I think if you put something like this up at the, you know, the Met I’ll bet you’d get a reaction that might surprise you.  It’s strong. I don’t want to make too much of it.  I just like to see it continue.”

– 2007