I was an artist from childhood. I started work in Photography in my early 20s, and ended up in Film School in Chicago in the late 80s. Graduating with a degree in film did not necessarily mean I was in the film industry. Rather, that degree took me other places, specifically within the realm of computers, animation, audio production, and other artistic endeavors. I’ve owned a video production business for awhile, and made mostly corporate style commercials and special FX pieces and animations for clients. But as time has gone on, I’ve come full circle around to the more pure forms of art again, in particular oil paintings, and illustration, and on a very old and prototypical form of substrata; wood.
Since 2013 I’ve produced more than 85 paintings (2022)(and now updated in July 2023 to just over 100), currently at work at any given time on at least 4 in rotation, allowing for drying while I work with the others. I started large, and have gone more towards medium and small sizes, with plans for larger ones still in the works. I have produced 1 triptych as well, my first and only one so far.
I have never been stressed out about being famous, or rich. Not many who become artists truthfully believe we will be one or either of these things when we launch into art as a profession, unless we are under some delusion.
My motivation is one piece of art at a time and knowing that it has accomplished my goal, which is meaningful impact, or lasting impression if you wish. I hope you, and the rest of the world, in so much as they can be reached with it, will enjoy my art, but also wrestle with it. There is a part of me that goes into every piece.
For models and subject matter I’ve worked primarily from photos, sometimes my own, getting permission from other photographers, or the huge amount of images that are free online. Photos at least stay put for you and the light does not change. I’ve tried Plein Air, and I do like it. The rest of my work is much more carefully planned and crafted, purposeful, and normally smooth, utilizing a great deal of blending at every stage. Even with multiple layers of paint you can still see the wood grain to some degree, or the strokes of the application of gesso.
I create my own frames, or reform choice “found” ones, and so I’ve become quite the woodworker, out of that necessity. Most of my pieces are custom-framed and hand-stained for color and fit.
I'm making a stab at adding Surrealism to my styles. I now have pieces like Oligarch, and today (09/22/22), I have finished a 28x28 piece that is completely from imagination, and also safely within that genre. Title: Slumbertrain.
Another first that corresponds with that, is the music piece I created while working on it, and titled the same. And that song along with 9 others has been curated into my first music album release, by of course that same name: SlumberTrain. It can be found now on Spotify, iTunes/Apple Music, and most other major music outlets under the name StephenArts. Follow me! My social link for Bandcamp is: https://stevencurtis1.bandcamp.com/ or just about any music service, including Spotify.
Much of my work has been the stuff of beauty, serenity, introspection, nature, figures, and portraits. But I’m also conversely drawn to the more enigmatic, personal, confrontational, and illustrative, and I'm still planning and working to break out more into those areas. The personal, the confrontational...I'm struggling with what so many other artists of many varieties struggle with...trying to bring out that layer that is just underneath the surface of the rendered reality, that 4th dimension that is emotional, psychological, spiritual, holy.
I don't think I've found quite the "stroke" for that yet. But an example of that would be, “psst, Vladimir”, the recent painting that is mostly an emotional outlet for my angst about the war in Ukraine. Just when we thought we were “through” that old cold war era and bomb shelters and such. It’s been quite awhile since I have seen the once familiar nuclear symbol posted on a building, denoting the sign of a bomb shelter just below it.
SlumberTrain was another attempt at going beyond realism and allowing the content and the form of the work to be a painting, instead of a near-mirror, beautiful as that can be.
I sign my name with my artist’s nom de plume, “Stephen”. My real name is spelled with a “v”, but I have always thought of my artistic self as another person, not as a multi-personality of course, but another “personage” that is special and decisively different than my walking-around self. I hope one of us will get to meet you, frankly the “v” Steven, because he is more engaging than Stephen in regular conversation. Stephen is a bit of a stickler for details, and would rather "do" than talk.
(Steven Curtis, WI)