Steven is a storyteller on a large scale. From his epic moments from biblical scenes to small quiet corners of the world. He breathes life and love into everything he creates. This very talented illustrator and concept designer loves capturing the human spirit when nobody is noticing.
You can check out more of his work HERE
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m an artist who spends most of my time thinking about light, color, drawing, painting and how those things create meaning in our lives. I love making artwork that tells stories ranging from epic adventures to quiet moments of contemplation. I have spent a lot of time considering how my art relates to my faith as a Christian, and it has been a very rewarding pursuit. The Creator/creation aspect is fascinating, and I think it affects us deeper than we know. I’m currently pursuing my MFA in Illustration at SCAD. From there, I plan to enter the art industry as a creator and a teacher, preferably at the college level.
What made you want to pursue a life in the arts?
It all started with a very active imagination, pretending to be various characters from Star Wars, Batman or other shows. That is where I developed my ability to tell stories. I drew all the time as a kid, and my artistic growth was accelerated by great teachers. I had a wonderful private tutor at the age of 10 who taught me how to use light and shadow in my work, and it has stuck with me ever since. That training was the beginning of seeing the world with “art vision”, and now I can’t turn it off. My high school art teacher was a great inspiration, pushing me to try new ideas and mediums. I explored many different majors in college, but none of them held my interest. I remember realizing that I just wanted to draw instead of doing all my other homework, so I switched my major and went into the arts. I also studied abroad in Italy, where I saw the works of the old masters that inspire me to this today. All of these contribute to my daily choice to keep making art. Anytime I wonder why I am doing this, I just realized I wouldn’t really be doing anything else!
What has been the most challenging piece you've created?
That’s tough to answer because art pieces can be challenging in a variety of ways. Sometimes, really complicated images just flow out of you, and other times a really simple idea can fight you every step of the way. The mental game is complex. It’s also difficult because each new piece is the most challenging thing you have created. Once you overcome it, it is no longer challenging, so you have to raise your game. I guess the short answer would be what I am working on right now! My current challenge is pushing for more multi-figure compositions while trying to finish images quicker.
What kind of art do you typically like to create?
I love creating images that tell a story through light and shadow. Genres I like include history and fantasy, but every genre needs good lighting. I try to convey a mood through the lighting so that it gives viewers an emotional experience. I channel as much empathy into my work as possible, which fuels my decisions. I am currently creating work for my thesis project, an illustrated version of the story of Jonah from the Bible. I also have stories that I am developing in the fantasy genre that I hope to illustrate later.
Are there any artists you find inspiration from?
I have a folder on my computer. In it are many other folders, which contain even more folders. All of them are filled with art. I am inspired by everything from classical art to concept art to animations. Currently, I am studying the works of Caravaggio and Rembrandt for their use of light and shadow. I am also looking at animation artists like Tyrus Wong and Hans Bacher for their beautiful use of design for Disney films. I love the Golden Age illustrators from the school of Howard Pyle. I really enjoy the paintings of digital painters like Jaime Jones and Tyler Jacobson. There is no end of inspiration!
What is your process like? Do you only paint digitally or do you draw stuff out and then transfer it to digital?
I am currently working digitally for most of my pieces. I start with loose sketches where I use simple but intentional lines to block out my ideas quickly. From those sketches, I pick the ones that are the most beautiful, clear and engaging and develop them into black and white value comps. I approach these with blocky chunks of value, not being too precious. Finally, I take the best value study and start working directly on top of it in color. Digital is nice because you can save your layers and multiple files, allowing you to chart your progress. I am learning to leave more of my early process in the finish because it adds unique textures that are difficult to manufacture. People seem to respond to my mark-making, so I am exploring that balance of loose and finished.
I want to incorporate more traditional processes into my work, such as charcoal and oil paint. There is something about working with those old materials that produce unique ideas. We spend so much time on computers these days, and an opportunity to get away from them is nice.
Do you have a favorite color pallet you like to use?
I don’t work with specific colors from swatches, although it would be good to try that moving forward. I often start with a grayscale value-comp and then colorize it to the major mood I want. Then I add in colors as they seem to fit the content and the emotion. I like using a warm palette with in desaturated cools for a more traditional look. I am starting to push the cools more for certain moods, but it depends on the story moment. I also arrive at my colors by painting the local colors of the materials, and then modifying those colors to be warmer and cooler depending on the patterns of light. I love alternating temperatures in my paintings because it adds an extra type of contrast I can balance against value.
If you were stuck on an island what five items would you want with you?
A knife, some flint, a flare gun kit, a huge piece of cloth (enough for a sail or shelter/clothing), and a soccer ball
I hear you're awesome at puns. What are some of your best puns?
I tend to be reactionary with my puns. It’s like a fountain. You have to let them flow naturally, or your brain is like water you doing. When you feel pressured to deliver a good joke, you freeze up, but once you have tapped into something good they saturate your conversation. Of course, it’s best to just drop them here and there so they stay under the surface. If you flood the conversation, it can be a little overwhelming.
If you could travel back in time where would you go?
Art nerd: Probably back to the 1500s in Italy. I love the Renaissance and Italian culture in general. Bible nerd: To the time of Jesus and the early church to see how things went down. Fantasy nerd: To Rivendell back when Europe was Middle Earth.