FEATURED ARTIST: Steve Spencer

 BIGGULPANORAMIC

Tell me a little about yourself…

I’m Steve Spencer. I’ve lived in Little Rock, Arkansas for the last fourteen years or so. I’m from a small town in the Delta, Newport, and I’ve lived in Dallas, New York and Los Angeles.

I’m a painter, mainly. I use acrylics because I love the plastic properties of the paints. Sometimes I’ll do some pen and ink drawings, and every once in a while I feel the urge to make something Three-Dimensional, using foamcore, fishing line, acrylic paint and lots of shellack.

 

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How’d you get started, or what prompted you to begin in your genre?

When I was in kindergarten I was routinely asked to draw and paint backdrops for shows and plays. I’d never thought of myself as being especially different, in terms of creative abilities, but being relied on in K started a positive feedback loop. The more I drew the better I got, the more acclaim I got, rinse and repeat.

In my school we only had art available in 7th and 8th grades. In 8th grade we worked up to an oil painting (which I’ve recently found) and I was hooked. My art teacher submitted a bunch of my work, including my entire sketchbook, to the Arkansas Art Center’s student art show. Our family made a special trip to Little Rock to see my stuff in that.

I drifted off into drawing, usually with felt markers. I amassed an impressive collection of markers over the years. I frequented art museums and galleries, and became a huge fan of modern art, pop art, and outsider art. I noticed that most of the artists whose work I loved used acrylics, so I decided to give them a try. That was twenty years ago…

Where can we check out and buy your work?

A lot of my work is for sale on ETSY. I also have a website, aimed at illustration: spinadelic.com My local gallery closed a couple of years back and I keep meaning to work on that angle but I’ve just been so BUSY.

 

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What do you think sets you apart from other artists?

There was a time when I did a lot of work with an ad agency in Dallas and the graphic designers there could construct very elaborate and sophisticated images of shiny cars from low angles, with every highlight and reflection and texture as perfect as can be. But they could not pick up a pencil and sketch the person sitting across the table from them to save their lives.

I decided that my painting was going to be very obviously hand-crafted. With rough patches and globs of paint and things mixing in unpredictable ways. That just HAPPENED to tie in nicely with my love for Matisse and Red Grooms and Basquiat and Leger and Warhol and Lichtenstein and Jacob Lawrence and Elizabeth Murray and Romare Bearden – I could go on and on…

 

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What do you get out of being an artist?

Painting feeds my soul. It’s that direct. It’s also a social vehicle. When people come over to our house they always want to see what’s new, painting-wise. I’ve also started to realize that the compositional work involved in painting informs my work as a photographer and filmmaker. And my kids love my stuff. When something sells that they’ve become familiar with they throw a little fit. (Pretty much the only time I enjoy a fit.)

What inspires you to create the art you do? Where do you get your inspiration?

Deciding WHAT to paint next is exhilarating and frustrating at the same time. You just cannot get every idea onto a canvas. I have little sketches and refinements of sketches and full-blown studies and even scraps of paper with ideas for sketches. I end up going with the ideas that seem like the most fun. Whether it’s the subject matter or the style, or both, it’s all a question of the image being fun.

What’s the weirdest or most astonishing and controversial artwork that you have ever created and how so or why?

This isn’t all that controversial, but back when Ken Griffey Jr. and Mark McGuire were hitting a bunch of home runs I painted Roger Maris (who had set the season record for HRs of 61) looking over his shoulder and seeing those two players faces on banners in a baseball stadium. And I made Maris look somewhat like a skeleton. Because he had died many years before. I was making the point that he didn’t really care anymore who broke his record. And nobody has ever said anything nice about that painting…

 

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What do others seem to love about your art, as far as feedback you have gotten?

When people tell me what it is that they like about my work they always mention the COLOR. Given my artistic models, that had to be the case. I don’t strive to paint austerely detailed shades of burnt grey. I want to be bright and loud and fun. I’m almost ALWAYS sneaking in some subtleties, some color schemes or contrasts or affinities that aren’t immediately obvious.

How would you describe your style, or form of artistry?

I might say this about my work: I aspire for it to evoke music. Bright colors, a rhythm of composition, a sense of excitement, that I took some notion and drove it where it wanted to go, even if that was off-road. And no matter how many different elements or styles of representation used, I want there to be an overall balance.

I try to preserve some kind of naive feel to my paintings. I don’t want technical concerns to stand in the way of fun.

 

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Do you have any future plans for your artwork?

I have this notion that I might open a Pop-Up Shop for a few days in New York, and if that goes well and is fun then I might try that in some other fun locations.

 

 

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