Portrait of an Artist: Steve Shriver
I thank Facebook for introducing me to a worldwide community of artists . Every day I “meet” creative people, see incredible artistry and learn more about the rich history of decorative painting. That last part is how I stumbled unto California artist Steve Shriver. His company, art + works, showcases his considerable talent for both residential and commercial projects. He also manages an art + works Facebook page in which he shares decorative artworks and their history via his “Picture of the Day” posts. (I think the page should leapfrog over “Like” straight into the realm of “Must”.) We recently had a chance to e-chat…
“Though I have had some assistance here and there on some projects, art+works is basically me. I am interested in more collaboration for the future. Mostly, I’ve been working for the last 8 years on a single project: a house overlooking the Pacific that was built in 1930 by Anthony Heinsbergen, the leading purveyor of ornamental art on the West Coast from the 1920′s to the 60′s”, Steve says. “I’m also working with an established art gallery to bring more mural and ornamental art to the public eye and teach the history and techniques of ornament. I believe our time is coming!”
Q: So, tell me, how did you start down this career path?
A: I got into decorative work because of my kids. I was living in New York with my wife and our daughter when my wife announced that she was pregnant with twins! There went my New York artist plan right out the window as we both saw that living in an illegal loft in Williamsburg with 3 kids and no family nearby was just not going to work. So we moved back to Southern California to be near families and I started looking for work that might pay better than the occasional art sales. I had a friend who made fiberglass moldings for casinos so my first real decorative job was faux marbling a lot of columns for Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Paid great, but it was a finite project.
After that ran out, there were lots of trial-by-fire jobs. (CLIENT: Can you do ____ finish? ME: Of course! IN HEAD: How the heck do you do this?) I connected with a short-lived design and artists collective company and then found Douglas Bouman and Associates. The company was a remnant of the empire of decorative painting created by Anthony Heinsbergen, who was responsible for much of the theaters and large decorative west of the Mississippi. I learned a lot working there, though the history part has mostly been my own doing through books and the Internet.
Q: Speaking of history, I’d love to take one of your techniques of ornament classes — your knowledge is far-reaching. Would you have some personal favorite design styles?
A: I love seeing the renewed interest and vigor around grotesque design and execution. Next step is taking it beyond simple copying into more personal imagery and design.
Q: Who are some of your current inspirations?
A: I am very taken with the work of Louis Sullivan as an architect/designer and as a teacher who felt beholden to his students to dig deep down to a system of design that truly expressed both inner and outer worlds.
Q: What are some of your favorite websites, blogs and/or message forums on the Internet?
A: Fauxology, naturally, and Theresa Cheek’s blog Art’s the Answer. I particularly love Alan Carroll’s Surface Fragments blog, and look forward to meeting all in person before too long. I also do a lot of surfing on Wikimedia and Flickr, where you can find tons of good resource photos.
Q: Any art books or artist biographies that you recommend for us to read?
A: Ha! All of them! But the most informative ones I know are the Italian Frescoes series and the History of Decorative Arts series, both from Abbeville Press.
Q: If you were paid to write a new book on any subject you wished, what would it be about?
A: I’d love to write a book about Anthony Heinsbergen – he must have been quite a character.
Q: Here’s one off the wall – do you believe in karma?
A: Definitely! What goes around comes around.
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Can you believe the artistry? Those ceilings alone…. What I find wonderful is the sheer variety of his work — AND surfaces! I am so happy that there are artists among us who are gifted enough to bring such beauty to life. It’s something to appreciate on a daily basis. Steve teaches classes in California about the history of ornament and I’d love to get him out here to Florida to teach the class. I’m also going to follow his advice and surf both Wikimedia and Flickr more and see the Abbeville Press books. Please do check out his website and if at all possible, look up his art + works page on Facebook. It has more pictures of his work, behind-the-scenes stories and the aforementioned “Picture of the Day” extravaganza. A big thanks to Steve for the e-chat along with an equally big “Have an amazing weekend!” to you, dear Readers. See you Monday!