What I love about painting is the feeling of permanence that creating something provides. My paintings are simply a documentation of inception that will hopefully live long past me. They provide the viewer with a direct look into my head and sometimes my dreams. Then those images seamlessly attach themselves to my stance on various societal issues to form a narrative. Life is fragile, but the better the artwork the more resilient it becomes to time.
I’m very lucky that I’m able to wake up everyday and paint. I have the freedom to sit down and say anything that I want. Making paintings that are based strictly on aesthetics seems criminal to me. The trade-off for my freedom of expression is the fact that I have to expose my feelings to the world, accepting the judgment and criticism that accompanies such exposure. I embrace criticism by working hard and being critical of my work so that when my paintings do go up in public they can stand up to the viewer.
My favorite part of painting is the moment when I’m finished with the first layer of a new piece, because that’s when I get to go in and edit with my brush. Subtracting with paint is a remarkable feeling. Painting right over something that took weeks, months, or even years to make, if it isn’t working is both invigorating and terrifying. Out of the entire canvas there may be only a 2-inch by 2-inch space that is working and that’s exactly what needs to be highlighted and explored. Regardless of how long I’ve spent working on something, I try to step back and be objective. Unlike writing you can’t save the rough draft of a painting, you have to be able to let it go. I see it as a ‘controlled burn’ if you will. By taking something away you’re making room for something bigger and stronger to take its place. Every year I try to purge, step back and start over totally fresh.
Looking back over the past few years of my career I feel very proud. I’ve been able to support myself with my paintbrush, starting my career off during a terrible economy and growing it to what it has become today. I am attracted to painting because making television shows was manipulative and repetitive. It felt deceptive, sneaking in products, camouflaging advertisements and coming up with ways to numb the viewer so they didn’t change the channel. I left that life to become a painter and felt better about myself knowing that my time on this Earth was going towards speaking out about what I believe in.
Being a visual artist in today’s world is very challenging. I am fighting against cable television, computers, movies, and video games for the attention of my peers. All of these various platforms are everywhere we look. When I paint I am attempting to engage my viewer, forcing them to use their imaginations. I am always exploring, looking for new ways to manipulate the medium. I strive to create fresh ideas and not recycle trends we see in popular culture today.
Living in a city like Los Angeles allows me to meet so many individuals that are passionate about supporting my creative endeavors. I am fascinated with how my pieces have spread across the world. The idea that they are hanging on the walls of homes and restaurants in countries I’ve never visited resonates deeply with me. My goal is to continue to make strides both conceptually and technically with my artwork, continuing to bring my paintings into the public arena. I sincerely appreciate everyone taking the time to support my artwork, hopefully it will continue to grow and improve. Thank you for being a part of my process.
Steven Michael O’Connor