Steve Knotts is the artist behind our 2016 Mid-South Synergy Calendar. You can pick up your calendar at any of our three office locations.
Steve Knotts was born and raised in Dallas, Texas in the mid 60’s. He was an athlete, playing football in high school and college. He studied Environmental Design at Texas A&M, then broadened his study to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena California. During his years at the Art Center, Steve won several awards from the Society of Illustrators in Los Angeles and New York. After receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts, he began his career as an editorial illustrator, working for various publications nationwide. His client list includes Texas Monthly, Movieline, Muscle and Fitness, Playboy, Live, and The Wall Street Journal. Steve has also worked in-house for Nike, Sony Entertainment and Nintendo. After a career in illustration, Steve moved into a different industry as a software developer, working for companies such as Sega, Kronos Digital Entertainment and Oddworld. Steve has also been involved in the production of feature films working for Disney Feature Animation.
Steve has always had the desire to paint, which he finally had the opportunity to accomplish. Steve uses oil on canvas board as his medium and has recently produced twenty-four paintings in the last 18 months. Steve’s paintings are currently on exhibit at the Horlock Gallery in Navasota until March 2016.
Tell us a little bit about growing up.
I was born in South Oak Cliff just outside of Dallas, TX and moved to Plano, TX when I was about four or 5. I went to high school there where I graduated and went off to college.
What were some of your interests as a child?
My father was a runner and a biker; just an all-around athlete and I always wanted to emulate the way he was able to stay in shape. I enjoyed playing football, and all kinds of sports. As soon as I got older and taller, my only interest became football.
Were you interested in art from a young age?
I drew everything, all the time. My mother gave me free reign in my room and I used to draw and paint on my wall and she let me do it and didn’t mind. I always found that amazing that she let me decorate my own room.
Where did you go to college?
I went to Northwestern state on a football scholarship. I played there for two seasons. From there I transferred to Texas A&M, where I got injured and never really had the desire to play any more, so I decided to see if I could make it through school. I loved College Station; I lived there for many years.
What did you study at Texas A&M?
I studied Environmental Design. I wanted to study Architecture, but Environmental Design covered a broader spectrum of architecture and engineering.
Did you take any art classes at A&M?
No, I actually didn’t take any art classes until I was thirty. That was the day I decided to go to California and study fine art in Pasadena at the Art Center.
Tell us about your time at the Art Center.
It was the greatest experience of my life. I didn’t really know what was going to happen. I didn’t know who I was going to meet, but I loved California. I studied and met some incredible people; Richard Bunkle, Dwight Harmon, so many people that influenced me to become a painter – to understand composition and color. It was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.
After art school where did you begin your career?
As soon as I finished school, I started doing editorial illustrations. I was sending postcards out to any publication I could find, hoping for a fax to come in saying they had a job for me. I started getting little jobs once in a while, and the more I did that, I started getting bigger jobs in L.A., New York, Dallas, and Atlanta. As I kept doing these jobs, I realized I didn’t like being at home all the time, completely by myself. I had a friend who worked at Sega of America and they were looking for artists and they offered me a job.
What were some of the bigger publications and companies you worked for?
I’ve worked for 20, 30, 40 different publications like Texas Monthly, Movieline, Muscle and Fitness, Playboy, The Wall Street Journal. I’ve also worked for Sega, Nike, Sony Entertainment, Nintendo, and Disney Animation.
What projects did you work on for Nike?
The art director for Nike at the time saw a painting I had done for Movieline, the magazine, and he asked me to do a job for them. They were doing a series of peechee folders, and the project was called “The Beginning of Sports”. So I did six different drawings of six different sports and the creative team at Nike actually wrote a back-story for each painting I did.
Why did you make the change to go into software development? Doing editorial illustrations for magazines started to change once Photoshop showed up and that’s once I noticed the money for editorials started to go down. I knew I could paint and I knew I could draw so for financial security reasons, I wanted to see if I could start to learn the computer side of design and make it in that industry.
Can you describe some of your work for Disney Animation?
The first movie I worked on was called Mission to Mars, which was actually a live action movie, and I was a texture painter. I did several live action films where I was a texture painter, painting computer graphic generated elements of the film.
What made you decide to leave software development and paint full time?
I missed painting and realized that that was what I was really trained to do and I wanted to see if I could pull it off and make a living [painting]. I went to museums all the time and an instructor of mine always had art shows and I really wanted to do that; he really influenced me to paint. I missed getting my hands dirty and the battle that is painting.
What are some of the things you are currently working on?
I met the Mayor here in Navasota, and I didn’t know that there was a train history here in this town and so I’ve started working on some train pieces and some of the architecture in this area. I want to try to make some really beautiful pieces, of what I see and what I find beautiful that maybe someone drives by 100 times but never looks at.
What places in and around Navasota do you find inspiring?
The railroad, even though I hear there’s not a lot of development. I love that area of downtown. Architecturally, it fascinates me because the buildings are built at an angle to accommodate the angle of the train.
What brought you to Navasota, TX?
The opportunity to work here at the Horlock Gallery and be a part of the Residency program. I’ve never been able to work anywhere and not really have my own place to paint and not have to worry about everything else, finance wise.
How did you become part of the Horlock Gallery Artist in Residence program?
This past summer, I stayed at my sister’s ranch outside of Abilene, where I painted I think 24 paintings in about eight months and I was constantly looking online entering shows and I came across at the Texas Art Commission that there was a residency program here.
How long have you been/will you be at the Horlock Gallery?
I arrived here in the middle of September and will be here until March 1, 2016.
Tell us about your personal studio.
It is a place I just set up, I’m comfortable there. I have good lighting, the windows here are beautiful lights, one that faces west and one that faces south. It’s a good set up since I only paint by natural light. I try to paint early in the morning and late in the evening. It’s a great workspace.
What are you planning next after you leave the Gallery?
I’d like to find an agent and find a gallery that is interested my work and would like to represent me, but I’m never going to stop painting. I have too much to do, too much to create; I’ll always paint.
What does being creative mean to you?
I think it’s a talent that I like to express and share with other people. I don’t think a lot of people are lucky to have the type of creativity I have, especially to create something with paint; I think it’s intimidating. I never worked with paint growing up and color is one of the most difficult things to understand. It’s honestly a life-long quest to understand and it fascinates me.
Do you have any patterns or rituals when it comes to painting?
Most of my paintings are essentially drawings. I studied Norman Rockwell and they have same philosophy that I do; It’s really a sketch and a drawing that you essentially completely finish and you work out all the painting problems with just that sketch. I spend more time sketching a piece than I do painting. I paint very thin, dark to light, and left to right.
What are you trying to communicate with your art?
There’s a sense of solitude about these pieces. I watched the sun rise over the tracks one day and realized that it’s probably something that nobody ever notices. And I noticed that the light composition changes throughout the day and that fascinates me that I could capture that.
Is there a creative medium that you would love to pursue but haven’t?
Photography’ even though I use photography all the time as reference. I just find that you can do so much with it now that it’s digital. I like dark rooms and old school film; I just think you can do so much with photography today.
What are you passionate about outside of art? Any hobbies?
I’m a big football fan and I love being with my family and friends. Being in California for so many years I missed a lot of time being with my family so it’s nice being back here. I used to ride motorcycles. A friend of mine was telling me about a bike that was being repossessed at a bank and I just had to have it. It was a Honda 750 custom, and I rode that for a while and graduated through bikes from there. I’ve always wanted a Harley, but never had one, but one day I will.
What is some of the best advice you’ve received in regards to your art career?
To always keep a sketchbook with you, especially if you like drawing, because it’s not something you can just do once every month, you have to really work, and the more you see, the more you sketch and the more you learn things about perspective, and about ideas, and expression. I have many sketchbooks. Look around and appreciate the art that exists, because it’s beautiful.
Steve’s paintings are currently on exhibit at the Horlock Gallery in Navasota until March 2016. You can learn more about the Navasota Artist in Residency program on their website. If you’d like to purchase one of Steve’s pieces he can be contacted here.