Contemporary figurative painter, Steven Morrell, has been painting his whole life. But it really kind of kicked off back in the 80’s with painting album covers onto the back of jean jackets. He quickly became to “go to guy” for all of his friends in Yonkers, New York, painting as he says “A whole lot of Iron Maiden and other heavy metal music logos and album covers.”
Morrell decided in Highschool that he didn’t want to be a starving artist and decided to begin to study graphic design. Swapping out his brushes for a computer mouse. He picked those brushes back up in his 30’s, when he began painting dog portraits. But it just wasn’t his passion.
The 48 year old artist, that now calls Boulder home, says that he really began painting in a fine art space about a year and a half ago. He wanted to actually say something with his work and began to put himself out there with a figurative body of work.
Morrell’s first gallery exhibitions of this new figurative work was at Artmesia Gallery, in the Santa Fe Arts District in Denver. He showed a series of work that depicted hands embracing a woman’s body. The describes this series as having a grittier vibe than his current work.
“It is an in your face, whether you like it or not, theme of acceptance that’s I was going for.” Morrell says about it.
He adds that the series was very triggering for some viewers. Many of which saw themes of anger, frustration and lack of acceptance when Morrell was trying to show the opposite.
His first series did come from a darker place, with the idea for the series originating in a conversation Morrell had with a woman that he says had been through a lot of issues around her body and experienced a lot of pain (both emotional and physical) and felt a lot of shame around those experiences.
He says his newest body of work is about liberation, freedom and playfulness. With an over-arching theme of the divine feminine. There is a marked difference between his last darker, gritty series and his new series. It is brighter, more exuberant and there is lots of energy and color.
Currently, Morrell is not represented by a gallery and actively searching for representation.
Morrell says it can be very moving to see some of the strong reactions viewers has to his work. He recalls a viewer that came into a show last month. “This one girl in particular, who held her hands to her chest as she looked at the work. She was almost speechless and told me it was so moving and emotional. That’s who this work is for. Someone who doesn’t just see and and appreciate it as good art work. But, feels it. That to me is ultimate success.
A mostly self taught artist he tells us that during the creation process, the name of the game is energy, brightness and play. Especially play.
“What I like to do when painting is look at my reference photo and feel the movement in it.”
He will start off with an abstract shape and throw paint around on the canvas in a very loose gesture in the direction an arm is going or a very loose curve representing the curvature of a body. I use that for the base and then paint over it. Letting some of the sententious energy come through as he renders more tightly in other areas. Hopefully creating an overall picture of energy and vibrance.
You can find more information on Morrell’s work and upcoming shows on his website: www.stevemorrellart.com or follow him on Instagram @stevenmorrell