'Artists can know that by creating they can inspire those who need art, inspire those who make their own art or those who need that feeling that only art, no matter what the type, can produce. Artists can know that they are living a dream many crave, who many deserve, but are denied. That no matter how hard it can be at times, we are in fact living someone’s dream.'
Steve Cannon is an artist based in Ireland. Having been seduced by a life of adventure on the seas as a young man, a work accident led to him choosing to take his art making from part-time to a full-time studio practice.
Where is your current studio? What would be your dream studio?
I’m moved in with my girlfriend a few years ago and I am availing of a spare bedroom from her at the moment. We’re outside Galway City in the country. I actually built a proper studio next to my own house which is on an island off the coast of Connemara, Co. Galway but for a daily commute, it’s just that bit too far away. I have everything I need where I am, a large wooden easel and a table top easel depending on the size of the canvas and a massive engineers table for any watercolours.
The window looks out over the back garden with a leafy forest bordering the back wall. Our German shepherd ‘Hugo’ is in and out throughout the day. The cats always come for a visit at some point.
As lovely as the forest at the room is, my dream studio would be part of an old industrial warehouse in town. It would have loads of windows, brick, timber or cement floors, rusty beams and space. It would be slightly run down as I tend to be more inspired by urban blight than the beauty of nature. Conversely, it could be a single, fairly large room in a in an older house. There would be a few cafes close by for lunch and a scattering of dodgy pubs to have a drink if it strikes my fancy after the work is done for the day and to meet up with others artists.
Do you prefer to work in silence or does certain music inspire you?
I do play music. I have several playlists to choose from depending on my mood. I opt for genres as blues, vintage rock, reggae etc.
That said, I do work in silence at times. Like others, it would depend on my mood. The music helps keep my head relaxed but the silence can help me get completely immersed in the work.
Describe a moment you had an epiphany concerning your creative life.
My epiphany was not long after having an accident. I have always created art and eventually I began exhibiting in a few places, but all the while working at various jobs. My last ‘regular job’ was as a crewman on a ferry serving and home ported on an island off Westport, Co. Mayo in the west of Ireland. I did enjoy the work, but as fate would have it, after all those years at sea, I made a novice mistake and I became entangled in the mooring rope whilst mooring the boat. The injury resulted in the loss of my left leg. With the prospect of continuing on the boat doubtful, I had to revaluate my life and work options. Facing a life being disabled I needed a career that I could physically do, without pain. The obvious option was creating art so I went from part time to full time. I started with illustration with painting more for myself. Eventually I dabbled in sculpture. Now, I have thrown myself into painting (but do a small bit of illustration if a job arises)
What is your favourite/ least favourite part of the creative process?
When painting, I enjoy the sketching out, finding the composition but the first one or two passes (in oils) feel almost painful. I know it will come right but I must be impatient.
My favourite would be when I have it basically how I like it (approximately half-finished) but just need to layer it up and pull out what I can out of it. That, I properly enjoy. It’s fantastic trying colours, adding, layering and finding the meat of the subject.
Nature versus nurture- do you believe you have inherited abilities from creative parents, do you have creative siblings? Can you identify environmental factors or influences which led to your choices or directions?
My Mother was an artist. She never pursued it though which is a pity. She sketched film stars of the time, or fashion ads from the magazines she’d pick up. But as many women of the day, she was pressured to be married and after she had us children, that was that. She’d still sketch the odd time but she just didn’t have the time.
She always was very supportive of my art. I don’t know if she expected me to pursue it as a life-long career though. She’d expect me to find some regular job and live the 9-5; once again it was to be expected from someone of her time. She passed away before I delved into the art full time. I owe her more than she’ll ever know.
Detail a moment which was the highlight for you, thus far.
My art highlight would be being accepted to exhibit at the 190th RHA Annual Exhibition this year. I haven’t entered many open calls, possibly 2-3 and I’d never attempted the RHA. so being accepted was definitely a boost. There were 4129 initial entries that were reduced to 645 in the first round of judging. From those, I believe roughly 300 will be in the actual exhibition. Hopefully I’ll be able to see the exhibition but with the Covid 19 still in Ireland, it’s possible it could be solely on-line or for people living in Dublin if strict restrictions are in place.
If you could time travel, what advice would you give the younger you, regarding pursuing your artmaking?
My younger self was mad for creating art but I was also mad for adventure and the sea. I was actually thinking of spending my life on the sea at one point. That said, I would tell my young artist self to plunge in. Live it, eat it, and create it all the time. Go to exhibitions (even if I didn’t ‘understand’ the work), study the way the established artists talked about their work. How they talked to each other. Be a sponge. Hang out with other artists. Ask questions; push the envelope in regards to my own work. Study technique.
How does your work respond to social trends?
Hopefully it doesn’t. (By social trends I take that to mean technique or subject.) I’d think of trends as temporary, the flavor of the month or year. As I’m only human it entirely possible that I am influenced by trends no matter how I would like not to be. But I think that if I create to fit a social trend, it may be good for ‘likes’ and such on social media, a few sales but quite possibly that would be about it. I feel it’s best for an artist to create their vision, to create what they see without adjusting for trends.