Steve Atkinson

The famous religious painter Carl Bloch was said to have dipped his paintbrush in his heart. As an artist, I relate to that statement because painting for me is a way to turn myself inside out and share what is there on canvas. Sometimes I see things that are so painfully beautiful that I can find no adequate words to describe them. My art has become a spiritual language where I can express myself without speaking. And hopefully those who view my paintings will feel what I am trying to say with no words passing between us. I have found that it is through visual imagery that I can best reveal my passions.

As an artist I am more interested in painting my emotional reaction to a subject than in creating a photorealistic rendering of it; consequently my paintings lean more to impressionism than realism. I tend to work in an abbreviated style where the suggestion is more important than the completed statement, and where the parts or details are sacrificed for the good of the whole. I’ve learned that the less I give away in my paintings, the more people seem to read in them.  To me, there is more poetry in an image when not every detail is spelled out and the viewer is allowed to solve some of the mystery.

I love to capture the abstract patterns of light and shadow in the subject as, paradoxically, I find this creates a more realistic image when viewed from a short distance. I generally paint things that I am close to, both in distance and in feeling. I am not about depicting vast expanses of nature, but rather of close, intimate corners of personal spaces. Any subject is game for my brush as long as it is beautifully lit. In truth, light is always the subject I find most exciting, as anything it touches is enhanced in depth, dimension, vibrance, and beauty. This is the spiritual implication art has for me.

I consider it the greatest of privileges to be an artist–to notice the grandeur in small things around me, to celebrate them on paper or canvas, and to share my passion for life though my artwork. 

At my very core, I’m a storyteller and I strive to infuse my paintings with those stories that excite me. Stories of the American west are always front and center. Cowboys, cattle, action scenes and moments of quiet contemplation are what I love. The authenticity of historical scenes or telling the story of today’s working cowboy is where my passion lies. It’s really all about what the painting has to say that makes it personal and unique to me. Most days I can be found in painting in my studio, but I also love to paint on location (en plein air), a practice I’ve been enthusiastic about since I started painting. Without a doubt, plein air painting is the best way I’ve found to become a better painter. Not only does it teach me about being accurate in my values, color, and atmospheric perspective, but it makes me paint through distractions like changing light, wind and curious passersby. You learn to make better decisions more quickly and to trust them. These days I make my home in Prescott, Arizona, in the very heart of the subject matter that fills my soul.

When I first started, I was often asked why I paint cowboys. I believe I’m not only painting a way of life that is almost gone, but also a mythology that represents America at it’s very essence. The cowboy code is based on a set of ethics that reflects the best of not only who the cowboy is, but who we are as a country. Things like, “do what has to be done”, “ride for the brand” and “live each day with courage” has helped to weave the cowboy into the very fabric of this great nation. It’s how I strive to live my life, and it’s what I aim to have shine through in the stories I tell.

View the finished piece:

1 thought on “Steve Atkinson”

  1. Marilyn gentile Davis

    It’s a beautiful painting Steve! I love all of your artwork, but there is a freedom that shows up in your Plein Air painting!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *