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Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Artist with NOTL roots brings focus back home

Scott Steele is pragmatic – he says he learned early if he wanted to make a living as an artist he would need to work hard; that’s exactly what he’s done every day since realizing his artistic aspirations decades ago.

And though he says he’s been creating art his whole life it wasn’t until he travelled to Europe during a two-year stint as a model in his 20s that he learned to really understand the craft.

“I never appreciated Van Gogh. Then, you go on a walking tour in the south of France, and you see a plaque and a painting, and you look where he was painting.”

Steele says seeing those paintings up against the backdrop of their origins reignited his creative spark.

“Oh my god, I get what he was trying to do, with the blues and the yellows. And it helped me realize that I liked Van Gogh. By seeing that stuff in real life,” he says.

But seeing masterpieces up close didn’t just garner his artistic appreciation, he resolved that he could capture the beauty of what he saw on canvas himself.

“I realized what I saw, I said, ‘Oh I can paint that.’”

Now at 54, Steele says he could confidently call himself a working artist, something many creatives may not be able to say. He grew up in Niagara-on-the-Lake and lives in Toronto.

He says he doesn’t look like an artist, but quickly retracts his comment, adding, “What does an artist even look like?”

Sitting casually in a flannel shirt and baseball cap, he does give off a salt-of-the-Earth, hard-working vibe. “Not that any of that really matters,” he adds about appearances.

He is certainly no stranger to hard work, though.

“Initially you don’t think you can make a living doing art, but then I sort of have,” he says.

For him, it comes down to putting in the time and just painting, even when it loses its fun.

“It’s still a job. If I want to get paid, I need to get the work done.”

He’s been able to make a living wage off his art for most of his career. Early on, he says he owned and operated an interior design business with his wife, before leaving the business to her and diving deeper into his paintings.

“Like you just do art as a hobby. You’re never told that you can make a living in art, or it’s very hard. It is very hard,” Steele confirms.

And it doesn’t come without its sacrifices.

In prioritizing his work he’s let other areas of his life fall short.

“I’m going through a divorce right now,” he says.

Would he make the same choices and do it all again if he had a do-over? He says he’s not so sure. But this is the road he’s on now and he says he’s going to keep working and creating marketable art.

Steele pays attention to the latest home décor, follows colour trends and tries to create pieces that people would want to put in their homes. He says if he paints something that no one wants to buy, he’ll refocus and try another style.

With his preferred medium painting with acrylics, he bounces from creating intricate realistic paintings to bold, stunning pieces.

While he’s spent his life working hard and honing his skills, he says he’s also managed to seize opportunities that came his way. Those opportunities didn’t always fall into his lap, but he learned to follow open doors, often to his benefit, he says.

Walking through the Distillery District in Toronto several years ago, he noticed a vacant space in a building, which sparked the idea of opening a gallery. And although he didn’t leave the house that morning with plans of being a gallery owner, after a chance encounter with one of the developers while standing in front of the building that afternoon, he ended the day with the contract in the works.

“I said, ‘This would be the perfect gallery.’ He said this was supposed to be something else, but the lady backed out.

Steele responded, “I’ll take it.”

“So, five minutes ago I wasn’t thinking of opening a gallery, and all of a sudden it’s available.”

He ran that gallery for seven years.

He has since closed that space but will soon be showing his work in gallery space at The Lake Report office on John Street in NOTL.

Steele Gallery will feature his paintings alongside art from local metal sculptor and Scott’s uncle Richard Steele. The gallery is set to launch in the spring.

Until then he can be found on Facebook at Scott Steele Artist.