In the Studio with Sheila Steinborn
How did you start making art?
I started making art by taking a community college class in drawing in 1978 and from there advancing into watercolors which I painted for about 25 years. The classical approach to drawing was a foundation for all my future artistic endeavors – the study of shapes and angles, the zen of seeing truly and deeply. In the 90s I studied oils with Deanne Lemley and took many workshops from prominent artists while living in Mill Creek, WA. I eventually switched to creating impressionistic loose oils, mostly landscapes of the West. Just recently I’ve enjoyed the discoveries to be made in the freedom of using the new acrylic pour technique. Rather than just making abstract smears and puddles, however, I still apply classical art elements like horizon lines, perspective, composition, and shapes to the creation of seascapes, animals, people and landscapes. These are loose renditions and suggestions of reality rather than tight photo realism.
I feel almost a compulsion to create art. First of all it’s fun. I enjoy the process of planning – from an idea to research and the subsequent drawings and preliminary value sketches. Then the actual application of paint, with brushes or palette knives, to create my vision is extremely enjoyable – just the mixing and experimenting with colors and techniques is exciting to me.
My most important tool is my sketchbook because it’s here where at least 75% of the painting is completed – the preliminary drawings and value sketches, placing the light and shadows, the division of space, placement of shapes and values and deciding the focal point – basically creating a road map, a plan. I still believe the old adage: if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.
Very important to me in my studio are my boxes of photos and reference materials that I’ve collected along the way that have appealed to me in some way – the shapes or the colors or the light or something that captured my attention. I filed these away by subject so when necessary I can go there and gain additional insight on my chosen subject. In other words, these are my reference files I created long before the Internet.
My least favorite aspects of the painting process are cleaning the brushes and trying to think of clever, original titles for the finished pieces.
My favorite part is actually the pre-planning part where I can move things around and try to improve the composition, the drawing of the value sketches that create a pleasing design. I sketch with a soft pencil and often leave things out or add things in like a person or an animal to see the effects on the composition.