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Style Magazine

Spotlight on Sacramento Surreal Artist Steve Jones

Steve “S.R.” Jones often begins his romantic, surrealist-style paintings using photographs taken with a 1940s-era Graflex camera with a Polaroid back. Altering the color and texture using sandpaper or steel wool, he then paints and draws on the altered photo before adding found images or objects. Attracted to strange landscapes and figurative work, the Sacramento-based artist finds inspiration from other art and artists, in addition to walking, biking, kayaking, and fishing on the American River. Invited to show his work at over 20 local galleries (in invitational and group exhibitions) over the past 40 years, he’s also earned awards in several regional and national competitions, and is currently represented by JAYJAY in East Sacramento. 

HLN: What’s your earliest art memory?
SJ: I remember painting on easels in kindergarten. Drawing and painting continued to be my first love throughout middle and high school, and then I received my BA in fine art in 1978. After, I evolved to doing a combination of painting on photos and collage.
HLN: How did you develop your current technique?
SJ: Formal training in college was like other majors—you take [courses in] a little bit of everything. Instead of approaching a blank sheet of paper or canvas and having at it, I was most fulfilled by the methodology of printmaking (silkscreen, lithography, etching) in which you create images layer by layer.
HLN: You like to evoke a sense of "mysterious narrative" in your work. Can you elaborate?
SJ: I’m influenced by the art movements of the surrealists and Pre-Raphaelites. Each of them, as well as other favorite artists, leave the viewer with some mystery or a sense of a story, even if the story isn’t entirely clear. A little mystery goes a long way.
HLN: How do you overcome artist’s block? 
SJ: I get into the studio and keep making stuff. Not everything will be wonderful, yet odds are some might. I just reviewed 75 new pieces with my dealers; we deemed 24 pieces acceptable, 15 maybe with some rework, and 36 not acceptable, which got destroyed.  

HLN: Are there any other challenges you’ve had to overcome?
SJ: For years, my work has primarily been a mash-up of oil paint and pencil on photographs of female nudes, landscapes, and found images. I think public sentiment such as #MeToo and #WeSaidEnough will lessen the amount of nudes in a lot of art, including mine.      

HLN: Looking back, would you have done anything differently in your career?
SJ: I’m not sure I would have. Early on, it became apparent that I wouldn’t be able to support myself, much less a family, as an artist, so I bumped into a different field to earn a living. I have friends who sacrificed everything to be a working artist but that didn’t appeal to me. I still love making art, but it’s relegated to the sideline. Everything happens for a reason. 

Artist Photo By Dante Fontana