We asked Steven Ball to tell us about his journey as a self-employed artist. Can people still do art as a career? Is it even possible?
"I love painting [because] I know that my talent is from God, not me."
The above paintings are by Steven Ball. All rights reserved.
Steven Ball, Wildlife Artist
Editor - Steven, you are somewhat of a rare bred, in that you have worked as a full-time artist. It is something many have wanted to do, but the term "starving artist" is rooted in reality. Before we hear about how you've been able to do this, tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up, and how did you get into painting and creating art?
Ball - Growing up in Corcoran, California (Ag Capital of California) I had many wonderful experiences. I'm the oldest of 4 sons. My dad was a doctor and my grandfather was a rancher and farmer. I had a great childhood and loved finding out all the things that I found interesting in and around the ranch, critter wise! I went through the Seventh-day Adventist school system and struggled with reading. Along the way, I began to excel in art with the encouragement of some of my teachers. I attended Pacific Union College (PUC) and majored in a liberal arts degree. My teacher was Vernon Nye, the head of PUC's art department, and he was very much a strong influence on me. I learned watercolors from the "Master" while painting on location with him. After PUC, I went to Los Angles Art Center, College of Design, and majored in Design Illustration. From there I decided to free lance and started to paint full time. I painted landscapes in egg tempera and later did etchings, watercolors, acrylics to paint birds, wildlife and sporting art.
Editor - So you were introduced at a fairly young age to the glories of color, light and perspective. You took the plunge and became a freelance artist. Was that scary? There are so many artist out there who would love to do this. What kind of art did you create that put food on your table and paid the bills?
Ball - Yes, it was scary to make the leap as a full time artist! To be honest, I could not have done it without the support of family and a wife that had a full time job. So it was a joint effort to put food on the table. We learned to live within our means and have done pretty good. I was never in the arts to become rich! My work has taken many years to develop into a style that I am comfortable with. I started painting in egg tempera in somewhat the style of Andrew Wyeth. I loved the things he painted, not so much the people, but the wildlife' and barns and landscapes.
My first show, I painted for a year for it! I remember finding a cool space in Hanford, California, in one of the rooms of the old courthouse building, chasing the pigeons out and cleaning up after them. Then inviting everyone to come on both sides of my family plus everyone they knew. The show was a sell out! I can't say that every show since has been the same, because they have not! Being an artist is not for the faint of heart.
I love painting and know now that my talent is from God, and not me.
Visit Steven online
Editor - Thank you for sharing your story! Your work is beautiful and is a reflection of God's creativity.
This interview was conducted by Rich DuBose, Director of Church Support Services for the Pacific Union Conference.