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Art&Seek Q&A: Artist Kyle Steed
by Tina Aguilar 27 Jan 2011

Guest blogger Tina Aguilar talks with Irving artist Kyle Steed about his year-long project of drawing people’s profiles.


This week we catch up with Irving artist Kyle Steed, whose eclectic mixed media art, compilations of found objects, boxes and text caught my attention last year. This month, with his show “52 Profiles” at Crooked Tree Coffeehouse, Steed considers process and a universal silhouette – the profile. His year-long study culminates with illustrations for each week of the year by using familiar folk, social media and his blog. Steed builds community through his art and delves deeper into his own journey. These drawings offer us a glimpse into his method and an appreciation for pacing of an idea, and how we might give ourselves such a gift – time to create art. These days, we are hustling and at times want immediate gratification, depending on the task at hand. Steed’s work made me consider using time and how we ride our tides accordingly, which is easy to forget with all the technology hurling towards us. (For more on Steed, check out his entry in our Artist Studio Tour.)

Kyle Steed

Tina Aguilar: How did you come up with profile idea?

Kyle Steed: I like to illustrate and draw, especially people, and I’m just always drawn to the differences and similarities that we all have. Sometimes they are really subtle, sometimes not so subtle. And it’s a good exercise for me as an artist; we are always growing, and our whole life is spent learning. So it’s just one more way to keep honing my craft. I don’t know specifically where the idea came from, but I remember seeing the black silhouetted profiles of people and just thinking it would be cool if you actually gave that some detail and some depth to a person.

T.A:  And your show last January used mixed media, which was equally powerful with the way you constructed all your pieces and stories – very imaginative.

K.S.: Yeah, that was my older work and that was a different time in my life, and a lot of emotions evolved with that work. There was just a lot of stuff that was going on back then that I don’t think is going on now – my life has settled down a bit, and I am married and actually celebrating five years soon.

T.A.: Congratulations.

K.S.: Thank you. And as opposed to the work I showed before, you know, at the time it was created I was single and trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I was 21, 22 when most of that work was made. I am 28 now. So now I’ve kind of figured out I like illustrating more. I still love that box work that I did. I feel there’s a certain time that is needed to make that work, and I just don’t find myself having that time now. I can more easily sit down and make sketches and illustrations more than I can go spend the time finding boxes and other found objects. Working full-time with family and stuff, it’s hard to balance.

T.A.: Can you talk a little bit about your design background?

K.S.: Out of high school, when I graduated in 2000, I had taken a class my senior year – I think design communications or something. Before then I had always wanted to be an architect, so that was like my whole goal in life from a kid up until high school. I was going to be an architect, but that kind of changed and I saw what you could do in Photoshop and Quark. I think they’re correlated, graphic design and architecture, and now doing web design I can see that even further. There are certain fundamental elements of building something from the ground up that wasn’t there before. So that is a good way to fill the technical side of my mind. And then doing work like this helps me get out the creative part, because I think I would go crazy if I worked on a computer all day.

T.A.: When do you create the most?

K.S.: In the evenings, the weekends – it’s having to make the time. This is what I’ve chosen to make time to do instead of the other. I’m thankful that my wife is patient with me, because there are many nights where I want to work late and finish up stuff.

T.A.: I think if you are a creative person, you are imagining day-to-day but have to give yourself portions of time to explore. And that isn’t so easy.

K.S.: Yeah, and that’s what’s been so interesting for me this year is having that focus and keeping that focus, because I am really good at starting things, and I’m really bad at finishing them. So about mid-way through [last] year I was really in a slump of doing these, and behind, and I knew I needed to do it. I knew I wanted to do it, but the drive wasn’t there. Actually forcing myself to sit down and start sketching. But pushing through those dryer times is real important.

T. A.: You’re using pen?

K.S.: Yeah, it’s just a Micron pen, and I just do it like one pass through. I don’t sketch with pencil first or anything. If I mess up, I’ll start over.

T.A.: How do you know where to start?

K.S.: I usually start with the bridge of the eyebrow on the forehead and then I work my way down the front of the face for the nose, the lips, chin, and then I’ll work my way back.

T.A.: They all have a lot of detail. As you have progressed with each week, I see that the hair and even those who are wearing eyeglasses or have facial hair are more distinct.

K.S.: I’ve actually found that drawing men that have either stubble or a beard or something is really fun, because the little details are what make the piece, I think.

T.A.: And even the flesh of the ear.

K.S.: I spend a lot of time on the ear. … The noses are always the hardest part for me, because the slightest angle or curve – I think it can make or break the piece in my opinion.

T.A.: Looking at the eye and area around the lid jumps out for me – you have captured each personality.

K.S.: Sometimes, and it depends on the lighting, too, that I get from the photo, some of them are really dark with shadows, so you don’t get the differentiation from the pupil and the iris.

T.A.: How do you get your models?

K.S.: I’ve always put it out there that if you want to participate, just e-mail me. I would usually tell them to e-mail me, and some people sent me an iPhoto, little photos they take from their Mac, like through Twitter or something. I like it if they take a high res photo, because it helps me. The bigger the photo, the more detail I can get out of it and it’s going to be more of a crisp image.

T.A.: You could tell a story about each person, too.

K.S.: One of my other ideas is that I would like to do a book with all of these.

Steed’s year of drawing is on display at The Crooked Tree Coffeehouse through March 4. There will be a reception Saturday at 7 p.m. with the music from Tim Coons.