For most of his life, Westbury artist Steven Sivells has done what others have expected of him. Much like one of his favorite superheroes, Superman, he felt as if he were living two separate identities; the one he presented to the world, and the other where he donned his cape and was free to fly into the world of his artistic imagination.
Those two worlds finally collided in his junior year at SUNY Old Westbury, where he was pursuing a biology degree, planning to one day become an anesthesiologist.
“I realized it wasn’t for me. I chose my major to impress other people,” explains the 24-year-old artist.
During his tenure as a biology major, Sivells had taken every extracurricular course he could in the Art Department, excelling in all of them. His academic advisor told him he was doing so well in his art classes, he should change majors. Sivells happily complied.
The more courses he took, the more Sivells realized his true artistic passion was in the world of graffiti art, with its bright colors and bold images.
Unfortunately, his professors were not so convinced about his new artistic endeavor. In fact, Sivells says they were very discouraging and even insulting at times. Out of his nine professors in the Visual Arts Department, only one gave him positive feedback.
“He told me if this is what you like to do you have to do it,” says Sivells.
Armed with that one voice of encouragement, Sivells decided to give himself a lesson in graffiti art outside the classroom. He headed into New York City, where he stumbled upon an artist on the street carving out spray- painted images with a palette knife.
Being a visual learner, Sivells taught himself the technique at home. He decided to try his hand at a picture of the night sky. When Sivells brought it to his professor he was surprised at his response. “He told me it was good but this isn’t yours.” Sensing an abstract quality to Sivells work, his professor told him to research the work of famed abstract artist Jackson Pollack, and to find his own technique through exploring every method he could think of.
Sivells took those words to heart. This time, using acrylic paint, he literally used any method his imagination dreamt up, including fingerpainting, (which he found childish), following Pollack’s method of drip painting to pour paint over a bowl he had placed on his canvas, to even using a pair of old sneakers. “I was using anything to spread the colors across the canvas,” says Sivells. “I was throwing it, pouring it.” The end result was an array of vibrant colors swirling in a constant movement.
That constant movement was the birth of Sivells personal artistic style. This time around, when he showed his professor his work, he was met with more words of encouragement. The discovery of his own artistic style gave Sivells a newly found freedom in his work. “Now that there was no limit, I had no boundaries,” he says.
As his boundaries slowly came down, his body of work was steadily building. He has created up to 30 works of art to date including one entitled “Tetra Tank,” created through flashbacks of his childhood, and his favorite piece, “Midnight Ascension”. What Sivells says he enjoys most about his pieces is how no two people see his work the same. “Everybody sees something different in my work,” he says with a smile.
He recently showed his work for the first time and with his first exhibition under his belt, Sivells plans to continue to allow his own Superman to emerge from behind the shadows.