Matte Stephens

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From Interview:

How did you get into painting?

When I was in kindergarten my father and I worked on a poster for class that was based on The Wizard of Oz. I didn’t really care for that subject, but it was the process of working with my dad and the feeling of completing something. My teacher really liked my work and that was what made me continue. I have never thought I would be anything else. I always knew I would be a painter from that moment on. I live to paint. Every second of my day is surrounded by it and has been for as far back as I can remember. If there weren’t art supplies around in the house I would feel totally hopeless.

I didn’t go to college and am from a small town called Boaz, Alabama which is as far away from the art/design world as you can get. Its a super small town with very closed minds. My father worked at a federal prison and my mom worked for Lee jeans. My dad had a woodworking shop in the back yard to make extra money, because he had 7 people to support. He made me work in the shop with him. I think that’s were I learned how to solve problems when you make stuff.

After leaving home I told myself I would make it as a painter or die trying. I rented a basement in a Masonic lodge and lived there and taught myself how to paint. I tried all different kinds of paints until I found gouache which works the best for the style I do. It was before the internet, so I would put on my best clothes and drive to different towns and show my work to shops and gallery owners. With any money I made, I would purchase art and design books and learn about art. I made friends with the local arts council and they would let me do shows and I would sell a painting here and there. Finally, I found a gallery that sold my stuff on a regular basis in Birmingham, which was a big city to me at the time. I stayed with that gallery for 7 years and did one person shows once a year and did 15 new paintings a month for the other openings at the gallery. I think that is were I really found myself as a painter. (grain edit)

Matte Stephens’s Blog

Matte Stephens at Sebastian Foster

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