Combine a singing/piano teacher mum and a dentist dad and you get a solid appreciation of the arts in the household for a child growing up. Well maybe not for everyone, but it is certainly the case for Brisbane based artist Carl Steffan. Whether it was his mum banging out tunes on the keys or his dad bringing home plaster of Paris for him to get inventive with, he always found a way to create.
Already actively creative, it didn't take much to push Carl into aggressively pursuing art. Inspiration and direction of his art would come from the fact that he has born and raised in a small town about 30 minutes south of Brisbane city. "Living in the suburbs and going to school in the big smoke meant that I would eventually rack up about 2870 (yes I did the math) hours of travel time on trains gazing out at the 50 odd kilometres of colour filled sound barriers each day. My brother and I quickly developed a keen interest in graffiti and decided that looking was no longer good enough. I started to focus my energy on the letterform and as they say the rest is history," he explained.
Carl thinks that every artist he encounters must influence him in some way, shape, or form. He described, "Growing up it was Damet, Jade, Beast, Belts, Pubes, Dorps, Fusion and a heap of other Brisbane writers who no doubt shaped my obsession with graffiti. More recently I like everything from Anthony Lister to Roid MSK. As far as influence goes, I try to take it all on board and see what comes out the end of the pen."
Simple, bold, black and white is the way Carl describes his style. He tries to avoid anything too technical, enjoying the simplicity of black and white, although he plans to start using more colours in the future. "I think that black and white leaves you with no mask, no pretty colours hiding the shape of your letter, the naked letter I guess you could call it. With that said, I think that effective use of colour can also look great in the right setting and some people just vibe on colours more than the outlines. It's something I plan on developing," he added.
There is definitely a process for Carl when he is developing works, however it is not set in stone and he usually takes a different path every time he sets out to work on something. But basically, an idea usually develops in his mind from something he has heard on the radio, a line in a book or a song lyric. From there, it’s a haphazard process of mental design, elimination, redesign and so forth until he finally gets something down on paper. The subject matter is a very important aspect of his work and he feels that without the words, there would be no art. "I think that meaning, emotion and character can all be displayed through the type itself, however having meaningful content helps, and hopefully people find their own way to connect with the content," he said.
Similar to most artists, Carl is his own worst critic and used to waste so much time going through mental torment over how good everybody else was at what they were doing, that eventually, he lost touch with what he was doing, and in turn hated his own product. Nowadays, he is less concerned with what the masses are creating, happy to focus on doing his own thing. Carl credits this mind state to a chance meeting with photographer Angela Boatwright on stage at a conference where she gave him the advice, “If you like doing something, just keep doing it, and eventually people will like it.”
Carl's message to those who hate graffiti is simple. He explains, "graffiti is here to stay. When the powers that be eventually take away every last freedom that humans deserve, we will still be able to grab a can, marker or any other implement and mark the surfaces of our environment. I think that’s what I like about it, nobody can tell you where or what to paint; it’s completely autonomous."
This ever evolving young artist has a lot to be excited about in the near future. He has a few exhibitions coming up and is working with kids at schoolies week on the Gold Coast banging out outlines on shirts with airbrush. Furthermore, he has just been added to the family over at THISLIFE art and culture blog, is currently working with streetartsales.com.au on some commission pieces and a has a trip to Europe with his girl in 2012 that is keeping him pumped.
Check out Carl's tumblr Here