During an abbreviated stay on DeviantArt, the biggest social media platform for artists and art aficionados, I encountered Steven Amoxes, an incredibly gifted and prolific painter. Amoxes’s decades-long pursuit of artistic expression has resulted in a multifaceted career of staggering variety. Through detailed portraiture and abstract character art, visual snippets of quotidien life and sweeping mystical journeys, captured moments of subtle sensuality and overt eroticism, Amoxes expands the viewer’s perception to include the existence of alternate realms colored within the shared space of human experience.
This December, Steven Amoxes granted me the privilege of learning more about his creative process, his many muses, and his origin story.
Artist Spotlight: Steven Amoxes
Interview by R. N. Jayne
Hello, Steven. Welcome to my Artist Spotlight. It’s a pleasure to speak with you. First up: what’s your first memory of art?
There are two sides of this story so I’ll share the positive one. My first experience with art was in kindergarten. I remember we had a paint day and all of us were positioned in front of easels with all the paint and brushes we needed. It was a strange moment for me because somehow, I had a vivid memory that I’d done this before; I felt quite confident.
That feeling changed when my attempt at doing a beautiful portrait ended with a whole bunch of scribbles. Perhaps if we had turned the painting around and looked at it for a long time, it would have eventually resembled the abstract face of a squirrel? This first attempt (which was in my eyes a total disaster) made me quite upset lol. In my mind I knew how to do it, but was not able to show my skill. It was weird.
I can imagine that would have been a jarring experience for your youthful self! On the subject of childhood, what were some of your most beloved early experiences that helped shape your artistic vision?
I think the opportunity I had to travel at a very young age, seeing nature, getting out of the city by myself and taking those long Greyhound bus rides affected my view of the world and my art. Also, the friendship I had with my late mother played an important role. My mother was very spiritual. She was from a Native American background and had her own view on life. She helped me open my eyes to the visible and invisible at a young age; that triggered some type of awakening over time. Perhaps it’s the reason I can paint so often these days.
Nascent artists learn through trial and error, observing and imitating others until they find their own style. Which masters did you emulate during your formative years?
Mostly Italian Renaissance painters and lots of ancient Chinese and Japanese artists. For many years, in primary and high school, you could say I was obsessed.
Name an artist who grew on you after repeated viewings of their work.
There are many, but I’ll stick to two: Gustave Doré, a French artist, printmaker, illustrator, painter, comics artist, caricaturist, and sculptor; and David A. Trampier a.k.a. DAT, famous illustrator for D&D. The reason they grew on me so much (and still do today) was because they were able to take me away to their world of imagination. As a kid I would look at their work and really feel everything, like I was there. They made the art became real for me and kept my imagination going. This inspired me to explore my own imagination even more.
Some of the titles of your works allude to characters of mythical proportion, legendary figures, and magical lands. Please elaborate on your fascination with depicting fantasy in a visual format.
The names I choose are always inspired by the moment. As soon as a painting is done, somehow its name appears in my mind. Neither the paintings (except for commissions) nor their titles are planned: they are almost whispered to me from some type of muse. Also, I’ve always been a fan of fantasy and sci-fi since I was a kid, so my imagination runs wild.
The tapestries of your imagination are richly woven. Does your inspiration originate from visual, tactile, or mental stimuli?
All three—and I would also add spiritual to the mix. I’ve explored painting, sculpting, writing and music, and find each one of them stimulating. They keep the body, mind and soul energized.
Do you choose your muses, or do they choose you?
It’s a good question. To this day, I still try to figure it out. Sometimes I’ll be confident in saying I choose them, other times it’s the muse choosing me. You know, when I start painting in the morning each day, I really never know or plan what I’ll paint, so perhaps there is a muse thing going on there.
Regarding your penchant for portraits, I’m wondering why you mostly paint women.
Many people have asked various questions about the why’s, but I really don’t know. As long as I can remember, I’ve always painted women. Some people paint landscapes or animals; I love painting women, they are just an endless source of inspiration.
Name a favorite artwork of yours, and explain what makes it special to you.
It’s called The Student. I painted it over twenty-five years ago and it was a portrait of a close friend at the time. I probably worked on that painting on and off for two years. I like it so much because it was my very first attempt to create a full Renaissance portrait. I put in everything I had at the time to make it as beautiful and real as possible, not overlooking any details in the process. Also, it was my mother’s favorite because she said it had a very romantic feel to it and made her dream each time she looked at it.
I can understand why The Student has great emotional and personal value to you. While perusing your gallery, I noticed your painting style has shifted to include more abstract works. What attracted you to creating this type of art?
Yes, my work has changed over the years—without any planning, it gradually went to a more abstract style. I guess the main reason would be that after so many years painting portraits and being technical, I needed to unchain my mind and let my soul speak. When I paint abstract, I have a big sense of freedom. It’s one thing to know how to draw a line, but it’s another thing to feel it. This is where I’m at now: I’m no longer looking for perfection or a specific technique. I let my soul loose and let the paint flow. In a way, I find my abstract work better represents who I am, if that makes sense. I’ll always enjoy painting portraits. However, I’m hooked on the abstracts.
Judging from your fanbase, you’re not the only one who’s hooked! As an aside, I must tell you I greatly admire your abstract work. The passion you feel for your craft translates beyond the canvas. Besides visual, what is your favorite form of art?
Without a doubt, music. You could say I’m a frustrated musician. Music is a major important key in my life and I think most we agree that music is a universal language. Sometimes you don’t even need to understand the words of a song for it to be powerful and make you feel.
I like the sound of that. Now this is a stretch, but imagine you were physically unable to paint. How would you express your creative self?
Good question. If possible, I would share my artistic knowledge to whoever would need it to help people out.
You recently participated in an artistic collaboration with your longtime friend Jean-François “Jeff” Turgeon, author of your joint publication Sauve-Qui-Peut. Which particular poem(s) of his inspired the most personal illustrations you created for this book?
The poems that inspired me the most are from the section of the book called “La Plage” (which means “The Beach”). Jeff wrote those poems at the beach during the summer of 2020 about events that really happened. The beach, which is a small spot hidden near the port of the city, is a mysterious place. It has a very strong positive energy all around it. Walking there always makes us feel good and we noticed it has brought us good luck. Also, little things wash up on the shore: old broken pipes from the seventeenth century, beads, plates and other curiosities. It didn’t take much to activate our imaginations.
Which other places have their hooks in you?
Cuba would be on the top of the list.
Smoking—in particular, smoking Cuban cigars—is a common occurence in a certain sect of your works. It seems you have a sizeable affinity for Cubanas!
I’ve been smoking cigars for a long time. My passion for the leaf is going on 30 years lol. As my interest grew, I added that passion into my art. Smoking cigars allowed me to meet some of the best people who have come into my life—the cigar lifestyle includes a great community. Also, my passion allowed me to create some of my best commissions. Cuba was great because for the first time, I could visit the tobacco plantations and see the whole cigar-making process. From there, I kept educating myself about cigars and kept meeting awesome people. My best experience with cigars and art was (and still is) with Tobaccology, a cigar shop situated in Manassas, Virginia. I still do commissions for them from time to time.
Having nutured a creative career for decades, you have likely seen your share of struggles. Have you ever wanted to quit making art?
I went through many hard times that included tremendous sacrifices. To answer your question: No. I promised myself at a very young age that I’d never give up no matter what and here we are today.
If you could time travel, which era would you want to visit?
I would go back in 1987 and have an important conversation with my younger self and my mom.
Who were you in a hypothetical past life?
My recent memories are from Asia.
In closing, what are the key components of a life well-lived?
Learning to know who you really are, making sure you keep a positive attitude, and love—without it, nothing grows.
Thank you so much for your time, Steven. I look forward to discovering your future creations.
I really appreciated this interview and enjoyed doing it. Thank you!
I’m a self-taught Canadian painter from Native American, Cajun and Italian background. My family roots and strong interest in every culture from around the world have inspired me in many ways in my artistic and personal evolution. I’ve used the hard and easy experiences in my life to better understand myself and others and include this in my art. After spending years of exploring, practicing and studying different styles and techniques, I’m slowly creating my own signature in my artwork.
When painting I don’t look for perfection, each artwork is painted with the feeling of the moment. I never know how the results will be, which for me makes it authentic. My purpose in this life is to color the world, everyone has beauty and I hope through my work I’m able to transfer some of it in my paintings.
New Book Release: Sauve-Qui-Peut
(the above link leads to author Jean-François Turgeon’s FB page; message him for more details, purchase information, etc.)
Poetry by Jean-François Turgeon
Illustrations by Steven Amoxes
Next on Artist Spotlight: alcohol ink artist Paula Neys