Artist Spotlight Series: Steve McKenzie
Steve McKenzie is a name you should know.
I expect you will be hearing a lot of it in the future. Steve is not only a talented artist but, also the co-owner of a shop by the same name with his lovely wife, Jill. This dynamic duo is as kind and thoughtful as they are creative. I am completely enamored with Steve’s artwork that has spawned a divine fabric line carried in their shop too.
What is your training?
Although not formally trained as an artist, I’ve been painting for more than 30 years. My formal education revolved around business and chemistry, but as a perpetual student and art appreciator, I’ve taken many art courses over the years, including drawing and painting courses at what was once the Atlanta College of Art, now part of SCAD.
I’m also fortunate to be a part of a group of friends who convene once a year in Taos, NM, where we study various art forms, which we wouldn’t do normally, with a working artist. Over the years, we’ve studied print making, plein air painting, welding, forging, sculpting and assemblege. These annual artist gatherings really push me creatively and cause me to rethink how I understand my own work.
What inspires you and your designs?
For me, inspiration is everywhere – I’m very visual, so with every glance, I see ideas. Once, I was on a street in Munich, on which they had patched the road in these beautiful loops of asphalt. The beauty in those loops inspired me for months. When it comes to interior design, my inspiration typically begins with a fabric. I see a pattern or color and the design unfolds before me. I think that’s why I was so intent on translating my ink drawings into fabric. The creative lines of art and interiors flow back and forth for me; one inspiring the other.
What is your favorite piece?
My works of art are like my children; I’m attached to each of them in some way. In fact, a piece won’t leave the studio if there’s not an emotional attachment to it. That said, my favorite work I’ve ever painted is Ikeda Map, a work I painted in 2012. It was in my show at Galerie Protégé in NYC. I think this one stands out because it’s one our children have asked us not to sell. Their request meant more than anything.
How has the your area influenced your work?
For the first time in 13 years, I recently changed studios. The studio is now located in an open loft above the Steve McKenzie’s showroom. Changing spaces has effected the size of the work I create, as this space has lower ceilings. But, working in my new studio in Atlanta’s Westside neighborhood has also influenced greater creativity and risk-taking. I’m so inspired by the many wonderful artists we’re surrounded by; and other artist’s work always inspires how I view my own work.
What is your favorite restaurant in (your city)?
We are lucky to have such a vibrant food scene emerging here in Atlanta. There were 19 new restaurants that opened in Midtown this past fall! Depending on the style of food, I have several favorite spots. I am in love with the feeling you get when you eat at The Lawrence, in Midtown. I think it’s the closest thing Atlanta has to a French bistro.
We recently located our home to Plaza Towers in Buckhead, and right next door is an old stalwart of the restaurant scene here in Atlanta, La Grotta. We hadn’t tried it, until we moved. It opened in 1978, but it is old school Italian and the execution is flawless; be prepared for a very gentile evening when dining there.
What is your favorite cocktail?
I tend to lean toward simplicity when cocktails come into play. Usually Tito’s vodka on the rocks with a splash of water.
However, we have good friends who’ve launched a white whiskey a couple of years ago – American Spirit Whiskey. They have the best mixologist, who’s constantly creating innovative recipes. Our recent holiday favorite was the White Christmas Julep, published by Garden & Gun. I am excited to share they are opening their own distillery here in Atlanta in 2015!
How do you balance personal life and work?
This is a tough one for me. I love what we’re doing – I love the store and sharing our view of interiors with so many customers. My wife and I are partners in business, as well as in life, so we’re always together. For us, I think this is a practical balance. Together, we are able to help clients improve their quality of life through spaces they love to live in. I also love creating artwork that brings joy to my collectors. This all gives me such happiness and is very personal to me, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else, or doing this with anyone else. When I do secure a bit of down time, you’ll usually find me reading my art books or enjoying a trip to the museum.
I had the great fortune of running a multinational business for many years. This business took me all over the world, and gave me an opportunity to experience so many difference cultures; each so inspiring. My children would always joke because, no matter where I was, I would say I could envision living here, even considering a place for my studio. I know it may sound passé, but Paris holds my heart. I kept an apartment there for a while and it is such a vibrant city, absolutely alive with art. The Parisians support the arts so well and there’s always so much to see; little gems of museums, homes and studios of great artists – I never tire of visiting them. So, if given the chance, Paris is always at the top of the list.
For painting, my dream commission would be for a work to be exhibited at MOMA in NYC. I have such admiration for the artists that were first collected when the museum was formed. I would have loved to live in NYC post WWII, hanging out with Motherwell, deKooning, Pollack and Rauschenberg. Their greatest works are all at MOMA and to show there, among these greats is a dream!
I do have to share a little secret, however… Really, my first-ever dream commission. I love tabletop; that’s not the secret. Even as a little boy, I dreamed of designing the Presidential China for the White House!
Your favorite host / hostess gift to give?
You can never go wrong with a good bottle of champagne. It says your host is fun and deserves something special. I like to personalize the champagne with a tea towel from Le Jacquard Francais wrapped around the neck of the bottle. Select a color the host/hostess will love in their kitchen. These towels feature such beautiful patterns and colors and will last forever.
Who is your style icon?
In interior design, it is Axel Vervoordt. He understands the importance of art in an interior better than anyone. I love how he effortlessly blends an Egyptian sarcophagus sculpture from 950 BC with a wall tapestry created this year by El Anatsui, in a space with mid-century chairs and a Louis XV sofa – this type of beauty is magical.
He curated exhibits in the Fortuny Museum for the Venice Biennale from 2002 – 2009.
They were amazing, I kept going back to take them in.
Your favorite up and coming artist?
Susan Blackmon is a Westside Atlanta Artist, who is really coming into her own. She currently has her first solo show at the Stan McCollum Gallery. Her works are large scale paintings of her pours. I adore her Line Form paintings, they resonate a free spirit of line quality. She is definitely someone to watch.
What is your most treasured possession?
Time, I feel like all of us go at such a pace every hour of everyday. Technology has made it so easy to stay connected and work more efficiently, however it makes us connected 24/7. If I can just have a little time to dream, that is a possession I value more than anything. Away from it all just thinking and dreaming.
What are you reading?
I love historical fiction related to the art world. My most recent read was The Art Forger by B. A. Shaprio. I loved the tie to history through the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum and the current tie to the world of contemporary art.
What are you listening to?
I have a very diverse taste in music depending on my mood and what I am doing. Music is a constant for me. When I am painting, it ranges from Mozart to House Music. Currently, as I answer your questions, I am listening to Electronic Dance Music, Tiesto. Dutch EDM is my go-to when I am feeling creative, however, you just can’t beat 80’s funk
What are your favorite blogs / publications?
There are so many I read and follow. I do use Bloglovin’ to help me scan posts several times a day.
My very favorite blog is Freunde von Freunden. They do these amazing home tours of creative’s living spaces all over the world. I love to see the way other creative people live. They also have “guest DJ’s” do hour long mixtapes I download and listen, they have such an international flair.
There are also several home and lifestyle blogs I enjoy:
Quintessence very good at covering timeless design.
Peak of Chic – Love her understanding of classic décor.
La Dolce Vita appreciates a more international decor style.
Bespoke Banter – I love her appreciation of the role of art in an interior.
Of course, one of my all-time favorites is The English Room. I love your artist spotlights, and am honored to be included.
Favorite publications include:
Wallpaper Magazine – I feel like I see the new and unique early.
Any of the international editions of Elle Decor always thrill me.
I have been coveting this beauty (the color is so yummy) ever since I saw it in his studio in September…swoon!
I hope you have enjoyed getting to know Steve and be sure to follow Steve (and Jill) on their websites and social media!
Steve’s art website: https://www.stevemckenzieart.com
Store website: https://stevemckenzies.com
Pinterest: Steve McKenzies
Facebook: steve mckenzie’s
Houzz: McKenzie Interior Design
Please feel free to contact The English Room if you are interested in our interior design services in Charlotte or beyond.