Artist Steven Baker
For Steven Baker, the love of art started early, and the passion was lifelong. The legacy of his art fuelled life and continues today within his family through his catalogue of unique and enchanting work.
Two of his daughters, Nicole and Jessica, thrived growing up in a creative environment and are now well established and successful artists in their own right.
The start of a creative life
Born in Wales, Steven arrived in Australia with his parents when he was two years old. As a schoolboy, art was his dream. Yet, the idea of making a career as an artist was entirely out of the question at that time. He left school at sixteen and instead took a job in a shoe factory.
Still, he continued to include art in his life. A local travel store had a small stand of art materials to select from; This is where Steven would head to spend every spare cent on supplies to keep creating. It was a far cry from the extensive and easy access to art materials we enjoy today. But, it was a valued resource that kept his passion alive.
Going his own way
Steven is a renegade who still stands out with his long white hair and beard. In the 60s, brightly coloured and quirky shirts were his signature style. He embraced the laid back hippie life. And, the spirit of the hippie vibe lives on in his canvases. He depicted Woodstock and elsewhere peaceful protesters holding “Make love, not War’ placards gather with kombi vans in the outback. Through my Eyes features a giant classic peace symbol.
It was in the 70s that his creativity was hitting a high. Little Malop Street was once home to the Magic Market, and Steven set up a stall. If you head down there today, you can still see some of the original lunar landscape mural he painted on a sidewall.
Beyond painting, his creativity overflowed into many areas. He also turned his hand towards crafts, including leatherwork, making beanbags, and wood sculpting.
Influences and style
Steven’s paintings have a light and playful quality, and they draw you in with their vibrant colours and details.
From a young age, Steven’s imagination was captivated by the fantastical worlds of Salvador Dalí. Dalí is a Spanish artist who is probably the most widely recognised surrealist. His melting clocks and images of elephants and other animals with impossibly long spindly legs are iconic. Steven’s paintings began to embrace surrealism in his twenties strongly. The nude female figure, melted clocks, and spindly twigs inspired by Salvador Dali’s work are prominent in Steven’s early works; These are painted in an almost realistic, photographic technique amongst his own derived surrealist settings.
Steven Baker artist today
Carving out his path and working without formal art training, Steven’s art now fits within the genres of surrealism and naïve art. It doesn’t follow conventions and shows no desire to adhere to notions of ‘correctness’ or established styles.
Naïve art is prized for its simplicity and straightforward approach; This contrasts with Steven’s more highly controlled painting methods. His Naïve approach wasn’t necessarily born from wanting a change of painting style but more from his ability to paint. As he got older, his eyesight started to weaken, along with having a steady hand to hold his paintbrush. Steven paints what he sees, almost blind in one eye and the other flickering constantly like a fluorescent light bulb that only allows flicks of colour and light in. He’s now short, and sharp painterly strokes give the viewer a representation of how he sees the world today. Looking at his work today, you can see quick dashes of colour and primary forms that make up the human body and his scenes.
In the bright yellow blocks of colour and primary hues on Steven’s canvases, you can also see the influence of renowned Australian painter Jeffrey Smart. But in contrast, Steven’s canvases portray crowds, unlike the deserted cityscapes or solitary figures in Jeffrey’s imagery. His work revels in celebrations of social festivities and the community aspects of everyday life pub scenes, circuses and outback congregations.
A cheeky continuity links all of Steven’s paintings. As well as being a personal expression, he literally inserts his character into every piece. You can find within the crowds he has always included a portrait of himself.
The family legacy
His mother, Florence Edna May Baker, was his first fan and strong supporter of Steven’s creative streak. She becomes the owner of his first significant painting. When she passed, this returned to his home.
Additionally, the Baker family has reacquired many of his earlier sold paintings and are now proudly displayed in the family home. His wife and eldest daughter drove the consolidation and desire to preserve and honour Steven’s legacy. Many of his paintings still have never been found.
His artist daughters have their signature painting styles, and their large scale contemporary abstract work is very different from Steven’s. They have inherited the passion, play, and expressive joy of art-making, which comes across strongly in their work.
Finding a new rhythm
Today Steven is facing macular degeneration. This loss of vision is a strong blow for someone so driven to make visual art. However, working from the heart and with some changes to his approach, Steven creates new work. He has moved from more representational forms to a free and loose style.
Steven remains very family focussed, and when not painting, he devotes time to his children and grandchildren.
Steven Baker artist; Artwork also available through Bluethumb online gallery