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Steve Bonner - Artist -

“Art, love, and passion are very closely related. Because they all hinge more or less on realisation of beauty in some form or other, or in its pleasure-taking. And the intoxication is exquisite." (Max Beckmann)

An English artist, Steve Bonner is probably best known for his vibrant seascapes, in particular his watercolours and oil paintings of the Caribbean islands, especially Barbados, that he knows and loves so well.

 Steve was born in Huntingdonshire, England in 1951. Drawing and painting since he was able to hold a brush or crayon, it's surprising Steve didn't yearn for a formal art school education, choosing instead to become a display artist for a major department store chain, now the Harrods group.

Window dressing, however, wasn't for him but it did lead to exploring the many associated trades and skills, from screen-printer to sign-writer, graphic artist and poster artist - and it was as a poster artist that Steve spent most of his working life: 'working life' being the way he describes the years he spent doing what he thought he had to do - before he realised he didn't! He spent many of those years producing the hand-painted marketing material for the top night clubs in London and the South East of England. Whilst he remains proud of the heavily illustrated work he produced in those days it became monotonous - although he is the first to admit that the accompanying lifestyle was far from it.

From the artistic point of view those years were far from wasted. His graphic background, although not as easily discernable as it once was, is still present in his most recent work, and his unashamed hedonism still shines through delightfully in his unique and highly individual style.

As the years went by, the industry was constantly becoming increasingly computerised and rather than abandon his paint brushes it became clear that, little by little, life was pushing towards one vocation.

Steve had flirted with fine art in his late twenties when a tour of Europe eventually led to Paris. With inspiration on every boulevard painting was inevitable and the work started to flow and almost as importantly, to sell. It would be interesting to speculate why he turned away from art back then. “I'm ashamed to say I wasn't prepared to go without,” he says, “Establishing oneself as a professional artist, rather than just a hobbyist, is hard graft, it's a struggle – I was young, single, and, frankly, I had other things on my mind. The frightening thing about life is that if you don't do what you know you should – it will find a way to make you!”

So by the late-nineties he had decided to concentrate on fine art: that it was all or nothing. Often it used to be next to nothing: life for many professional painters starts as a mixture of success and struggle, but it is a good life and even in the early days it was one he wouldn't have swapped for the world.

Whilst Steve's work adorns the walls of many beautiful homes all over the world he cheerfully admits, that to the best of his knowledge, it has never been purchased as an investment by a pension fund. "I can't think of a worse fate for any serious painter" he's on record as saying, "I paint my work to be seen, to be enjoyed, to brighten up some-ones home, that's the measure of any success as a artist. I don't spend weeks on a painting to have it molder somewhere in a crate in the hope that it will increase in value. I'd rather leave that to the many contemporary artists whose work should be moldering in crates! I suppose that sounded a bit bitchy but amongst the undoubted gems there is an awful lot of pseudo-intellectualised dross! My work will never achieve the heady prices of an Emin or a Hurst: it is what it is, it’s rooted in reality and thus it can’t be intellectualised."  He resents the fact that the galleries are often asked if his work will increase in value "Buy it because you love it" he says, "That's the only reason there should ever be for buying a painting and it will then repay your investment ten fold!"

He is often referred to as a realist. “It might look that way at first glance” he says, “but in fact I'm more of an impressionist. Obviously not in the accepted sense, my style is vastly different, but certainly in as much as I seek to convey the impression and not the reality. For example: have you ever taken a photograph of a mountain, and then been disappointed with the result? It all seems smaller than you remember, or the light and colour isn’t as vibrant.

Your senses register beauty, awe, majesty, magnificence – all of which, if not actually lost in a photograph, are certainly diminished – my job, the job of the painter, is to put that back. So my painting isn't as it actually is – it's more as you see it. To some extent or other I do this with all my work – beaches, mountains, portraits; especially portraits – I believe it is an error many portrait painters make. They simply paint what the subject looks like – not who they are! ”

Asked if he regrets being self taught and missing out on an art school education he explains that he considered applying in his mid-thirties as a mature student. ‘I actually consulted my old art master! He looked at my work and simply said, “Don't do it! They won't be able to teach you anything about colour, or paint handling, and you'll spend all day arguing with your tutors.” Sure, I'd like to know where my art might have gone, had I been to art school in my youth. But then again it's been my own journey. For better or worse my painting is just that - it's mine - nobody else's ideas, nobody else's concept of what might constitute “good art” - and frankly I'm happy with that.’ SB

Steve Bonner - About the Artist