Sitting Down with Artist Stephen Key

As part of our Southern Artisan Collection, we have been working with Georgia-based artist Stephen Key in an on-going series of Southern birds that are truly inspired by nature with a modern take on folk art.

We started the collaboration with the State Birds of the South series where he captures the state bird of each Southern state. Each piece is an original painting upon a wooden panel, with a fabulous hand-written name that truly makes these feel folk. Upon being introduced to his work, I instantly fell in love with the stylized, almost quirky look that makes a big statement from a little piece. It’s the kind of art you’d find in my own home. And with my husbands love of the outdoors, it’s a great way to bring it inside and meld our design styles.

In the Fall, Stephen agreed to paint a new series exclusively for us Sporting Birds of the South, which again was inspired by the hunting season that was upon us here, as well as the Thanksgiving turkey.

We are excited to now be introducing a brand new series this Spring, thanks to a note from a customer after purchasing the State Bird of Louisiana, (can you name it?) the Pelican. She wrote that she would love to see a Shorebird series and I couldn’t have agreed more. Growing up on the coast of North Florida, and traveling nearly every back road of “Old Florida” each summer during my childhood, there is nothing that could have spoken to me more. And, no surprise, Stephen captured this series in a truly wonderful way.

I sat down with Stephen Key to learn a little bit more about what inspires his work and what he has going on and wanted to share.

Where did you first learn of your love for painting and art and your artistic talents?

Since always I suppose. My parents are both artists. My mother is a painter and my father is an actor. Creativity was always encouraged and I never wanted for paper and colored pencils. The first time I felt talented though was in 3rd grade when another boy asked me to draw him a picture he could take home and pass off as his own. He requested it be “one of my army scene drawings.”

Where did your original concept of painting birds and wildlife come from?

My original approach was much different then now. It was a study in color and composition. I lived in New York City and so the bird paintings were based on pigeons. I was supporting myself selling paintings on the sidewalk. People really responded to them so I painted more and more. I hadn’t painted birds for a long time until about two years ago when I had the urge to paint birds in a representational way. It’s been fun to learn more about all the different birds you see everyday in the South. We are very fortunate to have more then pigeons to admire.

What other art forms and mediums do you utilize in your artistic endeavors?

I generally work much larger, acrylic on canvas for the most part, taking inspiration from all sorts of places. I also make stop motion animation and traditional 2D animation. Lately I’ve been spending more time on sequential artwork and posting these four panel comics on social media in the mornings. I’ve been working in radio for the past six years and have enjoyed recording, editing and shaping audio as well.

Tell us about your radio show what is it about and where can we hear it?

 Blank Canvas Radio is on Monday through Friday from noon until four o’clock in the afternoon. It’s on an AM station here in Atlanta, GA called AM1690 “The Voice of The Arts”. I called it Blank Canvas because I didn’t want to have boundaries with what I play. Mostly I focus on music from the 60’s and 70’s but you might also hear a poem or a comedy sketch. It’s interesting being alone in a room for four hours a day broadcasting out a show to who knows. It’s similar to painting in that way, you work on it alone and when it’s over you send it out into the world. They are both very one on one type of mediums.

 Are you working on anything new and exciting?

I am working on a proposal for an instillation piece. The idea is based on a speaking tube that a person can use to send positive affirmations or secrets into the atmosphere.

What inspires your creativity?

Birds apparently do. I am inspired by other artists, classical masters as well as self taught folk artists. Music and dreams and nature are all places I draw inspiration from.

If you had to define your artistic style what would you say about it?

 I’d say I feel most closely defined as a self-taught modern folk artists.

And, excited to announce the newest series we have from Stephen – the Shorebirds of the South series.  Love this special series for a lake or beach house – take a peek!

I’m an old soul based in Atlanta, GA and mom of 3 with a deep love of all things from the past with a story to tell, on a mission to keep heirlooms around for another generation - whether it be a tradition, splattered family recipe, or historic home.

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