It was one of his paintings of Holkham in Norfolk where I spent many a happy holiday when my children were tiny that first caught my attention at the Melbourne Festival.
As my eyes fell on the oil painting of the beach with families enjoying the sun and sand I was immediately transported back to those days and I beamed with delight.
“That’s just what every artist strives for,” said Steven when I told him. “More than anything else we want people to be able to feel a part of the painting. To be able to evoke treasured memories or emotions from what they see.
“I never get bored with painting the coastline however often I go. It is always different. There is always something else to capture my imagination – whether it’s footprints left in the sand on a cliff-top path, dinghies, muddy creeks, a sunset or simply children playing. And then of course the weather and light will never be the same twice.”
The coast may be Steven’s first love but living in Derbyshire he also finds plenty of subject matter for his work and some of his most recent paintings, which will be forming part of an exhibition at Jarva Gallery in Whaley Bridge this month, are from the Peak District.
The 44-year-old artist who lives at Littleover with his wife and two young children, has been painting professionally for more than 20 years and is totally self-taught.
As a teenager leaving school in the mid 80s he was expected to enter a trade as an apprentice and art was considered suitable only as a hobby.
So, as he was only really seriously interested in art and wanted to do something creative he joined a printworks in Abbey Street, Derby.
He eventually moved on to work as an illustrator and having shown a flair for fine architectural drawing got a commission from Breedon Books and secured himself work with the Otter House agency painting wildlife illustrations.
His images will probably be familiar to lots of us on greetings cards but we just don’t realise it is his work.
Anonymous it may be, but the agency work meant Steven had a regular income and could carry on painting for himself in his spare time.
It was when he sold his first at Duffield Gallery that the painter, who has a studio in a summer house in the garden of his home, realised he might be able to make his work more than a hobby.
“I didn’t ever think anyone would want to buy one of my paintings but when it happened I just thought ‘hey this could work for me’ and it progressed from there.”
Steven says he didn’t set out with a goal and admits he doesn’t push himself forward nearly enough, but in the last few years his work has been gaining in popularity and is exhibited not only at Jarva but also at the Flint Gallery in Blakeney and Walker Gallery in Harrogate.
He also had a solo exhibitions at Ingleby Gallery near Melbourne and will be there again at the end of June next year and at Ferrers Gallery in September.
“I am still doing the other work and it is getting harder to balance the two as the gallery work increases; so I find myself painting for long hours and my brush is never still. It is a huge part of my day but I am happy with that. It is all about the painting and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”