This is the second in a series of interviews presented by the Cambria Center for the Arts to heighten awareness of artists –and the arts — in our community.
Steve Kellogg, president of Cambria Center for the Arts, was a community college biology teacher at Chaffey Community College in Rancho Cucamonga for 37 years before coming to Cambria. He says he was always a closet art major; his artistic impulses were screaming for attention.
In middle school Steve wanted to be an architect, but he didn’t pursue art until he was a biology/ chemistry major at the University of Redlands. He needed two units of credit in any course and signed up for ceramic sculpture, a class he absolutely loved.
“Unlike the sciences, there are no correct answers in art. That was so liberating for me to realize,” he says.
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Now a ceramicist and painter, he’s committed to helping others enjoy the arts through the variety of activities the association provides, including art classes (which he teaches), gallery openings, and drama productions.
Q: You’ve said art is entertainment. What does that mean to you?
A: I was quoting a famous watercolorist, Edgar Whitney, who said that good artists are entertainers. They give the eye things to enjoy by injecting variety in the shapes, values, sizes, colors, etc.
Q: How does the fear of failure uniquely hinder an artist?
A: It’s a barrier throughout an artist’s career. I have a book, “Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking,” by David Bayles and Ted Orland. I read it regularly.
Fear is one of the things that keeps people from starting a painting or a sculpture. Experience gives you the knowledge that you can work through the fear. It’s like passing another car on a two-lane road. You have to risk oncoming traffic before you pass successfully. Once you’re past the fear, there’s no bigger reward than salvaging something you thought was a lost cause.
Q: What inspires you?
A: Looking at the works of great artists. Painting with other painters and exchanging ideas with creative people.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I enjoy doing different things, going from painting to ceramics and back again. I’m focusing more on ceramics now because I just started a class at Cuesta. In painting, I’m working toward becoming more abstract. I still feel trapped by reality, by the subject matter I see. I’d like to be more expressive, less realistic.
People often judge art by how closely it resembles the subject. That’s actually the easiest thing for me to do. But I find it repetitive and unsatisfying. My challenge is to see a scene and capture the major shapes and values, then paint the essence of it.
Q: What advice would you give a beginning artist?
A: You have to jump in and start doing it, and be persistent. If you quit, that’s the end of it. Try to build a tolerance for frustration. Move through it. Success is often a couple of brushstrokes away.
Q: Why should people take an art class?
A: Very few of us are self-starters and enrolling in a class creates a sort of contract to begin the task. Being surrounded by fellow students provides motivation. It’s really hard to know how to get started without guidance. Books help but a live instructor is best for most people. Also, busy people give art a low priority. A class schedule means a regular effort at doing art and that is the most important thing.
— Interview by Barbara Bronson Gray, Allied Arts Association