The Cambrian

CCA Q&A: Steve Kellogg

Steve Kellogg with some of his family of artistic creations.
Steve Kellogg with some of his family of artistic creations. PHOTO BY SAM PECK

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.

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