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 Steven J. Levin  (1964 - )

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Lived/Active: Minnesota      Known for: classical realist painter-figure, portrait

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Ad Code: 4
Steven J Levin
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from the artist, June 2002.

Steven J. Levin was born in 1964 and was raised and resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He cannot recall a time when he was not ardently interested in drawing. A strong influence in that direction was his father, a commercial artist who managed corporate art departments and had an art studio at home.

Young Steven enjoyed using pencils and colored markers to copy muscular action heroes from comic books, animal cartoons from popular "Pogo" comic strips, and dinosaurs from library books.

By his early teens, Steven was honing his art skills by copying faces and figures from a book of illustrations by Dean Cornwell, a highly successful magazine illustrator of the 1920s, 30s and early 40s. His father encouraged him in these activities and gave him pointers on how to improve his drawing ability.

Landscapes And Comic Strips
Even before he reached junior high (middle) school, Steven was certain he wanted to make art his career. But he wasn't sure if he wanted to be a comic strip artist, magazine illustrator or fine art painter. By age sixteen, he was replicating color prints of oil paint landscapes as a means of learning how to paint in a professional style.

He was also trying to develop his own comic strip, loosely imitating the art style of Walt Kelly's "Pogo". Steven was able to do the line art, and he completed numerous concept "strips", but neither Steven nor his father could devise enough daily humorous ideas for an ongoing comic strip.

Art College And Dismay
Upon graduation from high school in 1982, Steven enrolled at a prominent local college of art and design. But he was quickly dissatisfied with the lack of emphasis on, or training in, figure drawing. There was only one formal figure drawing class per week. First-year students were expected to supplement this deficiency by also attending an "outside" weekly drawing session that was not included in the tuition. These "outside" sessions had no instructor, were not at the art college, and were (inconveniently) at night.

To obtain portrait drawing instruction (not available to him at the college and not required of him), Steven found a suburban community art center that offered a weekly afternoon portrait class, for a fee. His college schedule left him two afternoons free per week, so after his Thursday morning classes at the college, Steven would drive almost 20 miles to his weekly class in the suburb. It had an instructor!

Some of the weird project assignments at the art college added to Steven's dismay. Example: Designing a two-dimensional layout of structures, and dreaming up special aquatic activities, for an entire under-water community park, without benefit of any classroom training, knowledge or examples on the subject.

Atelier Training, The Right Choice
After one unhappy year at the art college, Steven switched to a different type of art training at the small Atelier Le Seuer in suburban Minneapolis. It was based on the French atelier system that produced highly accomplished Realist painters of the 19th century.

Under the direction of professional fine art painters, Steven's commitment to his dream was challenged by a system that required constant painstaking focus on achieving excellence in drawing ability and, subsequently, in painting and composition also. Students were taught the techniques of the "Old Masters", but were also imbued with appreciation for the important influences of the famous French and American Impressionist painters.

At first, the intensity of the training felt strange, but then Steven came to appreciate and enjoy it. His enthusiasm (and that of the other dedicated students) soon thrived on the exacting regimen of constant, daily, meticulous craftsmanship required at the atelier. Much to Steven's satisfaction, the atelier course was a full five days per week.

Freelance And Keylines
To earn money while attending the atelier, Steven obtained freelance work doing line art of various consumer products for advertisements in the local newspapers. He subsequently became an evening keyliner in an advertising department, pasting together all the elements that comprise the finished ads used in his employer's mail order catalogs and national ads.

During a couple summers, he worked full time as a keyliner for that firm. Also, Steven managed to sell some of his paintings as the result of annual student art shows at the atelier.

From Student To Teacher
After Steven completed the four-year atelier course in 1987, the head of the atelier was sufficiently impressed with his ability that she requested him to teach one of the classes, one day per week. He agreed and did this for seven years, while maintaining a studio of his own for painting. From 1988 to '89, he was fortunate to be in an advanced painting class guided and critiqued by Richard Lack, a highly accomplished painter who has been a driving force in the U.S. Classical Realism movement since the 1950s.

The Path To National Recognition
In attempts to gain some national recognition (and, hopefully, win prize money), Steven started entering national art competitions. In 1991 he entered three such venues and garnered a second place in one. In 1992, he entered another three national competitions and won awards in all three. (The awards did come with prize money.) These were the first of a number of other awards to come his way in ensuing years. (See listing herein).

Ever since completing his atelier training, Steven has been included in exhibitions, locally and nationally, of paintings by contemporary professional adherents of the Classical Realism tradition, many of whom have trained under Richard Lack.

Steven has also exhibited widely and often in many other shows (see listing herein) throughout the U.S., and in London. His paintings are in private collections from coast-to-coast, and in England. In addition, leading art magazines have taken note of his ability, by way of magazine articles (see listing herein).

A Variety of Subject Matter
Steven's subject matter ranges from portraits, landscapes and still lifes to florals and indoor/outdoor scenes with figures. He acknowledges the influence of Jan Vermeer on some of his indoor scenes; and he acknowledges the influence of Edward Hopper on some of his lonesome night-time city "mood" scenes.

In 2000, Steven fulfilled a commission for the cover art of a paperback book titled "The Girl in Hyacinth Blue"; It was a fictional story about a Jan Vermeer painting, and Steven was pleased to accept the challenge to do the painting in the style of Vermeer.

Portrait Commissions, Here And Abroad
Steven does commissions for portraits of adults, teenagers and children, based on "sittings" at the client's own home. His furthest journeys for such assignments were to the Isle of Man, in the Irish Sea, for the seated figure paintings of Lord Brockett and his wife, Lady Katherine in 1997; and to Northumberland, England, for the full figure painting of the young sons of Lord and Lady Antony Hill in 1998.

The painting of Lady Katherine was featured in the April 1998 issue of "The Artist's Magazine" in a "how to" article showing four stages of progress on the painting, from start to finish. Two other portraits by Steven were also shown in the article.

Inspiration From Past Painters
Steven has made the customary "pilgrimages" to the famous (and to some of the obscure) art museums in Europe for inspiration from the "Masters". And he traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1992 and 1996 to be enthralled by the magnificent art collection at the famous Hermitage.

He also enjoys attending major art exhibitions of famous (and not so famous) painters he admires, of past eras, when such shows come to his Minneapolis home town or to cities such as Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., etc.

Joys of Plein-Air Painting
As a change from indoor studio painting, Steven enjoys strapping his portable easel and paint box on his back and traveling far afield for the refreshing spontaneity and carefree pleasures of plein-air painting.

Such trips have taken him to New Hampshire, Utah, Washington and Colorado. In 1995, on the basis of artistic merit, Steven was one of just a few non- members invited to Catalina Island, California, to paint and exhibit with members of the Plein Air Painters of America, for their annual exhibition gala.

One summer found him painting in Switzerland; another summer he plein air painted his way through France and Italy. At the northern tip of Scotland, he has painted the stark, lonesome beauty of the wind- swept, treeless hills and the seashore. And he has painted outdoors in Russia and on the Isle of Man.

Studio Painting In Other Cities
But not all his painting trips focus solely on plein air painting. In the summer of 1993, he copied famous paintings at the British Museum in order to gain insight into the technique of their creators. He liked London so well, he returned four years later in 1997 for a six-month stay, using his rented "flat" as an art studio.

In the summer of 1996, he selected San Francisco for his inspiration and set up a temporary studio there in a room above the John Pence Gallery that represents him.

Selected By The Royal Portrait Society
During the above mentioned 1997 sojourn in London, Steven entered a painting in a competition sponsored by the Royal Portrait Society. As a result, he was one of a small number of non-British artists selected to display work at the Society's prestigious annual London exhibition in 1997.

London Again, For The Mood
To prepare for his June, 2001, one-man show at San Francisco's John Pence Gallery, Steven flew to London for 12 days to photograph night and day scenes at theater lobbies, dimly lit restaurants, subway platforms, lamp-lit side streets, quaint store fronts, etc., as potential ideas for some paintings he eventually produced for the gallery exhibition. It was a major show that contained almost 50 of his paintings, 34 of which were painted specifically for the show.

American Society of Classical Realism
Allied Artists of America
American Society of Portrait Artists, Signature Member

Listed in "Who's Who in America"

(Levin's Honorable Mention awards are not listed. Some venues do not have first, second and third place awards. In such cases, relative standing can be inferred by the amount of prize money.

New Mexico Art League - Second place, Masters Division (landscape), 1991
American Artists Professional League - John S. Dole Memorial Award (portrait), 1992
Academic Artists Association - Association Award (portrait). 1992
American Artists Professional League-Lelia Garden Sawyer Award,(portrait), 1993
Akron Society of Artists - Third Place (portrait), 1994
Oil Painters of America - Grumbacher Gold Medal Award (floral still life), 1995
The Portrait Institute - Third Place (portrait), 1996
The Artist's Magazine - Second Place (portrait), 1996
American Artists Professional League - Allied Artists Of America Award, (portrait), 1999
The Artist's Magazine - Second Place (still life), 1999
American Society of Portrait Artists - President's Award and People's Choice Award, 2000*
American Artists Professional League - John R Grabach Memorial Award (portrait), 2000

*These two awards won by Levin were the second and third largest of the six prize money awards presented at this event..

The Artist's Magazine - Articles re: individual winners in annual national competitions:
p. 35, Dec. 1992 p. 59, Dec. 1996
p. 51, Dec. 1993 p. 30, Dec. 1999

American Artist - "Prizewinning Portrait Painting Techniques", p. 68, Dec. 1996

The Artist's Magazine - "The Complete Guide to Portraits" (about "Three Modern Masters" in portraiture), p. 17, April 1998.

The Artist's Magazine- "Finish With Fabuous Flesh Tones", pp. 26-28, April 1998.

American Artist - "Steven Levin: A Young Master in Minneapolis", (front cover painting and featured cover story artist), pp. 38-43, Sep. 1999.

Southwest Art - "New Directions in Realism", pp. 52-53, Dec. 1999.

American Artist - "Realism Today", p. 49, Oct. 2000

The Artists's Magazine - "A Portrait Gallery . . . by six rising stars", pp. 44-45, April 2001

Classical Realism Quarterly - "An Outline of Portrait Painting", May 1992
Classical Realism Journal -"Copying in London's National Gallery", Winter 1993
Classical Realism Journal - "The Light of Other Rooms", Oct. 1994
Classical Realism Journal - "Repin, Shiskin and Kramskoi", Oct. 1995 (Based on Levin's visit to the famous Hermitage art museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. His article focused on the works of three famous Russian painters.)

American Society of Classical Realism - "Freedom's Light", Plymouth, MN, 1989
American Society of Classical Realism - "Annual Fall Salon", Edina, MN, 1989, 1990
American Society of Classical Realism - "A Tradition Continues", Red Wing, MN, 1990 Minneapolis Institute of Arts - "Academic Dialogue", Minneapolis, MN,
New Mexico Art League - "Small Paintings Exhibition", Juan Tabo, NM., 1991
Meadow Creek Galleries - One Man Show, Minneapolis, MN, 1991
Allied Artists of America - Salmagundi Club, New York, NY, 1992, 1994, 1995
American Society of Classical Realism - Alexandria, VA, 1992 Salon
Academic Artists Association - Springfield, MA, 1992
American Artists Professional League - Salmagundi Club, New York, NY, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1999
Akron Society of Artists - Cuyahoga Falls, OH, 1993, 1994, 1996
Oil Painters of America - Chicago, IL, 1995
Plein Air Painters of America-Annual Exhibition Gala, Catalina Island, CA, 1995
Meadow Creek Gallery - Minneapolis, MN, 1995
American Society of Classical Realism - Traveling Exhibition, Boston, MA and
Milwaukee, WI, 1996
Oil Painters of America - San Antonio, TX, 1996
The Artists Union - Russian and American painters, Kolomna, Russia, 1996
The Portrait Institute - New York, NY, 1996
American Renaissance For The Twenty-First Century - New York, NY, 1996
Royal Portrait Society - Annual Exhibition, London, England, 1997
American Renaissance For The Twenty-First Century - "The Legacy Lives",
Hillsdale College, MI 1997
American Society of Portrait Artists - Annual Exhibition, New York, NY, 2000
American Artist Magazine - "Realism Today", JCA, 2000
American Society of Classical Realism - Exhibition, Newington-Cropsey Foundation, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, 2001

Biography from Tree's Place Gallery:
Steven J. Levin was born 1964.  He studied at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and subsequently with Annette LeSueur, a former student of Richard Lack, at her Atelier LeSueur.

Levin has been a cover artist for American Artist magazine, and the recipient of numerous national awards, including three from The Artist's Magazine, the Outstanding Merit Award from the Portrait Institute, the Grumbacher Gold Medal from the Oil Painters of America, and the John R. Grabach award from the American Artists Professional League.

In addition to exhibiting with the American Society of Classical Realists, Levin in the last five years has been exhibited with the Royal Portrait Society in London, and has been the subject of six separate One Man Shows

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