Denton-based artist Steven Hamilton creates graffiti-inspired paintings that require up to 15 layers and 100 hours of work to achieve their hyper-textural quality and rich colors. After studying photography at the University of North Texas, Hamilton taught himself to paint using the internet and a little patience. You can see his work at PRISM, a group show at The Gallery at Continental Lofts in Deep Ellum, opening on April 29.
How did you get into making art?
I went to school for photography up here at UNT. I just did that for a while, and kind of got sick of not being able to work with my hands as much as I’d like, so I found stencils on the internet—you know, just basic single layers that you see on the streets and stuff. From there I did my first detailed piece, multilayers, and I was like “Oh, I love this.” The layers, when you cut them, I just loved it. I love looking at them, almost more than the finished paintings. So, I got really into texture, I did a bunch of weathered faces for a while. I wanted to do more, and more, and see how far I could take it. I got into color, so it’s a whole different world now, because every color in a painting has to be multiple layers.
What are the biggest inspirations behind your work?
I guess mentalities. Like the way people or objects are perceived and the stigmas that are associated with that. The objects kind of reflect the way people are judged, because it’s the same idea. You see an object, it gets a stigma for being associated with a certain thing, like the ski mask, crow bar—that kind of stuff. I use the patterns to break that up, change it, and sometimes make it prettier, or to raise or lower the value of something.
Did you start out doing street art, or was it always on a canvas?
A little bit of both. I did the stencils, and then a few of my friends were into graffiti, so I started doing graffiti for a while. I came back and decided I would rather take my time and make something I really want to do, because street stuff is just really quick—you just want to get it out there…I loved sitting at home and just cutting for hours. Again, back to the layers, I was just in love with the layers, so I wanted to do that. People have even offered to laser cut, but it’s like why would I do it then? I would lose my favorite part.
Could you talk about your process with the layered stencils?
It’s really hard to explain. I did a glass piece where it broke down the layers so you could see each layer on a different pane of glass. It’s basically poor man’s screen printing. Every color has a different layer, and they’re just in scales. You start with a base, like a broad color that goes all down, then the next layer is a different color and it’s a little more defined, and then so on and so forth, and they just stack on top of each other as they’re painted.
How many layers do you do on average?
I try to stay under 15. I’ll usually share layers; maybe it’ll be a couple colors on a layer. It gets a little redundant after a while if you do too many.
Who are some artists you’re inspired by?
There’s a couple named Snik, they do amazing work—huge, huge mural pieces and they still cut it all by hand. Sergio Garcia, local guy, I feel like the realm he’s in, the way he manipulates everyday objects, that’s the kind of stuff I like to look at, too. Edward Hopper. Just kind of all over the place.