"Aquila Smokes" - multiple 2x3 prints mounted on acrylic pieces and secured to 12x12 acrylic sheet at varying heights Interviews

Artist Interview: Steve Gracy

Artist Steve Gracy
Artist Steve Gracy

Today’s interview is with Steve Gracy. He was born in Germany in 1975 and moved to the states in 1977. He grew up and currently lives in Wichita, KS where he runs his studio, shooting primarily Boudoir, Erotica and Abstract photography.

Can you tell me a little bit about your background?

I actually started in the music world. Classical and jazz trombone. Then I got into writing, recording and producing. After about 25 years I got pretty burned out. I enjoyed it but it was a huge struggle to make a living with. A few years later I found myself enjoying photography as a hobby, and after my son was born I really started to catch the bug. I stumbled onto a video about lighting and something really clicked. I became obsessed from that point on. Not too long after that I was able to start earning income from it. The funny thing is that I had more success in the first couple years of doing photography than I did the entire 25 years of my music career. Best decision I ever made.

What type of work do you normally do?

I’m a boudoir and artistic nude photographer, so most of my work is on the risqué side.

How do you work? The process, the tools, the ideas, etc.

I usually start with just little nuggets of ideas. Very rarely do I get a clear image in my head beforehand. Everything is inspired by the subject. I build everything around her and the outfits she brings in to work with. I spend a lot of time on the lighting, getting everything just the way I want it right in the camera. Lately I’m keeping in mind what I want to do with the images after I print them, leaving space to play with resin and paint. That’s where the real fun begins.

"Bettye Resin 01" - resin, acrylic paint and alcohol inks on mounted 6x9 print.

“Bettye Resin 01” – resin, acrylic paint and alcohol inks on mounted 6×9 print.

What got you into doing this?

I’m constantly looking outside of the photography realm for inspiration in my work. I stumbled onto some artists doing acrylic pours and my brain instantly started looking for ways to incorporate that into my work.

When did you start making your art?

The last couple years I started looking for ways to make my photography more unique and interesting. First I experimented with turning an image into multiple pieces and creating a 3 dimensional collage with them and that has evolved a bit since I started. But more recently I started getting into resin coating and embellishing prints with acrylic paint and alcohol inks. There are so many avenues to take with this, I’m really excited to keep exploring the possibilities.

Why do you make what you do?

I’m always after that “wow” factor. That’s something I’ve always loved giving my clients. And I’ve always been the type to keep pushing the envelope. I got obsessed with lighting and finding creative ways to use it, now I’m becoming obsessed with creating more dimension in my work after it leaves the camera. Photoshop just isn’t that satisfying to me. I did that for many years and I feel like my body has suffered from all the endless hours of sitting in front of a screen clicking a mouse. I feel more alive and creative working with tangible items, moving, making a mess.

Who are your biggest influences?

Originally, Zack Arias is the photographer who really opened my eyes to the possibilities of photography and all the things you can do with just one light when you understand how light works. But as far as abstract art I’ve been recently obsessed with John Beckley’s work. And there are numerous pieces that have inspired me that I’ve never found out who the artist is.

Do you have a favorite artwork that you’ve done?

I think I’d be hard pressed to pick just one. I currently have a folder with about a hundred of my all time favorites from over the years.

"Aquila Smokes" - multiple 2x3 prints mounted on acrylic pieces and secured to 12x12 acrylic sheet at varying heights

“Aquila Smokes” – multiple 2×3 prints mounted on acrylic pieces and secured to 12×12 acrylic sheet at varying heights

What art do you most identify with?

Probably erotic and abstract. I tend to gravitate in those directions.

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?

Foam core board and Pringles cans. They’re great for creating interesting lighting. In fact, in one of the pieces I sent if you look close you can see that 4-barreled light contraption is made out of Pringles cans with colored gels on the ends, secured to my strobe. I love that kind of stuff.

Why this kind of art?

This has just been the natural progression my work has taken. My one goal has been to create the kind of work that I would want hanging on my walls to look at every day. And here we are.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

“Amateurs practice until they get it right. Professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong”. This actually comes from my trombone professor, Russell Widener, who I studied with from the age of 11 all the way through college. I’ve found that advice applicable in so many areas of my life and it’s had a tremendous impact on how I approach my work. Once I started taking it seriously, I was all in.

Finally, what’s an important lesson you have learned while making your art that you’d like to pass along to others?

The sooner you can abandon tradition the better. Yes, it’s important to learn the fundamentals and the history behind whatever skill you’ve chosen as your mouthpiece. But for crying out loud, just create whatever the hell you feel like creating. If you break some kind of rule, so what. As long as you are creating something meaningful to you and it satisfies your urge to create, that’s really all that matters. Time will refine your technique and you will be much happier. And you’ll naturally connect with people who resonate with your work. Those are the people whose opinions matter. 

To learn more about the artist, or see more of their work, you can visit their site by going to http://www.stevegracy.com.

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All the best,

Coty Schwabe