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Kathleen and Anthony Steventon: Living life, making art

Staff Writer

Perhaps there is a time in every person’s life when the soul is restless, the mind is racing, and the feeling that discontent, in the shape of river stone, has sunk to the bottom of their being.

When there is, perhaps it is not the person who is to blame for that feeling. Sometimes it is the place, and not the person, that is the root of the discontent.

This was the case for Pagosa artists Anthony and Kathleen Steventon. The place was New Jersey, and with New Jersey, everything they were doing to stay and live in New Jersey: working corporate jobs, spending over three hours in traffic every day commuting to and from work, being tied to the phones, scheduling and attending an endless string of meetings, and being addicted to the steady drip and security of the pay in the corporate world.

But then, everything changed. Anthony lost his job and, with that, he and Kathleen decided it was time to move, time to change, time to get out the “rat race” of Jersey life.

Anthony said he could have found another job — it was before the economic recession, and he had contacts, had a good reputation, even had a call from someone with a nice contract prepared for him to sign. Anthony, though, didn’t take that job, and didn’t try to find another one.

He and his wife, Kathleen, instead decided to move to the country and paint.

The way Kathleen and Anthony found Pagosa was through research on the Internet, but becoming artists was something that had been in them for their whole lives.

For Kathleen, she began to draw and paint when she was about 6 years old.

“I grew up in a big family. I was one of nine children, so to entertain myself I sketched and drew whatever,” Kathleen says.

For Anthony, it was at the age of 11 when his art master introduced him to fine art. From that moment, he was interested in art, in painting. For the next six years of school, he always had an art class on his schedule. His art teacher, he says, “opened up whole knew vistas for me.”

“A good art teacher, a good teacher of any subject, is worth their weight in gold,” Kathleen added.

While living in New Jersey, Anthony and Kathleen had interest in art, but no time to give themselves to their art. Despite that, they still made time for a little bit of painting. For their second date, Anthony and Kathleen drove 45 minutes for a night art class. Their friends, they say, knew they did this, but there was nothing serious about it. When Anthony and Kathleen married, art did not go away. Occasional night classes continued, with painting here and there. They were interested, but they had their lives and careers. However, the dream then began: living in the country, having an art studio and painting, just painting.

During that time, Anthony recalls being in class, paintbrush in hand, blank canvas in front of him and asking himself, “Let’s see, what am I going to paint? How do I paint it?”

While living the city life in New Jersey, Kathleen’s portfolio was limited to still life paintings.

However, from the mountains to the air, the scenery to the wildlife, the landscape of Pagosa Country inspires every one of the Steventons’ paintings.

“All I paint is animals now,” Kathleen says, “When I came out here, I did a few animals, then they sold and I did more and more, now the connection that I have with the animals is so deep, that’s all I paint.”

She also now paints with oils and a palette knife. Her first painting done this way, she still won’t sell. Now, she has a connection, a click with her tools and her the palette knife that enables her to truly capture the spirit of the animal she’s painting.

Anthony’s paintings, typically of various aspects of the landscape from trees to flower, also result from use of the palette knife but have a more surreal and abstract tone than his wife’s. For both Kathleen and Anthony, though, painting for is more than skill — it’s a gut feeling and a flow and emotion.

“More than the technical stuff,” Anthony says.

Anthony says there are times when he is working on a painting and the painting engulfs him. “This may sound off, but there are some paintings that, when I am working on them, all I remember is stepping back and looking at the painting and thinking, ‘Oh, it’s finished.’ I am so focused, no, not focused, I am so into it that I don’t even know I am focusing.”

“It’s a connection with the subconscious,” Kathleen says.

However, it is possible that neither husband nor wife would have found this channel, this passion for painting if they had stayed in New Jersey.

“I look back at my life and my job 10 years ago and wonder, if I didn’t lose my job, would I have continued doing it? In retrospect, it was the big push I needed,” Anthony says. “I wouldn’t go back. I’m more settled, more relaxed, more happy here. I wake up and look at the mountains and smell the air. Why would I go back?”

“It’s money versus living life, and I’d take living life any day,” Kathleen adds. “We’re doing what we want, not what we have to do.”

Anthony and Kathleen Steventon’s paintings can currently be seen locally, included in the national juried exhibition The ART of it ALL, at SHY RABBIT Contemporary Arts. The exhibit is open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at no charge, 333 Bastille Drive. The exhibit will continue until Dec. 31.

lindsey@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on December 13, 2012.