“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself,” is a quote from celebrated pop artist Andy Warhol, but it could just as easily come from London’s own Steve Tracy.
Tracy, an internationally exhibited artist in his own right, has built a remarkable career by embracing the notion of change.
Despite his many successes — including exhibitions of his work around the world and handsomely rewarding sales — Tracy is the first to recognize he doesn’t always get to do what he wants.
“People ask how do I know what to paint. Well you paint what sells,” Tracy said. “You do have to do some R&D (research and development), but then you do see what sells and it doesn’t always necessarily jive with what you like to do. So sometimes you have to reinvent the wheel in some respects.”
Currently Tracy is busy working on his Extreme Skiers series, which has seen him painting skiers from slopes stretching from British Columbia to Quebec.
Estimating those works are in “probably half the major ski slopes” across the country, he is currently working on his 150th skier in the series.
That work has come from his philosophy on the business side of art.
Tracy explains his approach in a fairly matter-of-fact manner, saying it’s about staying in the art game “continuing to do it and not quitting,” but all the while making connections that tie him into the commercial art market.
Those commercial contracts can be sometimes beholden to what he calls “the colour mafia,” otherwise known as what’s in vogue at that moment in time.
Currently, that means a lot of pastels.
“If you’re not used to painting salmon, teal and mauve, and that’s what the market dictates, then you either don’t sell or you change,” Tracy said. “Going through those shifts are an education for sure. It rattles the cage a little bit. Those fads change, so you have to have your thumb on the heartbeat of the community.”
If change is Tracy’s driving force — and he is the first to admit that it is — then one way he has found to embrace it is through teaching.
Teaching, he says, is a great way to socialize, to meet people who become not only friends, but in some cases, almost like family. It doesn’t always happen, of course, but those people are exactly why a man so busy with is own work is excited to give back to others.
One place he’s doing that is at The London School, which offers personalized, private education for Grades 7 through 12. Tracy teaches one day a week at the school, having committed to working with the students for the next four years as they go through high school.
Although he was hired as an instructor, Tracy said his thrill comes from sharing the gift of art with some eager and excited young minds.
“It’s been really neat. I love that class. I love the reward of seeing them dip the paint in the water and watch it swirling,” Tracy said. “Seeing their faces light up. This is definitely the kind of stuff that opens up your mind, gives you imagination.”
Tracy will also be offering a workshop on Saturday, March 19 at Art With Panache (140 Fullarton St.) that will help those who are looking to get started with painting as a hobby or practising artists looking to improve their skills.
It’s rewarding, he said, to empower people with a newfound talent, to get them out of their everyday lives and help them embrace their own possibilities without judgement.
“Every painting is an expression of a person’s moment in a day. It’s like an entry in a diary. You don’t go back and change that entry tomorrow; you just have a new day, do a new entry,” Tracy said. “Each painting is a testament to our existence on Earth. It’s boring doing the same thing all the time. Unless you are having fun, what’s the point?”