Can you tell me a little bit about you?
My name is Adam Steinbrenner, I’m from western New York, and I live in Los Angeles. I’ve been painting for over ten years now. I started painting seriously in college, while I earned my degree in graphic design. The excessive and sometimes overwhelming use of a computer made me crave a medium focused more with my hands. I’ve always been a visual person, I find myself staring off into space just watching things around me happen, getting lost in the movement, and similar to that, painting is another venue for me to visually get lost in, while simultaneously expressing something real while doing it.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I’d always been the kid who could draw, but that only meant that I did well in art class. It wasn’t until college that I found my passion for painting and art. In the beginning years of school, you were required to take strictly fine art classes before you began to phase into the computer aspects, and it was in the first few years that I fell in love with a life focused only on art. Our projects were exhausting and time consuming and I loved every second of it. As the years went on and the design part really kicked in, we were stuck on computers and I debated switching programs…but at that point I assumed that graphic design was the more practical choice and I stuck with it. While I went through the motions with design, my true love stayed with painting, and after class each night when I didn’t have homework I would make my paintings and do absolutely nothing with them and I loved every second of it. I still kind of do that honestly…
What do you like most about working where you do?
The best part about living in Los Angeles, is when you get overly frustrated or claustrophobic while you work you can simply walk outside and marvel in the splendor of it all. It’s gorgeous, all the time, so when I can feel myself becoming too much of… myself, I just walk outside, while wearing shorts, and I get out of my head and enjoy the day around me. Getting out of my head can mostly be a fabulous thing, so living here helps with that. Also the amount of natural light we receive is here is always gratifying and obviously useful.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I don’t necessarily strive for any themes or specific ideas when I’m working as I like to let the process feel itself out. Actions are made within the moment that the thought behind it is incepted. However as the years have gone by I’ve become much more critical.
I used to let every decision, good or bad, breathe and do its part as I believed when I was younger that every mark made was meant to be made and therefore was important enough to stay. This was a case of youthful optimism and an overarching belief in fate. However I no longer blindly subscribe to such faith, and if anything have become more cynical over time (to my dismay sometimes). I will still let every idea out unfiltered onto the canvas, but I will no longer allow anything to exist simply because it came at a time of passion. It must have a point or a meaning to the rest of the work if it’s going to stay.
What is your process like?
My process for working is intentionally haphazard in nature. The more I try to plan, or lay things out, the more it all begins to feel like work, and while I absolutely value hard work and am capable of it, I’d much rather it all feel like playing. I want it to feel like playing as I believe that the kid who still resides within me is the person best equipped to take the reins when I paint, but I’ve realized he won’t come out unless there’s fun to be had. When I paint each decision is an impulsive one, based directly on the decisions before it, and by no means influenced by a vision or a predetermined plan. It feels more natural this way, and it also ushers in an opportunity for brilliant accidents and effects that seem to appear out of nowhere, adding a level of excitement and wonder to a process that can otherwise feel frightful and full of doubt. There must be an element of magic to it for me to want to jump head first into it.
Is there any subject or theme you’ve been particularly interested in lately?
I’ve just started dating someone that I’m super fond of. I feel like my general anxiety is really subsiding as a result and painting is no longer the main crux of my emotions. It’s a good thing to diversify your feelings a bit, as I was pouring everything inside of me into each small canvas, which was leading to an obsessiveness and nervous energy that I wasn’t a fan of. Being with someone who I care so deeply for, and knowing that they believe in me, helps so much for the process of my work. I paint best when there isn’t any doubt…I’m sure we all do, but having her in my life has helped me to feel much more confident, and I feel so grateful for that.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do for art?
I really didn’t have to do this, but back in college I decided to try LSD, alone in a seedy hotel room, and brought a few canvases with me to see what the results would look like. At that time I was ready to ride or die for art, and this was an experiment that “needed” to happen in my eyes for the sake of it. The experience was as you’d expect it to be: a mostly terrifying mess. The paintings came out pretty cool, but they took a total of forty minutes to complete, while I spent the rest of the 12 hours writhing feverishly around in bed watching the summer olympics on TV for emotional support as my mind did everything it could to stick with me. I would never do this again.
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
I have a 9 to 5 at a bookstore. It’s a quaint life but it’s coming to an end soon. I’m going to finally put my back into working creatively as a means for income. I’ve kept it cozy and to myself for too long. I have more to offer in life than good customer service in a retail store.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
The advice I carry into my practice, is a pretty generic one, and doesn’t really come from any one person specifically, but from many sources and figures that I admire. The advice being, regardless of anything, you are you, and that’s the best thing possible. As long as you’re being authentically yourself with whatever you’re doing, then you’re on the right track and what you’re doing is worth something. Intent is huge as well. Are you out to build or are you out to destroy? If you’re bringing your authentic self into the room, with the intention to help others along the way, then you’re golden. This applies to everything in life.
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
My personal advice is simple. Art, to a lot of people, makes no sense. You can’t eat art, you can’t sleep on art or use it as a roof, it’s something that is valued by many only after all of our main essentials to life are accounted for. This can make the importance of art vary wildly between people, and the fact that it’s utterly subjective can make your faith in your work exhausting to uphold. Having said all that, recognizing yourself, and ultimately understanding what art can do personally for you regardless of anyone’s opinion is a major tool for any artist. Making art can be easy but finding the purpose behind it can be difficult, so my advice is to find exactly what it is about art that you love or find to be most important, and hold onto that no matter what. Be delusional about it if you must as hard as that is to prescribe. Whether you think your art is good for society, or it’s simply a practice that makes you feel happy and healthy personally, having fundamental reasons to create is vital in maintaining a strong belief system for your work.
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
Up until this point, my painting has been a pretty hedonistic practice. I just did it for myself because it felt good and I had fun doing it. I didn’t do anything with the work after it was finished, and barely identified myself outside of friendships as an artist. Being so insular with my practice has been helpful in finding my own style, but I think it’s gotten to the point where I’m plateauing as far as my excitement goes. I think finding a community would help to invigorate my drive because anytime I see someone else stirring waves it makes me want to as well. I sometimes forget or lose sight of the fact that I’m good at doing that, and it helps to see others you relate to, working incessantly on things they feel passionate about.
What is your studio like?
My studio is unfortunately my bedroom. I have an easel by my desk with a filing cabinet full of supplies. It’s been cute for awhile but I’m anxious to paint larger and in a real work setting. I’ve done so much with so little, I’m so curious to see what would happen if you combine myself, with the supplies and space to work. I plan to make that a reality in the coming year as I search for backing and a studio.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
I like to paint early, but I mostly work after I’ve left my job. I need my heart racing so I’ll drink some coffee or smoke a little. I’m usually feeling a certain way about something, so that’s always a valuable energy to tap into. I’ll open as wide as possible and make all of my decisions as they happen to me. Honesty is a powerful component, and I find the faster I work, the less time I have to overthink anything and I’m then able to really come out of my shell and go for things. My main power supply for my paintings are my emotions, and I find that they come and go quickly, so it’s best to work as fast as possible to keep up with each one and not to linger too long on any one idea. Lingering causes doubt and there should be no doubts.
How significant has attending art school been to your practice?
For me going to art school was indirectly the reason I became an artist. I started painting in rebellion to my focus in graphic design. I needed my creativity to feel human again as I’d spend all day sitting at a computer combing through every minute detail. I just wanted to make things and not worry about if everyone else understood it. So school definitely influenced my choice in life, by showing me exactly what I didn’t want to do with it, and I still have the student debt as reminder…
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
The most daunting challenge for me is to simply maintain the utmost belief in my craft. It’s literally taken me a decade to feel comfortable enough to say to people that I’m an artist. I think that the nature of choosing a life of art is so gray and non binary, and I think there’s also an inherent arrogance, or negative perception to it. In lots of ways being an artist is an incredibly selfish situation, and I’ve struggled with that idea for a long time, but as I get older, I just begin to care less and less about that, or the perception of others. It’s just something I feel most alive doing, and whether it makes sense to the rest of the world shouldn’t be my concern, all that matters for me, is how do I make it work for me?
How would you define “success” in art?
Ultimate success would be a yacht with a boat inside of it, but that’s not realistic or at all healthy for anyone. Success to me personally would be having a cozy yet well lit studio with windows and a view, having some kind of demand and small audience keeping me accountable and feeling grateful, and if I can sell and ship a painting to a place that isn’t in my general vicinity or I’ve never heard of, then in my mind I’ll have felt that I’ve reached success.
What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?
I’ve accomplished so much in relation to the volume of my work over the years, in all mediums and artistic formats from painting, to writing plays, to creating soundtrack music or printing a poetry zine, but I honestly haven’t achieved too much yet when it comes to exhibiting and sharing what I’ve made. I’ve been in a handful of shows over the years, last year I was apart of a group show here in LA that I was proud of and was blown away by the reception and other artist’s who were apart of it. I’m going to make it my mission this year to be apart of further group shows as well.
Are you involved in any collaborative or self-organized projects?
I’m not at the moment, although I used to paint occasionally with a partner and it was a ton of fun. I do play the drums in a band though, so musically I enjoy collaborating with others.
What are you working on right now?
I’ve been drawing a lot, but mainly have been focusing myself with the task of finding ways to expose my work. Any time I’ve really tried to sit down to do this I always find a new excuse to say that I’m not ready yet and that I need to make some grand project or series first before I promote what I already have. I realize how often I’ve run exposing myself to the public, and so I’m not working on anything in particular until I’ve accomplished that or it’s a project much larger and much more serious to my overall goals.
Anything else you would like to add?
Just a big thank you for your time.