Stephen Gibson is the artist behind the brand known as Air, Oil and Lead. I started following Stephen’s Instagram profile as I was intrigued by his talent. Everyone loves painted skulls, which he does very well, but I prefer his portrait work. His use of colors and attention to detail absolutely amaze me. It’s always cool to find a new talent through social media, but more importantly, meet a fellow ChopCult member. Please take a moment to get to know Stephen Gibson.
Where are you located? I am located in Marmora, NJ. It is about 15 minutes south of Atlantic City and an hour from Philadelphia. Or to those in the know- I’m at Exit 25 on the parkway.
Do you have a studio or are you home based? I operate out of a 600 sq/ft studio with a 200 sq/ft loft above my main operating area. I use the loft for my main designing area and detailed airbrush work. My shop/studio has a 16 ft overhead garage door and side entrance.
Where did you grow up? I was born In Philadelphia, PA. I grew up, however, in Ocean City, NJ. (South Jersey) Exit 29!
Your artistic style is very impressive and the attention to detail is mind blowing. Are you a self taught artist? Yes and no. I have a degree in Fine Art from Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL. As far as painting (traditionally) I have been lucky enough to work with with some extremely talented artists over the past 20 yrs. Most of my understanding comes from hands experience as a mural artist and sign painter. I am self taught in oil painting and airbrushing. I think we all (artists) learn by doing and repeating, following the influences that inspire us and resonate deep down. In that respect, none of us are self-taught.
Who was your favorite artist growing up? The two artists that I found myself identifying with were Rick Griffin and Chuck Close. While these two artists couldn’t be further apart visually, they were both counterculture in their own time and place. Without knowing, the works that I really enjoyed originally by both of these artists were airbrushed. I don’t know if it was subconscious or deliberate that I found myself most at home behind an airbrush. So, one could surmise that my favorite artists growing up later became major influences as I matured in my understanding of the process of making art. It made me appreciate the endeavors of these guys at a deeper, more profound, level. A level that I aspire to operate at in the physical/visual sense, as well as psychologically. As I learn more about the realist painters of the 18th and 19th centuries, their influences are infinite. Theirs are the techniques that I try to cross over and mimic in approach and style with an airbrush. The idea is not to paint every little detail, even though it may appear that way in my work. I set boundaries in my approach that keep me moving. Liberation by limitation.
How long have you been drawing? I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by parents/stepparents that really nourished that artistic side of me. Lucky, because there really isn’t any history of the arts, visual or otherwise, in my family history
What is the tool on your workspace that you couldn’t live without? Gotta be my (air)brushes… puts food on the table.
When did you start painting motorcycle tanks and why? About 8 years ago, I really felt I needed a change of pace and new direction. So, I started over. I took a job at a bodyshop (Dan’s Autobody, Clermont, NJ). While I had a good working knowledge of production work and spray equipment, I had no background in the automotive industry. I basically stepped right into the the auto painter position. Trial by fire, really. Eventually, the owner discovered that I had an art background and I started doing a few custom airbrush jobs here and there, mostly vehicle work. At home, I started doing a few bike jobs on the side. I really started digging the tanks. It was just a real organic evolution of sorts and got hooked on the challenge of doing what I do, but in the round. I now had a canvas that had curves and the paint wasn't just pretty, but served a function other than emotional response. I see the streets as my gallery and owners and builders as my patrons. It’s fast fine art and I see it as nothing short of that.
What is your favorite medium to work with? When I airbrush, it’s all House of Kolor urethanes, mostly their graphic colors. Traditionally, oil paint and graphite. I like it all and I let the approaches in different mediums affect my approach universally. I’m trying to find a synergy with the various processes that call me, and hopefully the result is original in its look and feel, but consistent regardless of subject matter.
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