Steve Kozar is a stickler for the details. “I’m a realist painter who does this very fussy realistic work. I was that kid. I was the one that was always drawing. I always loved art.”
He was inspired by a teacher. “I had a particular art teacher who said, “You should try water color. I think you’d really like it.” And I took to it right away. That same teacher he said, “You could probably make a living at this Steve.” Something like that. And I thought, “Oh, I’d like to do that.”
He travels around looking for pretty scenes and then uses his camera to capture the moment. “When I’m trying to decide what to paint it’s one of the hardest things. I spend a lot of time driving around shooting lots of photos. Thinking about what I might shoot next. I’m obsessive. Even when I think maybe I have enough, I never stop thinking, well maybe there’s something even better.”
He then takes that photo and re-creates it with his watercolors. “When people see a painting of mine with all the little details and they think, “Did I contrive some of this? Did I add things that weren’t there?” I don’t. I just–part of that is because I’m a realist and so I want it to look real. And if you insert something into a painting that wasn’t really there it look difficult for the proportions to be right or for the lighting to be right. I depend on a real scene that I’ve captured with really good photos so that nothing is out of place. Or nothing is confusing to me so that when I look at it back in the studio I see everything as it really was and I can capture it with painting. It has a feeling of space. It has a feeling of light. It has the feeling of depth. I love that when it’s just a flat piece of paper but it looks like it’s three dimensional. I just love creating that effect.”
Steve can spend the whole day painting. “I’m mentally tired at the end of a day of painting. Not necessarily exhausted in the sense that I don’t want to do this anymore but I just realize I’ve been thinking all day long as I’m working. I’m constantly evaluating because I’m looking at an actual photograph and then I’m thinking about, “Is this the right value? Is this the right color? Is this the right angle? Is this the right curve?” There’s all these things you learn to think of as an artist. And if you ever turn that off you’re going to make mistakes.”
Steve’s unique eyesight allows him to paint Wisconsin landscapes with such realism that they sometimes play tricks on your eyes and make you think you are looking at a photograph.