Stephen Baffa is a famous American Pop Artist who was born in Ardmore, PA on Philadelphia’s Main Line. He graduated from the Art Institute of Philadelphia and now resides in Naples, FL where his work is becoming more and more popular. He has established himself as a creative alternative force to the mainstream art scene in Florida. His work can be found in galleries, 5th Ave restaurants, popular drinking establishments and private collections. Acrylics and mixed media are the “weapons of choice” for this pop artist. “I have little patience, and need to get an image down hard and fast and make my point, whatever that may be…” he says. Discussed below his main influences run from Impressionist masters like Monet to Frazetta, Warhol, Basquiat and Frank Miller, as well as the street art of Banksy and Fairy. The punk movement of the seventies and the underground art that it spawned are also influences. Steve states, “I try to take popular cultural icons and boil them down to the essence of that particular icon, or take that accepted icon and twist it, combine it, or mutate it.” Humor and nostalgia pervade his work. “The Bat Pack” is a great example of his work hitting all points. “I paint things that I like. Images that remind me of my past and stand out in my mind. Things that stare back at my mind’s eye. I want that image to stare back at the viewer, so they can’t not look…” he says.
After reading about Steve graduating from such a prestigious Art Institute one would assume that it would all be downhill from there. Just paint a few cool images and let the fans make you rich and famous. Well it’s not always so easy. We’ve all had one of those let down moments in our lives that left us feeling distraught, unappreciated and down right pissed off. Steve Baffa had one of those moments that you won’t believe until you read about it from his own words. I had the opportunity to sit down with this talented, funny and very cool artist and here is what he had to say:
Q1. What motivates and inspires your ideas for unique and creative works?
My motivation usually starts with an image that captures my attention, a photo, a movie poster, maybe an image from a film I am watching or a book I am reading. Usually it has an iconic pop culture vibe in its nature. I love the pop culture of the 50’s and 60’s. The stuff my parents loved that I grew up with. I like to take that culture and mash it up with other genres. ‘The Batpack’, for instance, takes the ultra cool of Sinatra and mixes it with the ultra nerdiness (now the new cool?) of super hero comics. I use that theme often. It’s become a bit of a trademark.
Q2. What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
I’m probably not the best guy to answer that one. I worked in the bar business my whole life, which allowed me to do my art, but also took me away from it. Coming out of the Art Institute of Philadelphia I was offered a job by Hallmark Cards as an illustrator. It was a big deal at the school. I was very exited about it until I heard the offer. It was basically less than minimum wage at the time, and I had to move to Kansas City and live in a dorm with other artists. It sounded like prison, or a warehouse sweatshop. I was making twice that bartending my way through school. Everyone at Hallmark getting rich but the artists. I was, and am, very cynical about it. I was so disappointed and angry that I dropped out of art for a pretty long stretch (10 years). It wasn’t until I volunteered to paint bar/club/music venue pieces of art for my dear friend of 15 years (who didn’t even know I was an artist) and realized people would be willing to pay for my art on its own merit did I consider doing it again. I started a screen-printing business with my brother, Big World Enterprizes, which he still owns today and is very successful. I don’t fare well in closed, structured environments, but some do and can be very happy and successful as professional artists and designers in the corporate world. Figure that out sooner than later which works for you. Doing art on your own terms is difficult and risky, but also very rewarding.
Q3. What keeps you going and what’s next for you?
I have a huge backlog of ideas in my head that I want to get on canvas. I have to pick and choose what I think will work, not just as a piece but as a piece people will understand, enjoy, and want to own. I want my best work to be seen by all of the people it is intended for. People with a sense of humor, intelligence, and fun. My goal is for my art to become a part of the pop culture, the zeitgeist, that I represent in my work. I am also getting ready to launch some logo apparel. I have a strong graphic design background from screen-printing and enjoy that aspect as well.
Q4. Where did you get the idea and motivation to start painting in the first place?
I have a vivid, complex, and sometimes horrifying imagination. I was obsessed with Universal monster movies as kid (still am!), Ray Harryhausen movies, and the artwork of Frank Frazetta.
I use to really dislike pop art, Warhol especially, when I was younger. I didn’t get it. Not until I found music, first a Beatle/Stones obsession and later on a punk rock obsession, did I understand the power of it. I thank the Clash for that. They knew how to make a point. Shepard Fairy and Banksy drove that point home, the power in imagery. Although my work can still be very illustrative, I try to keep the overall effect as simple as possible. Instant response using color and composition to grab your attention, then unveil the details, as you look further. I am still constantly trying to boil down what “it” is that makes a painting work or not.
Q5. What artists have inspired you?
Frazetta is always in my artist’ heart, since he is the one that got me to pick up a brush as a kid. So much movement and action and drama. He’s never been matched in fantasy art. Frank Miller, for many of the same reasons. Miller took comic book art to a higher, cooler level for me. Warhol and the N.Y. punk scene in the 70’s. The Clash and the Stones. Banksy, Fairey, street art in general. Robert Williams, R. Crumb and the West Coast lowbrow movement. That’s where I probably fit best. Impressionist masters, because it’s beautiful and difficult to pull off. Ridley Scott, Sergio Leone, Del Toro, 40’s film noir, as far as film goes. The list goes on, but that gives you an idea of what catches my attention and influences my work.
Steve is a super cool guy, with incredible talent and an unbelievable imagination.
Go to his website:
Perfect for any mancave, game room or living area, buy a piece of his work for your own collection or a gift for someone today! I personally have his piece Oceans Marvel, which includes Iron Man as Frank Sinatra, Captain America as Dean Martin, Spider Man as Peter Lawford and Hulk as Sammy Davis Jr. Steve adds a little something something special and secretive to each of his pieces. Try and see if you spot the secret in each piece and why the moon is smiling with Catwoman taking a ride:)
Enjoy his work and welcome back to the art game Mr. Baffa! We are certainly glad you decided to come join us again!
All the best,